Scary dairy

GeneThera acquires Applied Genetics in effort that indirectly fights Crohn’s disease

Jeffrey Bouley
WESTMINSTER, Colo.—Biotechnology company GeneThera Inc. willbe in a better position to help combat Crohn's disease in humans—albeitindirectly—with its recent acquisition of a majority ownership stake in AppliedGenetics SA, a molecular diagnostic company based in Monterrey, Mexico. AppliedGenetics is a molecular diagnostic company that focuses on commercializingmolecular testing for Johne's disease in Mexico.
 
Johne's disease is a an incurable disease of dairy cows,sheep and goats that occurs globally and is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacteriumavium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP), and Applied Genetics employs the use ofGeneThera HerdCheck to test and control the spread of Johne's disease inMexico. HerdCheck is a proprietary molecular diagnostic system based on the useof high-throughput robotics and real-time PCR.
 
 
Where the diagnostics story here becomes more pertinent tohumans is when one takes into account that GeneThera is dedicated to improvingfood safety by applying the latest molecular technologies to eradicate zoonoticdiseases such as Johne's disease, mad cow disease, chronic wasting disease and E.coli, all of which can cross over to humans. According toGeneThera, "An overwhelming number of studies have shown that MAP is thecausative agent of Crohn's disease in humans." Dairy products contaminated withMAP, the company says, are the vehicles by which the infection spreads in thehuman intestine.
 
 
"This business is in animal diagnostics, but the human sidehas great importance to us and enormous global impact because animal healthaffects communities," Dr. Tony Milici, CEO of GeneThera and interim presidentof Applied Genetics, tells ddn. "Reportshave shown that people with genetic predispositions or weak immune systems areparticular prone to infection by MAP. The goal here is to prevent cowinfections and thus prevent the milk being infected and thus the food chain."
 
GeneThera has been involved with Applied Genetics for "sometime" in a business relationship, Milici notes, "but we realized that we neededto have a better handle on the operations in Mexico and we felt it would bebetter to have a more full picture of the company instead of a minorityownership position."
 
"[We] will continue our efforts to make GeneThera a leaderin molecular diagnostic testing both in Mexico and South America," he noted inthe news release about the deal.
In its effort to manage and prevent zoonotic diseases,GeneThera focuses on developing molecular diagnostic tests, therapeutics andvaccines in the belief that better technologies and methodology need to beimplemented to help control emerging diseases in animals and in humans, withthat focus currently on the diagnosis and treatment of Johne's disease.According to the Johne's Information Center, an estimated 7.8 percent of thebeef herds and 30 percent to 70 percent of the dairy herds in the United Statesare infected with MAP. The MAP organism grows very slowly, causes a graduallyworsening disease condition and is highly resistant to the infected animal'simmune defenses. Therefore, infected animals can harbor the organism for yearsbefore they test positive or develop disease signs, according to GeneThera.

Jeffrey Bouley

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