Morrisville Startup That Can Vaccinate 100,000 Chicks/Hour Using AI Lands $35M More
A Morrisville biotech startup that is focused on revolutionizing current vaccination methods for the commercial poultry industry has landed an additional $35 million in funding.
TARGAN, formerly Applied LifeSciences & Systems, confirmed on Wednesday that it received the Series C equity financing co-led by Mountain Group Partners and NovaQuest Capital Management. Existing investors Merck Animal Health and Oval Park Capital also participated in the round.
That brings its total raised to roughly $51.6 million since 2016.
“From its conception, TARGAN’s purpose has been to address the growing global demand for a healthier, more sustainable food supply through the development and application of novel technologies,” said TARGAN’s CEO and founder Ramin Karimpour. “We are most delighted that our great progress has led to NovaQuest joining our existing investors in this series.”
Founded in 2011, TARGAN has developed a proprietary system to detect, target and deliver vaccines to poultry using high-speed imaging, feature recognition, artificial intelligence, robotics, and microfluidics.
TARGAN said its technology can individually and accurately vaccinate “up to 100,000 chicks per hour” against diseases such as coccidiosis, infectious bronchitis, and Newcastle disease, significantly reducing the reliance on chemicals, therapeutics, and antibiotics.
It can also determine the gender of individual chicks to allow separate sex rearing by poultry producers. That allows for reduced feed cost and waste while optimizing bird nutrition, the company said.
“With this round, we will launch our targeted, individual vaccination and gender sorting technologies for poultry,”
For many industry insiders, it can’t come soon enough.
Global meat production today stands at roughly 367 million tons and is expected to nearly double again to 557 million tons by 2050. This represents about a factor-of-ten rise from 1960 to 2050. Over the same period, the global population is expected to triple – from roughly three to nine billion people.
The pandemic has only further highlighted the need to create technologies that reduce labor and improve bird health, said Rob Readnour, managing director at Mountain Group Partners, one of TARGAN’s loyal investors.
Nandini Mendu, Ph.D., the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s agriculture sector development senior director, agreed.
“TARGAN has taken the mass application of spraying vaccines on feed or adding it to feeding water and turned it into an automated process that targets each chick individually and precisely,” she said. “This vaccination device will greatly benefit the poultry industry, much like Zoetis’s EmbrexR Inovoject did 30 years ago.” EmbrexR Inovoject provides vaccines to chick embryos, allowing early stimulation of a bird’s immune system while minimizing stress.
TARGAN said it currently has more than 50 employees, “including industry-leading scientists and engineers in the fields of vaccine delivery and automation. The company added that it plans to “significantly increase headcount in the Triangle, throughout the country and eventually internationally,” as it commercializes its vaccination and gender identification systems.
Merck Animal Health, which has supported TARGAN from its early days, called its technology “groundbreaking.”