In 1996 Mad Cow Disease (BSE) had been linked to a disease in humans, causing a sizable panic and collapse in the beef markets in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Enter IdentiGEN, founded the same year in Dublin. The company uses the science of DNA fingerprinting to track the origins of food products. The beef market collapse highlighted the importance of consumer confidence in the controls and origin of meat. And IdentiGEN’s development of the first application of DNA fingerprinting of cattle reduces the risk and impact of food safety crises, similar to the BSE scare. “Just like people, each individual animal is genetically unique,” said Ciaran Meghen, the Founder and Executive Director. “We use ‘nature’s barcode’ to link meat to its source.”

IdentiGEN has evolved and grown, becoming a leading provider of DNA-based solutions for the agri-food industry. The company has operations in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Europe, Canada, and in the United States. The U.S. operation is based in the Bioscience & Technology Business Center, located in Lawrence, Kansas.

We’ve found the BTBC team to be highly responsive to our needs, especially during the initial commissioning phase

“IdentiGEN serves the U.S. cattle industry from its base at the BTBC, which given its central location in the Midwest is ideal,” Meghen said. “The housing of IdentiGEN’s sophisticated DNA profiling capabilities at BTBC makes a lot of sense as we can attract talented KU bio-science graduates to work in our laboratories and we can participate in KU research and educational programs when appropriate.”

While beef was the starting point for IdentiGEN, the company now serves a wider international animal protein market, delivering multiple DNA-based solutions that ensure the integrity, safety, provenance, and origin of meat and seafood. Just this year, IdentiGEN inked a deal to profile the DNA for an entire national cattle herd in Switzerland. “It’s great to see that our technology can benefit an entire industry. That’s very satisfying, as it is built on many years of experience and hard work,” Meghen said.

While safety is a central piece to IdentiGEN’s work, it can also provide protection for brand values. “As an example, beef that is certified to have come from an Angus animal may have a premium price and could be substituted with non-Angus beef. We use the genetic fingerprint of the meat to match exactly to the source animal,” said Meghen. “This is done by generating large databases of DNA profiles from animals that enter our customer supply chains and building verification programs around these. This offers our customers additional protection from supply chain risk, protecting brands and reducing economic loss.”  And expanding into the U.S. market at the BTBC helped the company network within the University of Kansas’ life science community, while the BTBC staff added additional support. “We’ve found the BTBC team to be highly responsive to our needs, especially during the initial commissioning phase,” Meghen said.