Irish firm in UK deal for faster BSE tests


AN Irish scientific services company is working on a BSE testing system with a very quick turnaround time, following a deal with a British drugs company.

The company, Enfer Scientific Services, is to develop and market post mortem BSE diagnostic tests under an exclusive agreement signed with Proteus International, the British drug design company.

Like other countries, Ireland was hit badly by the BSE scare; Bord Bia has said the recovery of EU beef markets is continuing, but very slowly.

Industry sources say the problem at the moment is that current BSE testing processes on carcasses can take two weeks to conclude. It is understood that Enfer will be working to devise a system which will provide accurate test results in a very fast time.

Enfer currently provides animal diagnostic services in Ireland, mainly through testing beef carcasses in slaughter houses for the presence of growth promoters.

The company has been working with the Department of Agriculture for the past three years on testing for illegal growth promoters. It was also involved in testing 100,000 cattle for growth promoters in an EU supported scheme in 1994.

Enfer's scientific director, Mr Michael O'Connor, said veterinary surgeons face a serious challenge" because animals may not exhibit any external signs of BSE infection before they are killed.

He was confident Enfer could marry its technologies with those of Proteus, but would not specify when the diagnostic testing system would be in place. Nor would he say how much the licensing agreement was worth.

A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture said that up to now Ireland had to rely on British research and development into BSE because Britain had put a large amount of resources into the issue. He described the licensing agreement as an "interesting development".

Under the agreement with Proteus, Enfer will market the post mortem BSE diagnostic test in Ireland, Germany, France and the Benelux counties. It will pay an annual licence fee to Proteus together with royalties.

Proteus developed its diagnostic testing system in a joint venture with University College Dublin, according to Proteus directors.

Enfer was established six years ago by Mr Michael O'Sullivan and Mr Louis Ronan. It employs 28 people and has offices in Dublin and Cashel, Co Tipperary.