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Published August 25, 2014, 10:04 AM

Leading the way in biotechnology

Next month, scientists, executives and investors from all across the globe will travel to Sioux Falls, S.D., to attend the Livestock Biotechnology Summit. This is the second time South Dakota will have hosted the Livestock Summit, which is sponsored by the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

By: Dennis Daugaard, Agweek

Next month, scientists, executives and investors from all across the globe will travel to Sioux Falls, S.D., to attend the Livestock Biotechnology Summit. This is the second time South Dakota will have hosted the Livestock Summit, which is sponsored by the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Thanks to advancements in agricultural biotechnology, we have a better quality of life. With biotechnology, farmers can generate higher crop yields for less. They can use reduced amounts of chemicals and pesticides on biotech crops. Producers can even develop crops with enhanced nutritional value or without allergens and toxins.

Through biotechnology, we’ve also improved medical treatments, reduced the rates of infectious diseases, improved the odds of surviving life-threatening conditions and created tools for disease detection.

With our state’s heritage of livestock agriculture, South Dakota is a good forum for the Livestock Biotech Summit. Livestock biotechnology research companies have a presence in our state, with SAB Biotherapeutics among those calling South Dakota home. Trans Ova Genetics and Exemplar Genetics also have a presence in South Dakota.

SAB Biotherapuetics, formerly Hematech, is well-known for developing the world’s first large animal platform technology to produce fully human antibodies. SAB Biotherapeutics uses genetically modified cattle to produce human antibodies for prevention and treatment of human ailments like cancer, autoimmune disorders and infectious diseases.

Scientists treat cattle by removing a bovine gene and inserting a human gene to enable the cattle to produce human antibodies. The cattle are then exposed to a virus, leading them to produce human antibodies to fight the disease. The antibodies are extracted from the animals’ blood and processed for use to prevent and treat diseases. As one application, for example, the cattle and process could be used to produce flu vaccines that are administered to millions of Americans annually.

Trans Ova Genetics has a satellite center located in Onida. The company provides ways to allow livestock producers to quickly expand more productive cattle lines and virtually guarantee a heifer or female calf. Their technology has helped breed development, improved the quality of beef and increased milk production.

Exemplar Genetics produces and houses miniature pigs and genetically modified pigs used by medical researchers. The company has genetically modified their pigs to develop a range of diseases. For example, its cystic fibrosis pig model is the first effective animal model.

Exemplar Genetics has partnered with Sanford Research and other medical research organizations to develop these pig disease models. In the future, the technology could potentially be used to produce new medical treatments. Animals like these can be used to test new treatments for specific diseases, before risking human subjects.

Beyond livestock biotechnology, South Dakota is also fostering increasing interest from other biotechnology companies, including startup firms such as Alumend, OmegaQuant Analytics, Inanovate, Med Gene, ImMutriX and Prairie Aquatech.

To support these South Dakota-based biotechnology companies, and companies looking to locate in South Dakota, a pilot scale Good Manufacturing Practices facility has been developed in the GEAR Center at the University of South Dakota Research Park. The pilot scale GMP facility is used by companies such as Alumend and Elieson Pharmaceutics to produce small quantities of its drug or product for use in pre-clinical and clinical trials. Access to this facility significantly reduces the cost for these companies to move through the Food and Drug Administration approval process.

I’m looking forward to attending the Livestock Biotechnology Summit in mid-September, and for the opportunity to talk with biotech companies about how South Dakota is leading the way with the kind of technology that allows us to live longer, healthier lives.

Editor’s note: Daugaard is the governor of South Dakota.

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