PRINCETON, N.J., Jan. 27 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Orchid BioSciences, Inc. today announced it has been selected to be the exclusive provider of high-throughput DNA testing for a large-scale Canadian pork traceability program. The program is a joint venture between Maple Leaf Foods, Inc. of Toronto and Pyxis Genomics, Inc. of Chicago, and represents the first commercial application of DNA technology for pork traceability. The program is designed to enable Canadian pork marketed anywhere in the world to be traced in a matter of hours from the store shelf back to the farm where the meat originated and even back to the maternal sow.
Orchid has been chosen to develop the assay technology to accurately analyze a panel of highly informative SNPs, or single nucleotide polymorphisms, identified by Pyxis Genomics. Following the assay development, Orchid will conduct high-throughput genotyping services for the pork traceability program.
"Orchid already plays an important role in DNA analysis for food safety as the world's leading provider of susceptibility testing for scrapie, the `mad cow'-like prion disease in sheep," said David Hartshorne, commercial director of Orchid BioSciences' European operations. "We are pleased to have been exclusively selected to perform this critical function for the Maple Leaf pork traceability program. Orchid has both the established record for innovative DNA assay development and years of expertise in large-scale laboratory genetic testing needed to help ensure the success of this important new program."
Orchid is the leading provider of testing services for the growing U.K.- government-funded effort to reduce the potential risk that scrapie could pose to the food supply. Orchid's testing is used to identify those sheep that are genetically resistant to scrapie to eliminate the disease from the national sheep flock through selective breeding, and the company has tested nearly one million sheep since this effort began two and a half years ago. Orchid's proprietary SNP-based assays enable rapid, cost-effective high quality testing and are also being developed for additional animal testing applications.
"At Orchid we are leveraging our expertise and technology in scrapie susceptibility testing to develop a suite of proprietary SNP-based meat traceability assays, beginning with our participation in the Maple Leaf and Pyxis pork traceability program," said Paul J. Kelly, M.D., chief executive officer of Orchid BioSciences. "Recent incidents involving mad cow disease in North America and ongoing issues with possible meat contamination are increasing demands for measures to ensure the safety of all major meat products. We see this need as representing an important high-growth commercial opportunity for Orchid that we are well-equipped to address."
"Orchid has been selected for its expertise in designing cost-effective and accurate assays for analyzing genetic markers, as well as for its proven ability in delivering quality accredited high throughput testing services," said Dr. John Webb, director of genetics and science at Maple Leaf Foods. "We have been working with Orchid for the last several months and have been delighted with the progress that we have made together towards the introduction of this service."
Maple Leaf Foods, the largest pork producer in Western Canada, has brought together the combined expertise of industry leaders to help ensure the success of this pork traceability program. Pyxis Genomics will provide marker identification, Orchid BioSciences will provide assay development and service delivery, and IBM will create and manage a comprehensive database and computerized search engine to quickly match DNA from a piece of meat to the maternal sow and therefore the farm of origin. The new traceability program has already received widespread and enthusiastic support from both industry and government, including the Canadian Meat Council. Maple Leaf Foods will launch the pork traceability program in its own farms this spring.
Maple Leaf Foods Inc. is a leading Canadian food processing company committed to delivering quality food products to consumers around the world. Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, the company employs more than 18,000 people at its operations across Canada and in the United States, Europe and Asia. Maple Leaf Foods had sales of $5.1 billion in 2002. More information on Maple Leaf Foods can be found at http://www.mapleleaf.com/.
About Orchid BioSciences, Inc.
Orchid BioSciences is the leading provider of identity genomics services for the forensic and paternity DNA testing markets and for public health DNA testing for food safety. Orchid's market leading positions in these segments leverage the Company's accredited laboratories in the U.S. and the 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/ and http://www.orchideurope.com/.
Orchid BioSciences, Inc.