In 1996, the world met a miracle named Dolly. The ewe (lady sheep) was born at the Roslin Institute in Scotland. Dolly was unique in that she was the first cloned mammal produced from an adult cell. In the subsequent 20 years since Dolly’s birth, ViaGen and Trans Ova Genetics have been part of the growing cloning legacy. Let’s follow the paths of these two very special companies as they developed into one…and developed into the world leaders in cloning technology.
In 1998, a visionary named John Sperling funded a project with TAMU (Texas A & M University) to clone his beloved dog Missy. The project, was called the “Missyplicity Project”. From that work, a company named Genetic Savings and Clone was born, which later merged with Genomic FX to become ViaGen in 2002. ViaGen was based out of Austin, TX . ViaGen acquired the licensing for the Roslin Patent (Dolly Patent) and the IP around cloning. At the same time, Trans Ova Genetics welcomed the birth of their first cloned heifer in 1998 and began offering the service to their bovine clients several years later. The two companies operated independently until 2007, when they joined forces to create Bovance, a joint venture that provided bovine cloning services to clients in the U.S., while ViaGen continued to provide services to other livestock species, including pigs and horses. In 2012, Trans Ova Genetics purchased ViaGen. In 2014, Trans Ova Genetics and ViaGen were purchased by Intrexon, a publicly traded synthetic biology company, which brought many new opportunities to the business.
Along the way, there were a lot of firsts – the first calf, the first foal, the first piglet, the first fawn, etc. The first endangered species, gestated in a cross species was also born. Two endangered species have been propagated using this technology 1) a Gaur and 2) a Banteng. The cloning of the Gaur landed the technology a spot on the cover of Time Magazine. ViaGen also provides programs for cloned embryos that produce transgenic animals for biomedical purposes.
2017 is the 15th anniversary year for ViaGen. Today, ViaGen continues to offer Genetic Preservation services to clients who own non-primate mammals and the ViaGen lab has preserved literally thousands of cell lines from multiple species of animals, including rare and endangered species. In 2016, they celebrated the addition of ViaGen Pets, and produced their first cloned puppy and kitten for their delighted pet clients. ViaGen Pets has been a key development for the company in the past year, with incredible acceptance from pet owners around the world. The dog and cat clients that utilize those services, are very grateful for the opportunity to clone their beloved pet. ViaGen also celebrated the addition of a small ruminant division and have produced both cloned lambs and kids for those happy clients. We asked Blake Russell, President of ViaGen, what he thinks their biggest success has been to date. “Without a doubt, I think we have been most successful at assembling a world class team of scientists, and the team that supports this technology through customer service, sales and marketing, accounting and animal care. We are very fortunate to have the “best in the world” at all levels of our business, but more importantly, they are all passionate about making dreams come true for our clients.”
So what does the future hold for ViaGen? Many new technologies are being forged now that will revolutionize animal breeding as we know it, and you can bet that ViaGen will be a key player in the utilization of these technologies. We encourage you to continue to follow ViaGen on social media to learn more about these fascinating opportunities through their website, www.viagen.com, or you can follow ViaGen on Facebook and Twitter. If you are interested in learning more about how ViaGen fulfill the need to preserve the DNA on your beloved pet, rockstar cow, or award winning pig today, simply call 1-888-8ViaGen.
Congratulations to ViaGen on their 15th year anniversary…..we can’t wait to see what you do in the next 15 years!