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Greensboro Firm Inks Deal to Bring Smartphone-Based Fertility Test to Animal Breeding

By Allan Maurer, NCBiotech Writer

The Scullion Strategy Group, based in Greensboro, has inked an exclusive option agreement with Boston-based Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) to license patent rights in semen analysis for veterinary use.

Investigators at BWH, a nonprofit teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a founding member of Partners HealthCare, developed a mobile diagnostic test that can be used to measure human semen quality using a smartphone-based device.

Published in Science Translational Medicine and featured on CNNTech earlier this year, the test analyzes and identifies abnormal semen samples with approximately 98 percent accuracy.

The analyzer requires an optical attachment that connects to a smartphone, and a disposable device to upload a semen sample. It returns results on concentration and motility in five seconds.

"We are excited to extend our research and technology to further advance animal fertility and breeding through this agreement,” said Dr. Hadi Shafiee, principal investigator in the Division of Engineering in mMedicine and Renal Division at BWH.

Rapid, low-cost, sensitive analysis

“By integrating advancements in computing algorithms, digital health and micro-fabrication, we have the potential of bringing rapid, sensitive, low-cost and automated semen analysis to point-of-care animal health practitioners."

The Scullion Strategy Group saw animal health applications for this smartphone-based microchip platform technology and believes that the largest opportunity for this technology is in livestock production.

“When I became aware of this technology,” said Sherry Scullion, president of the firm, “I saw an animal health opportunity. BWH was happy to work with us and support our focus on the animal health applicaton.” BWH disclosed the technology publicly in March.

The company believes this technology will dramatically improve breeding efficiency by bringing an accelerated, objective, and comparable method for measuring reproduction potential in the swine and bovine markets.

A revolutionary tool for animal producers

“This technology offers a revolutionary tool for animal producers, equine breeders and even dog and cat breeders,” said Scullion.

“Current methods of animal health breeding do not allow for animal-side testing of semen samples and is completely subjective to the operator conducting the analysis under a microscope. We believe that this technology can significantly transform the animal health reproduction industry for the better.”

Liane Hart, who is an equine and companion animal commercial strategist with Scullion Strategy, and also an owner, trainer and breeder of thoroughbred race and sport horses for 20 years, said the technology represents “A major advancement for the equine breeding industry.”

“From the stallion manager who wants to quickly ensure the stallion roster is ready for the breeding season to the broodmare manager who wants to ensure a healthy embryo, this technology offers an accurate, convenient and low-cost option that will improve our breeding practices,” she said.

Steps toward commercializing it for animal use

During this exclusive option period with BWH, the Scullion Strategy Group will build the business plan and secure investment of capital funding required to develop and customize the technology for the animal health reproduction market.

The Scullion Strategy Group envisions a substantial opportunity in commercializing this semen analyzer for the animal health industry. Scullion said that will occur in two phases.

“The first phase is finding an investor or partner, perhaps a company in animal health diagnostics. Our internal team is assessing this now. Once that is lined up, it will provide funding to customize the technology for animal use. That includes collecting animal samples from various breeders and producers.”

The second stage is taking the customized technology to market. “We see the largest opportunities in animal health reproduction for the bovine, swine and equine industries,” she said.

Scullion, a 20-plus-year resident in Greensboro, said the firm hopes to initiate some conversations with RTP-based companies and has team members in Raleigh. Currently, all of its clients are outside of North Carolina.

“For now,” she said, “it’s a matter of making people aware that we have this technology. In coming months we plan to negotiate with potential partners and have already identified some of the top ones.”

The Scullion Strategy Group, Life Sciences Division, is a consulting firm specializing in bringing new innovations to market in the animal health and healthcare industries by turning insights into tangible and commercialized realities.

Scullion and her husband founded and self-funded the 18-person company in September 2016. It also has an aviation division, but Scullion said the business is “mostly biotech at this point, since this side of the business has really taken off.”

Areas of expertise include innovation strategy, marketing and analytics, biotechnology and statistics, third party manufacturing, supply chain and logistics, quality assurance and compliance.

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