Oommen and Pomp

GeneSeek founders Abraham Oommen and Daniel Pomp (Courtesy photos)

Courtesy photos

GeneSeek founders Abraham Oommen and Daniel Pomp have won the 2012 Governor's Bioscience award.

The annual award recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to the bioscience industry in Nebraska and is awarded by the Bio Nebraska Life Sciences Association.

Founded in 1998 by Oommen, formerly at Li-Cor, and UNL animal scientist Pomp, GeneSeek has done a variety of groundbreaking tasks but probably is best known for tracking down the genetic trail of the nation's first case of mad cow disease in 2003.

Oommen has his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas, did postdoctoral studies at the Nobel Foundation and had industry experience in new product development and commercialization

Pomp has a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University, did postdoctoral studies at the University of California-Davis and now is a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine

Steve Frayser, president of the Nebraska Technology Park, where GeneSeek has its offices, said Oommen and Pomp started GeneSeek because they recognized the value that "high throughput" gene discovery and screening would have for production agriculture and did so before others saw the market. 

Using a variety of technology and software, high-throughput screening allows researchers to quickly conduct millions of chemical, genetic or pharmacological tests.

"They developed the early processes and pricing models starting with a licensed test for swine diseases," Frayser said in an email. "They have retained their leadership role in the industry by consistently anticipating the next technology development. They kept their pricing structure under control by an early commitment to automation and deployment of technology."

GeneSeek's technology employs high-resolution DNA genotyping for identity and trait analysis in a variety of animal and agricultural plant species, according to the company's literature.

GeneSeek says it empowers its customers to speed genetic improvement efforts, as well as to identify economically important diseases inside the farm gate.

GeneSeek says it is not involved in cloning or the development of transgenic animals. Instead, the results of its technology allow the acceleration of natural selection through selective breeding for traits such as disease resistance and meat quality, the company said.

GeneSeek is at 4665 Innovation Drive, at the Nebraska Technology Park.

Since 2010, GeneSeek has been owned by Neogen, a Michigan company that is a University of Nebraska-Lincoln research partner. Neogen describes GeneSeek, as "the leading commercial agricultural genetics laboratory in the United States."

In an interview, Frayser said GeneSeek's latest prominent achievement is to run the the genome on the seven forms of E. coli bacteria that are dangerous to humans when consumed in food.

"Geneseek is the first one to figure out how to do high-throughput genetic screening to determine the presence of foodborne pathogens," Frayser said. They have released a diagnostic to find E. coli in meat and could be applied to other food products, he said.

The GeneSeek advantage in this field is speed. Other diagnostics take 40 hours and, by that time, a meatpacking plant has shipped tons of meat out the door. "So that's why there are huge recalls," Frayser said. "GeneSeek can find it in less than 24 hours, and that dramatically reduces the time for identification. Nobody else has figured out how to do this."

Reach Richard Piersol at 402-473-7241 or at rpiersol@journalstar.com

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