Orchid BioSciences, Inc., a leading worldwide provider of identity DNA testing services, has announced the launch of a new testing kit for scrapie susceptibility based on its proprietary genotyping assay. Orchid has already used this assay to genotype more than 1.3 million sheep in its U.K.-based scrapie susceptibility testing service. The new kit has been designed for customers with lower-throughput testing requirements who want to benefit from the accuracy of this analytical approach when conducting sheep genotyping in their own laboratories.

European Union legislation requires countries to introduce compulsory scrapie genotyping programs beginning in April 2005. Scrapie is a fatal transmissible spongiform encephalopathy that affects sheep worldwide and has the potential to cause significant economic losses to farmers through the destruction of infected animals and by affecting confidence in the safety of the food supply. Scientists have discovered a number of genetic variations that affect an individual sheep's susceptibility to scrapie. By selecting those sheep with high genetic resistance as breeding stock, over time farmers expect to produce flocks with greatly reduced vulnerability to the condition.

Additionally, Orchid announced that it has signed an agreement with Prion Diagnostica to commercialize this new scrapie susceptibility testing kit in Italy. Headquartered in Milan, Prion Diagnostica develops and markets diagnostic products and services in a number of different veterinary and food safety applications and is a leading provider of rapid diagnostic tests for BSE, or mad cow disease. Italy has an estimated sheep population of over 11 million and, like most European countries, has occasionally found prion-infected sheep in its flocks.

Source: Company Release