Mars Petcare Acquires DNA Diagnostics Company

Mars Petcare’s new acquisition will expand its veterinary business unit, Wisdom Health, and the genetic testing services it offers to dog owners and breeders.
Amanda Carrozza
Published: April 16, 2018
Mars Petcare, OptiGenMars Petcare has finalized its acquisition of OptiGen, LLC, a New York-based DNA diagnostics company specializing in canine inherited eye disorders. The acquisition will strengthen Mars Petcare’s animal genetics business unit, Wisdom Health. Previously known as Mars Veterinary, Wisdom Health was established in 2005 to research and develop genetic tests for purebred, designer and mixed-breed dogs.
Included in the purchase of OptiGen are exclusive licenses to a portfolio of genetic disease tests patented in the United States, Australia and multiple European countries, and an extensive biobank of more than 150,000 samples representing various canine eye diseases. Moving forward, Mars Petcare says these samples will be used to discover new genetic health markers for dogs.

“This acquisition is a welcome and natural evolution of OptiGen's 20-year history of working with conscientious dog owners, breeders, clubs and canine health registries around the world,” OptiGen’s President Sue Pearce-Kelling said. “OptiGen’s and Wisdom Health’s shared commitment to providing the highest quality of DNA testing for dogs while also supporting research aimed at identifying new genetic markers for inherited diseases, as well as our mutual respect for intellectual property where it exists in the field, makes this an excellent fit.”

The addition of OptiGen to the Mars Petcare umbrella expands the pool of data retrievable through the subsidiaries of Wisdom Health that offer genetic testing kits. According to a company press release, OptiGen’s diagnostics will now enable the test kits to detect over 185 genetic disease mutations. The initial products to incorporate these genetic tests for canine eye disorders will be Optimal Selection — genetic testing designed for purebred dogs — and My Dog DNA, a similar test for breeding dogs.

Akin to genetic services available to humans, these canine genetic tests use a sample of skin cells from a dog’s cheek to create a custom report that includes ancestry information, breed descriptions, and a predicted weight profile. According to Mars Petcare, genetic testing is important to detect animals that are carriers of specific diseases so breeders can avoid mating them with other carriers. Additionally, the testing can identify mixed-breed dogs at risk for developing genetic conditions that would otherwise go undiagnosed, thus allowing for earlier intervention.

“DNA testing is the only way to detect carriers or affected puppies with late-onset forms of inherited canine eye disorders. Working with breeders, we can help decrease the incidence of these disorders in the future,” Cynthia Cole, DVM, PhD, DACVCP, general manager of Wisdom Health, said. “We're at a pivotal time in companion animal genetic research, and with this acquisition, we will add to the growing body of knowledge to help veterinarians' ability to predict and treat inherited eye disorders for dogs.”

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