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Nebraska biotech firm serves clients worldwide

GeneSeek Inc., a Nebraska agricultural biotechnology service provider, has grown into one of the largest companies of its kind in the world since it began in Lincoln in 1998.

In 2010, GeneSeek was acquired by Neogen Corp., an international company headquartered in Lansing, Mich., that manufactures and markets a diverse line of products dedicated to food and animal safety.

About 40% of GeneSeek’s revenue is generated internationally, says Jeremy Walker, director of customer solutions at GeneSeek. “Our clients are far-reaching,” he says. “We provide services for individual farmers and ranchers, the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, and other clients in between.”

At a glance

GeneSeek, a state biotech provider, employs 45 people.

Contract lab specializes in genomic sciences.

Lab testing involves both livestock and crops.

Walker says GeneSeek, which employs about 45 people, was founded by two Lincoln entrepreneurs, Daniel Pomp, formerly an animal science professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Abraham Oommen, who worked for another biotechnology company in Lincoln.

The contract service laboratory specializes in genomic-based sciences. “Companies contract research to us because we have certain specialties that we can accomplish here that a lot of other companies or organizations can’t do on their own. A lot of times we’re the laboratory behind the scenes. When people need an agricultural-based genomic test done, they will send it to another company who will then contract us to do the work.”

Walker says GeneSeek receives about 500,000 to 600,000 samples per year at its Lincoln laboratory. “The main sample types we receive from animals are blood, hair or semen. In crop work, we will get DNA samples but we can receive leaf and other plant tissue or seed as well.”

Cattle and pigs

While the company works with several animal species, its primary emphasis is cattle and pigs.

Dairy cattle are the largest source of genetic samples, Walker says, but GeneSeek also does work for the poultry industry.

One of the company’s major focuses is to aid food-animal production companies in “marker-assisted” selection, says Walker. “It allows animal production companies to perpetuate the best genetics in their seedstock. These companies send us routine shipments of samples, and we genetically test those samples to ensure that the best underlying genetic qualities are perpetuated.”

Genes are responsible for many different important qualities in food animals, he says. These qualities might include tenderness, fat content and disease susceptibility. “We look at the variations within these genes that would, for example, determine whether one animal is more tender than another or whether one animal would have a higher fat content than another.”

In addition to animal work, the company is involved in genetic evaluation of crops, such as corn and soybeans, Walker says.

In the crops area, other than providing specific genomic information to clients, GeneSeek does not always know the reason the client requires information.

“Companies involved in corn production or seed-corn production have their particular interests, and they don’t necessarily need to communicate that to us, so we are basically doing molecular genetics somewhat blindly. I don’t mean blindly in the sense that we don’t know what we are doing, but we don’t always understand the content of the information that we are generating.”

Since its parent company, Neogen, is extensively involved in food safety services, GeneSeek expects to be doing more molecular genetic work related to this area in the future.

Carlton writes from Lincoln.


CONTRACT LAB: Nebraska-based GeneSeek Inc. specializes in genomic-based sciences and serves agricultural-related clients all over the world, says company spokesman Jeremy Walker.

This article published in the September, 2011 edition of NEBRASKA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.