A newly incorporated South Australian start-up, building on world-leading research at the University of Adelaide, has launched its first product range on the international market.
ART Lab Solutions Pty Ltd builds on decades of research into assisted reproductive technologies (ART) by Professor Jeremy Thompson, from the University of Adelaide's Robinson Research Institute.
The company is delivering new technologies to improve livestock reproduction for the cattle industry, and launched its first product range at the International Embryo Technology Society (IETS) meeting, held in Bangkok, Thailand last week (13-16 January).
Based on intellectual property developed at the University of Adelaide, the company has a suite of proprietary media formulations for use in cattle IVF processes. The company has been spun out of the University with the support of the University’s technology transfer unit, Adelaide Enterprise, and a TechInSA grant from the South Australian Government.
"We congratulate Professor Jeremy Thompson on the creation of this highly innovative start-up company," says the University's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Mike Brooks.
"ART Lab Solutions is a tremendous example of how world-class research at the University of Adelaide can generate economic benefit for our State. This commercial enterprise is poised to make a significant impact on cattle breeding in Australia and throughout the world."
Product range – benefits for industry
"Our media suite enables the development of large numbers of unfertilised cattle eggs that are recovered from cows with high genetic merit," says company founder Professor Thompson.
"These eggs are then fertilised, and develop to seven-day-old embryos in the laboratory, which can then either be transferred into less valuable recipient cattle, or cryopreserved for transfer at a later time.
"IVF cattle embryo development provides far more options for rapid genetic selection, to improve livestock production and health, with potential benefit to both beef and dairy farmers," he says.
Professor Thompson says the company will continue to expand its portfolio to include products and services that further simplify, streamline, and improve cattle IVF processes globally.
"Around the world, cattle IVF has been booming, with more than 600,000 cattle IVF embryos produced each year. But the industry is comparatively small in Australia and the South-East Asian region, partly as there has been no consistent supplier of a proven media product," Professor Thompson says.
Improvements in cattle IVF
Cattle IVF provides greater flexibility in rapid genetic improvement than currently accepted processes, such as artificial insemination or hormone-mediated multiple ovulation-embryo transfer. However, cattle IVF has traditionally achieved lower pregnancy rates than these other options, resulting in limited industry uptake.
Working with its partner, Australian Reproductive Technologies Pty Ltd, and in collaboration with other researchers at the University of Adelaide, research by ART Lab Solutions has resulted in significant advances in formulation performance over the last decade.
“We have proven that, comparing results using other media, we see a lift in pregnancy rates of at least 10% using our products," Professor Thompson says.
"We can improve these results even further with our latest research insights, and we expect to be able to use these more effective solutions commercially over the coming year."
Skills training and new smartphone product development
Professor Thompson says: "One challenge we have in growing the cattle IVF industry among commercial operators in our region is the lack of trained personnel. ART Lab Solutions offers training courses to grow the skills base needed to support a thriving industry."
Professor Thompson has also revealed there are other reproductive technology products in development with his collaborators across Australia. For example, at the IETS meeting, the company demonstrated a mobile phone sperm motility analyser.
The smartphone-based sperm analyser is a collaboration between RMIT University’s optical physicists and University of Adelaide’s reproductive biologists.
"We will soon be able to transform cattle sperm analysis with a cost-effective device that clips onto any mobile phone," Professor Thompson says. "The response from those attending the conference has verified for us that there is a real demand for cost-effective, easy-to-use systems for semen analysis in the field."
In 2018, ART Lab Solutions will be focused on achieving accreditation from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) to enable global expansion of its existing product range. The company will also look to undertake a capital raising in mid-2018.