Welsh Government
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DNA profiling service targets pet market

Two science graduates from Bangor University have launched a unique DNA profiling service for pet owners that can complement or replace micro-chipping.

Richard Storey and Dan Struthers, who set up PetGen, believe they are the only company in the world dedicated to DNA extraction and storage for the purposes of pet security, identification and prevention of theft.

Their business idea came from their previous studies into animal genetics and the realisation that there was a gap in the market for a completely non-invasive method of pet identification.

With the feedback from market research, PetGen also plans to incorporate services such as veterinary diagnostics and parentage analysis for pedigree and/or prohibited dog breeds.

Using a specially designed user-friendly kit, owners simply take a mouth swab from their pet, post it to PetGen where it is purified, treated for storage for up to 30 years and entered onto their database.

Each year 300,000 pets in the UK go missing or are stolen and the DNA profile provides irrefutable evidence in identifying a pet should it be stolen and later found and in cases where there is dispute over ownership.

The Bangor based business has benefited from the Welsh Government’s Graduate Start Up programme that provided a £12,000 bursary and pre and post start mentoring which Richard Storey described as invaluable.

“We would have struggled to develop a business plan without this help and advisors also carried out financial forecasting for us which was extremely useful while the bursaries were a great help the get the business up and running.”

Business Minister Edwina Hart said the Graduate Start-Up programme was playing a key role in helping students turn good ideas into new business enterprises.

“Developing and supporting start ups is high on the Welsh Government agenda. Entrepreneurs are essential for building a strong economy, creating businesses and helping to spread prosperity and create jobs. It’s always good news to hear of new innovative technology led businesses setting up in Wales and I am pleased the Welsh Government was able to play a role in supporting this latest start-up.”

PegGen is working with a number of pet insurance companies in the hope that their product will lead to a reduction in pet insurance premiums as the service can form part of a comprehensive pet identification program.

Richard explained,

“It can be used as an addition or an alternative to microchips which unfortunately can and do fail and bird rings can be removed, but an animal’s DNA can’t break or be tampered with. It also provides an alternative means of identification for pet owners who are concerned about adverse micro-chip reactions.”

The service is currently available for dogs, cats and horses although they intend to extend to include other small or delicate animals and fish like koi and some reptiles where DNA storage has many benefits over micro-chipping.
Figures for 2006 estimate there are 10.3 million cats and 10.5 million dogs in the UK and an estimated 8 million reptiles kept as pets.

The overall market size is believed to be in the region of 11 million potential customers.

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