PRINCETON, N.J., and ABINGDON, England, Mar. 10 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Orchid BioSciences, Inc. , a leading worldwide provider of identity DNA testing services, today announced the launch of a new testing kit for scrapie susceptibility based on its highly accurate and robust proprietary genotyping assay. Orchid, the largest provider of scrapie susceptibility genotyping in the world, has already used this assay to genotype more than 1.3 million sheep in its U.K.-based, high throughput scrapie susceptibility testing service. The new kit has been designed for customers with lower-throughput testing requirements who want to benefit from the accuracy of this analytical approach when conducting sheep genotyping in their own laboratories.
"We are pleased to broaden the availability of what we believe to be the most robust, widely-used assay in the world for scrapie susceptibility genotyping," said David Hartshorne, commercial director of Orchid Europe. "This new offering reinforces our focus on exceptional service, whereby we work with our customers to determine the most practical and cost-effective scrapie genotyping solution for their needs, whether it be conducted in our facility or in their own laboratory."
European Union legislation requires countries to introduce compulsory scrapie genotyping programs beginning in April, 2005. Scrapie is a fatal transmissible spongiform encephalopathy that affects sheep worldwide and has the potential to cause significant economic losses to farmers through the destruction of infected animals and by affecting confidence in the safety of the food supply. Scientists have discovered a number of genetic variations that affect an individual sheep's susceptibility to scrapie. By selecting those sheep with high genetic resistance as breeding stock, over time farmers expect to produce flocks with greatly reduced vulnerability to the condition.
Additionally, Orchid announced that it has signed an agreement with Prion Diagnostica to commercialize this new scrapie susceptibility testing kit in Italy. Headquartered in Milan, Prion Diagnostica develops and markets diagnostic products and services in a number of different veterinary and food safety applications and is a leading provider of rapid diagnostic tests for BSE, or "mad cow disease". Italy has an estimated sheep population of over 11 million and, like most European countries, has occasionally found prion-infected sheep in its flocks.
Since 2001, Orchid has been a major supplier of genotyping services to U.K. sheep farmers under the government's National Scrapie Plan (NSP), which is designed to help farmers breed sheep with reduced susceptibility to scrapie. Orchid is also the exclusive genotyping supplier to the Northern Ireland Scrapie Plan and provides a commercial testing service directly to farmers in the U.K.
About Orchid Europe
Orchid established its European headquarters in 2001 through the acquisition of U.K.-based Cellmark Diagnostics, one of the world's first commercial DNA testing laboratories. Under the Cellmark brand, it is one of the largest providers of paternity and relationship testing services in Europe, and a leading supplier of forensic DNA profiling for criminal investigation, a rapidly growing area in which the U.K. is a world leader. It is also a major developer and supplier of agricultural genotyping services for genetic markers associated with disease resistance, breeding traits and animal traceability. More information about the range of DNA testing services and products available from Orchid BioSciences Europe can be found at http://www.orchideurope.com/ .
About Prion Diagnostica
Prion Diagnostica, headquartered in Milan, Italy, develops and markets diagnostic products and services for veterinary and food safety applications, including a complete portfolio of genotyping and traceability tests and services used in the research and diagnosis of prion diseases such as TSEs. Prion Diagnostica was founded in 1999 as an operative unit associated with the pharmaceutical company Kemifar and has since become a leading provider of rapid diagnostic tests for BSE in Italy.
About Orchid BioSciences
Orchid BioSciences is a leading provider of identity genetics services for the forensic and paternity DNA testing markets and for public health and animal DNA testing for food safety. Orchid's strong market positions in these segments leverage the company's accredited laboratories in the U.S. and U.K., its innovative genetic analysis technologies and expertise, and the world-renowned Cellmark and GeneScreen brands that have been associated with exceptional quality, reliability, innovation and customer service for nearly two decades. More information on Orchid can be found at http://www.orchid.com/ .
All statements in this press release that are not historical are forward-looking statements within the meaning of Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including statements regarding: the expected impact of scrapie on the food supply and expected outcome of breeding programs. Such statements are subject to the risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected, including, but not limited to, uncertainties relating to technologies, product development, manufacturing, market acceptance, cost and pricing of Orchid products and services, dependence on collaborations and partners, regulatory approvals, competition, intellectual property of others, patent protection, litigation and Orchid's ability to obtain additional financing. These risks and other additional factors affecting Orchid's business are discussed under the headings "Risks Related to Our Business," "Risks Related to the Biotechnology Industry" and "Risks Associated with Our Common Stock" in Orchid's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2003, as filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and in other filings made by Orchid with the Securities and Exchange Commission from time to time. Orchid expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in Orchid's expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions, or circumstances on which any such statements are based, except as may be required by law.