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March 4, 2014
Enzootic’s All-Male Freshwater Prawns
Enzootic is an agro-biotech venture founded in 2012 by a multidisciplinary team of industry and academic leaders whose vision is to introduce the latest advances in life science research to crustacean aquaculture.
The company employs an array of independently developed and licensed technologies in the development and commercialization of proprietary products that increase yields, economic value and sustainability of crustacean aquaculture, while avoiding the use of chemicals, hormones and genetic modifications.
Enzootic’s business model is based on the distinctive ability of its team to develop, evaluate and commercialize active compounds and/or products for the crustacean industry. Enzootic intends to market its products through strategic partnerships, joint ventures and licensing agreements with veterinary drug companies, feed producers, and local and global hatcheries.
With business operations in California, USA, and a world-class research and development team operating out of Israel, Enzootic is ideally and uniquely positioned to rapidly leverage its vast expertise and ingenuity to commercial realization.
Based on research from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the company developed a one-time, non-chemical, non-genetic treatment method that allows freshwater prawn hatcheries to produce all-male prawns, which grow bigger and faster than female prawns.
Assaf Shechter, co-founder and CEO of Enzootic, says it makes sense and cents to grow the males apart from the females. When grown with females, males become more aggressive and the dominant males suppress the growth of smaller males.
The technique is based on research done by Professor Amir Sagi, Shechter’s former PhD adviser, who is cofounder and CTO of Enzootic.
Sagi’s team previously produced a cutting-edge biotechnological tool for crustacean sex reversal and mono-sex progeny production that was licensed to the Tiran Group, an Israeli shipping company with aquaculture farms in China. Tiran also signed an agreement to advance aquaculture in Vietnam, a completely separate venture from Enzootic, using Sagi’s technology.
Growing males only could mean a 60 percent increase in income for the prawn farmer and a 45% increase in production. There are rewards for the hatcheries, too––they can charge more for all-male prawns.
In Southeast Asia, where the majority of freshwater prawns are grown and frozen for export, some farmers hand-select the males for growout, but this process is time-consuming and expensive.
Shechter is hoping to take his technology to the United States to provide ethical prawn farming opportunities for a stagnant production market. Shechter said, “We are targeting the USA, because the United States is such a huge consumer of prawns and shrimps, and we want to encourage farmers in the region to grow locally.”
He believes this biotech solution can make the business of crustacean aquaculture a booming business all over the United States, and especially in states that have mild winters. Shechter is also targeting regions within a one-hour plane trip from the United States.
Just after the Macrobrachium rosenbergii get past their larval stage, when they about the size of adult Artemia, Enzootic specialists inject the prawns with an RNA-based material that allows them to “choose” the sex of future progeny.
This is the first non-hormone treatment of its kind for freshwater prawns, and it may prove to be the safest for human consumption and to alleviate any fears associated with genetically modified foods. “We use temporary gene silencing to create a generation of mono-sex freshwater prawns using RNAi,” says Shechter.
Enzootic is based in Irvine, California, and in Beersheva, Israel. The company employs six people and was founded in 2012, although it’s based on at least 30 years of research from Sagi’s lab.
The young company is already partnering with others, including an Israeli company called Vecoy that makes viruses commit suicide! Enzootic hopes to be able to create environmentally friendly treatments against aquaculture viruses with this partnership.
Dr. Assaf Shechter, Co-founder and CEO of Enzootic, has a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Ben Gurion University, and he is the former CEO of Amorphical Ltd., a biopharmaceutical venture engaged in the development of drugs for metabolic bone disorders in humans. He is also one of the founders of The BioExecutive Forum, a non-profit organization that promotes networking and knowledge sharing between Israeli biomedical executives.
Professor Amir Sagi, Co-founder and CTO of Enzootic, is a world-renowned crustacean researcher with countless scientific publications, book chapters, patents applications and business ventures. He is one of the founders of Amorphical, Ltd., and the inventor of the gene silencing technology for producing all-male prawns. He holds a Ph.D. in Endocrinology and Physiology from Hebrew University, and he is the current president of the International Society for Invertebrate Reproduction and Development (ISIRD).
Sources: 1. Green Prophet. Enzootic Makes Male Prawn Fish Farming a Greener Business. March 3, 2014. 2. Enzootic’s Webpage. Site Visit on March 4, 2013.
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