The infectious bovine disease mastitis is a scourge on dairy farms, costing an estimated $2 billion in the U.S. and more than $1 billion in Europe in lost milk production and reproductive problems every year. Advanced Animal Diagnostics (AAD) of North Carolina has developed a diagnostic test to help dairy farmers make better use of antibiotics to control mastitis–and now it has a big-name partner to help introduce the product in Europe.
AAD announced that it has partnered with Zoetis ($ZTS) to market QScout MLD, its diagnostic test that enables early detection of mastitis before symptoms become visible. Unlike more traditional tests for mastitis, which detect live pathogens, QScout can find white blood cells in milk–a sure-fire signal that the immune system is responding to the infection–according to AAD. The test runs on what AAD dubs its “lab-in-a-box” platform, which is portable, allowing farmers to easily cart it around and make point-of-care treatment decisions.
“We believe we can save dairies and the veterinarians who serve them money by improving milk production and quality while using antibiotics only on cows that truly need them,” said Joy Parr Drach, CEO of AAD, in a press release. As is the case in the U.S., regulators in Europe have been cracking down on antibiotics use in food production, increasing the pressure on farmers to find innovative ways of controlling infections.
AAD has been expanding its presence in veterinary diagnostics in the last couple of years, and gaining some high-profile support along the way. In 2014, the company raised $15 million in an oversubscribed Series C financing, which included investments from Cultivian Sandbox, Kansas Bioscience Authority, Novartis ($NVS), LabCorp ($LH) and Middleland. That brought its total VC haul to $30 million.
This latest deal also fulfills an important goal for Zoetis, which has been making its own efforts to enter the booming market for animal diagnostics. A couple of weeks before striking the AAD deal, Zoetis paid $80 million to acquire Scandinavian Micro Biodevices, a company that makes “lab-on-a-chip” diagnostic systems for companion animals. In 2014, Zoetis picked up several diagnostic products in its $255 million acquisition of Abbott’s animal health assets.
Zoetis has also been building up its product offerings for dairy farmers. In March, it introduced Clarifide Plus, the first U.S.-based genomic test to predict the risk of 6 diseases in Holstein cows, including mastitis.