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AAD Creates Jobs, Moo-ooves Dairy Industry Forward

By Susan Poulos, NCBiotech Writer

AAD's Mitch Hockett, Ph.D. (left), director of external research and technical marketing, and Tim Griswold, area sales manager for the Upper Midwest region, show off the QScout Farm Lab at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., Sept. 30 to Oct. 4, 2014.

-- Photos courtesy of AAD

Keeping cows healthy and their milk flowing is every dairy producer’s goal. When flow is low, profits slow.

That’s why dairy farmers are constantly on the watch for signs of mastitis – inflammation in their cows’ mammary glands or udders, usually caused by infection. It’s the most common and most costly disease for dairy producers worldwide.

Fortunately it’s much easier and more effective to prevent and treat mastitis today, thanks to Durham-based Advanced Animal Diagnostics.  AAD’s rapid, on-farm diagnostic technologies can detect mastitis in dairy cows even before they show symptoms.

AAD’s novel QScout MLD (milk leukocyte differential) test gives dairy producers the ability to measure a cow’s immune response to infection almost instantly – cutting diagnostic time by days and expediting treatment, thus minimizing losses.  Mastitis costs the dairy industry roughly $2 billion annually in the U.S. and $10 billion globally.

Funding expands horizons, opportunities

In 2003, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center recognized the positive implications that AAD’s innovative diagnostic tools could have on the national and global agricultural industry, and awarded the new company a $20,000 startup loan.

“Many people and groups like the Biotech Center helped us prove our concept so we could attract our first venture capital investment more than three years ago,” said AAD President and CEO Joy Parr Drach.

“Then with the help of investors like Intersouth Partners and Novartis Venture Funds, we built a talented, dedicated team who created a product that adds value for dairy producers and consumers,” Drach added.

More investment almost always follows NCBiotech funding support to young North Carolina companies and technologies.

Collected milk samples can now be tested for mastitis immediately, right in the milking parlor, thanks to AAD's breakthrough QScout MLD diagnostic system.

The most recent influx for AAD was a $15 million Series C round of equity funding co-led by Cultivian Sandbox and Kansas Bioscience Authority, including Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings, Middeland Capital, and existing investors Intersouth, Novartis and private individuals.

The venture investment allows AAD to accelerate the commercialization of its QScout MLD test, invest in production and manufacturing and expand the company’s product line by developing additional tests for the dairy and beef markets. AAD is also expanding its sales team to accommodate the growth.

“It takes a long time to be an overnight success,” joked Drach.

NCBiotech’s early support crucial

The early NCBiotech loan, together with additional Collaborative Funding Grants supporting AAD-related research at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, along with entrepreneurial support and education from NCBiotech, helped AAD attract the venture funding, according to Drach.

“With the NCBiotech support, we went from concept to commercial enterprise employing more than 40 people, demonstrated the value of our product in the marketplace, and now make a positive impact in the industry and in the state,” she said. 

Continued funding needed for companies, jobs

“Early entrepreneurs need funding and tools to help them get started,” noted Drach.

 “The kind of support NCBiotech provided to AAD and continues to provide other small businesses creates benefits in many ways. It not only helps build local businesses and biotechnology innovation, but also helps North Carolina taxpayers and the economy by virtue of job creation. And, in our case, it also helped the food and agriculture industries -- and hungry consumers.”

Drach said she’s concerned about having a vibrant community of early-stage companies in North Carolina, because these small businesses provide so many of the jobs our state needs.

“We need to find ways to keep funding innovation. This is a critical challenge for North Carolina. The Biotech Center provides funding and support that early entrepreneurs need to get started. This needs to continue – it’s important for the future of job growth.”

Comments

I am interested in learning more about your technology. Jim colli002@umn.edu

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