Memphasys Limited (ASX: MEM) reports that strong progress has been made on novel reproductive biotechnology product, Stallion Dismount Diagnostic, which is now progressing to prototype development phase.
Stallion is one of a portfolio of assisted reproductive biotechnology products which are being developed in conjunction with global reproductive biology expert, Professor John Aitken, and his research team at University of Newcastle.
Memphasys has now identified a unique opportunity to develop a potentially high value portfolio of products in the reproductive biotechnology field and as a result, the company is expanding its focus into reproductive biotechnology as well as bioseparations.
The company is utilising Professor John Aitken’s vast knowledge and experience in this field, his oversight on all of the projects and the highly credentialled team he has recruited and trained at the University of Newcastle.
The product portfolio is focused on reproduction in both humans and animals and ranges from prospective novel medical devices and in vitro diagnostics to new, proprietary media.
With initial technical feasibility studies on these projects to establish operational and economic viability completed, Memphasys has determined that the Stallion Fertility Test (at dismount) is to be the first of the products to be progressed to the next development stage. A prototype diagnostic product, now being developed, is planned to be field tested during the racehorse breeding season starting in September 2021 in Australia.
The stallion dismount diagnostic will be a rapid and easily applied_in vitro_ test used at the breeding shed to detect the probability of the stallion being able to fertilise a mare based on the level of mitochondrial activity in the spermatozoa. The result would be known almost instantly following mating using a very small dismount semen sample.
The test is based on the fact that equine spermatozoa are highly dependent on their mitochondria to generate the energy needed for motility and fertilisation of the egg. Since the spermatozoa of other ungulate species (cattle, pigs and sheep) have a similar pattern of metabolism, Professor Aitken and his research team are confident that this diagnostic system will also permit the rapid assessment of semen quality in other commercially valuable domestic species.
The Australian thoroughbred industry is a world leader, second only to America in terms of the thoroughbred horse population. The number of mares (20,400) and stallions (580) in Australia dwarfs that in other established breeding countries including the UK, Ireland, Japan and New Zealand.
Australian prizemoney has soared by 84% in the last 10 years, compared to 54% in the UK and -4% in the USA, with over 60 races worth $1 million or greater, including the $15 million “The Everest” which is the richest race in the world on turf. Australia has produced a number of world renowned race horses competing both domestically and internationally. More than 20,000 mattings occur throughout Australia each season, resulting in some 13,000 foals.
All thoroughbred horses bred for racing must be generated by natural cover, not artificial insemination. Stallions are selected on the basis of pedigree and athletic prowess rather than reproductive performance, and as a result, the average 60% conception success of these animals is lower than most domesticated livestock species. There is a also a high variability of success ranging between 33% and 100%. High variability often occurs even with the same stallion at different times.
Currently, the earliest that pregnancy can be diagnosed is via ultrasonography at day 14 post natural cover.
A rapid and accurate test applied at the time of conception would be valuable to determine the chance of pregnancy success and mitigate economic loss. Such loss occurs by having to bring the mare or stallion back later for a further service, especially so if the mare’s oestrus has been missed. The goal for breeders to is to secure conceptions and ongoing viable pregnancies as close as possible to the start of the breeding season on 1 September. Each additional “day of age” is worth more than US$163 in overall benefit costs to the owner of the weanling, with an overall difference of US$23,000 between the oldest (“early season” conception) and youngest (“late season” conception) weanlings in a sale.
Service fees vary from approximately A$3,000 to A$250,000 for a top stallion but are not payable until the mare’s pregnancy is confirmed.
Executive Chairman, Alison Coutts, said it is important to note that commercialisation of the Felix device remains the key focus for Memphasys.
She said Memphasys remains excited about the commercial prospects for this device and is actively engaged in expediting supplies of the improved modified device for the remaining verification and validation testing and for getting ready to send these devices to Memphasys’ global Key Opinion Leaders “KOLs”, who have been keen to test these modified devices.
I am extremely encouraged by the progress both Memphasys and Newcastle University have made in relation to all the products under development, but especially the stallion dismount diagnostic,” Ms Coutts said.
“Importantly, it highlights that while bringing our Felix device for humans into commercialisation is priority, we are not a one product company reliant on a single revenue stream.
“We are now moving to prototype development for this product to test and prove the design. Simultaneously, we will also be continuing technical feasibility studies for the other products.
“If successfully commercialised, these niche products may provide significant additional revenue streams in addition to the Felix device.
“I, along with the rest of the Company look forward to continuing our work with Professor Aitken and his team to potentially progress these initiatives to commercialisation.”