A Durham animal health company anticipates launching its first product, a new way to control an infection that afflicts dairy cows, by the end of this year.
Advanced Animal Diagnostics, which last year raised $11 million in venture capital, expects to begin selling its diagnostic system after completing tests at dairy farms to demonstrate its economic benefits, said CEO Joy Parr Drach. The company also anticipates receiving U.S. Department of Agriculture approval later this year.
Founded in 2001, AAD's technology enables early detection of mastitis, an infection of the milk-producing gland.
Mastitis, Drach said, is the most costly disease for the dairy cow industry, costing U.S. farmers an estimated $2 billion a year. The global cost is estimated at $10 billion a year.
AAD's system detects mastitis before symptoms present themselves by identifying different types of white blood cells in cow's milk. Farmers can do the tests themselves by placing a drop of milk from each of a cow's four glands on a disposable cartridge and inserting it into a portable instrument that provides accurate results in less than three minutes.
Early detection of mastitis can head off permanent damage that limits a cow's ability to produce milk, Drach said.
"It addresses a real need," said Randall Marcuson, the company's chairman and former CEO of Embrex, a poultry vaccination company that was sold in 2007 for $155 million. "The conventional methods of detecting mastitis in dairy cows aren't particularly accurate ... and it takes some training to do it."
AAD didn't have any full-time, salaried employees prior to raising its first round of venture capital last March.
"They were working on blood, sweat and tears when we got involved," said James Rosen of Durham venture capital firm Intersouth Partners, which led the $11 million financing round. "We think they are progressing really well."
Today, AAD has a dozen full-time employees, two full-time contract workers and five part-time employees. The company plans to hire a sales staff consisting of more than five full-time employees in preparation for the launch.
In September, AAD moved into 4,500 square feet of office and laboratory space on Davis Drive in Durham. This afternoon AAD will host an open house where it will demonstrate its technology. Earlier this month, the company conducted a demonstration at the annual meeting of the National Mastitis Council in Florida.
This year, AAD is conducting three 60-day trials, each at dairy farms having between 180 and 240 cows, to document the financial advantages of its diagnostic tests. The results also will be used to determine the price of AAD's systems.
"We want to make sure we are producing a return for the producer," Drach said.