Oritain, GE Healthcare form serum testing partnership

Dr Sam Lind (left) and Grant Cochrane of Oritain. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Dr Sam Lind (left) and Grant Cochrane of Oritain. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Oritain has partnered with global medical technology giant GE Healthcare to run a test-based traceability programme to authenticate country of origin of foetal bovine serum (FBS), used in human and animal health vaccines.

Since its establishment in 2008, the Mosgiel-based company has been a global leader in using forensic science to determine product provenance.

Operations director Dr Sam Lind described the partnership as ''very significant'', not only cementing the work the company was doing within that industry, but also the opportunity to work with such a global company.

Bovine serum was essentially a blood by-product from the meat industry, of which there were various grades.

For high value countries like New Zealand, the United States and Australia, it was used for pharmaceutical applications, to help in the manufacture of vaccines and biological drugs, rather than going to rendering.

Those three countries had a very low level of animal risk, having never had the likes of foot and mouth disease or BSE, commonly known as mad cow disease.

Companies making those products needed to use the lowest risk feed stock possible. The likes of South America produced a lot of cows and subsequently serum, ''but have every bovine disease known to man'', Dr Lind said.

GE Healthcare was already traceability-certified by the International Serum Industry Association.

But to ensure that premium raw serum from Australia, New Zealand and the US was from that country of origin, it would now put its sera products through a testing process that went beyond industry-standard traceability practices, GE Healthcare Life Sciences general manager for upstream and cell culture, Morgan Norris, said.

Oritain chief executive Grant Cochrane said Oritain's scientific traceability method measured the naturally-occurring chemical elements that existed within the serum itself as a result of the particular environment the cows were being raised in.

FBS samples had been obtained from GE manufacturing sites all over the world and each one had been analysed to create a unique fingerprint of origin for sera that came from Australia, NZ and the US.

''This cannot be changed or tampered with in any way without detection, as we are dealing with concentrations in the parts per million across more than 20 different variables.

''Our authentication is unique in the fact that it does not rely on paper or labels, but rather verifies the origin of the product itself,'' Mr Cochrane said.

Dr Lind said it had been a ''fairly dynamic'' time at Oritain; there were 23 staff based in Mosgiel, an office opened in the United Kingdom about 18 months ago with seven staff, and a new staff member had started in Australia. There was also a person in South America on contract.

On the back of the free-range egg scandal in New Zealand, Oritain now had a partnership with Foodstuffs with its Pams free range eggs, to ensure integrity of the company's supply chain.

Another category that was becoming quite big was the textile industry, where the same problems existed - people bought Egyptian cotton sheets expecting them to be made from Egyptian cotton, or garments made from merino wool from New Zealand.

Because human health was not involved, the level of traceability was not as prevalent in the industry, he said.

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