EMS is killing off the stocks of the world's three largest shrimp producers: Thailand, China and Viet Nam. In some places, production is down by nearly 50 per cent from last year. But there is hope. At the University of Arizona, professor Don Lightner in the School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences has a solution for detecting the bacteria in the stocks, allowing infected populations to be separated from healthy ones.
Dr Lightner and Assistant Staff Scientist Linda Nunan have created a rapid diagnostic test capable of detecting the genetic differences between the pathogenic and non-pathogenic versions of the common marine bacterium, called Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which causes the disease.
This method will enable specific detection of affected shrimp, currently only identified through the use of histology, which is time consuming and expensive. A rapid polymerase chain reaction test for the detection of this pathogen will be the first on the market and is critically needed by the shrimp producing industry.
To get the solution into the hands of shrimp farmers, Dr Lightner connected with Tech Launch Arizona, the UA's technology commercialisation office. Through TLA, the UA entered into a licensing agreement with GeneReach Biotechnology Corp. to commercialise the solution and make it available worldwide.
"The goal from the beginning has been to clearly define the solution and then partner with a company with the resources to produce and distribute the diagnostic," said Doug Hockstad, director of Tech Transfer Arizona, the Tech Launch Arizona unit charged with helping faculty members move their innovations out of the lab and into the marketplace.
"In commercialising this technology, we're creating the pathways to get it out to the people who need it as quickly and efficiently as possible," Mr Hockstad said.
GeneReach, based in Taiwan, develops, manufactures and markets products related to pathogen detection in the aquaculture, biosecurity, companion animal and livestock production industries.
"We all share a common goal: to transfer and translate Dr Lightner's technology into diagnostic products to help the shrimp farming industry promptly," said GeneReach CEO Grace Chang.
"We are pleased to obtain the agreement, and expect to launch the products in early 2014."
Dr Lightner is equally ready to bring the solution to the world as soon as possible.
"Developing the diagnostic has been a complex process," he says, "but now that we've got that done, I'm just delighted that we have a clearly defined way to get it out to the world to help solve the problem."