30 August 1996

New BSEtest work has MAFFbacking

A SURREY-based company, which claims to have an exclusive deal with MAFF to develop a new diagnostic test for BSE, is expected to deliver a report to ministry officials within the next few weeks.

The company, Electrophoretics International, whose chairman is the Tory MP Sir Michael Grylls, announced in December last year that it had entered into "an exclusive collaborative and licensing agreement" with the Central Veterinary Laboratory, a MAFF executive agency.

"Under this agreement EI and CVL will undertake research to identify protein markers which can be used for the diagnosis of BSE," a statement said.

Although MAFF officials have denied that the ministry entered into any exclusive deal with the company, a CVL source confirmed an agreement exists.

"We have a collaborative agreement within which CVL has supplied them with some samples of cerebro-spinal fluid from animals clinically affected by BSE," he said. "They (EI) have completed the first set of experiments and MAFF is waiting for a report on this," he added.

The companys chief executive, Christopher Pearce, refused to comment on progress claiming he was not at liberty to do so ahead of a formal announcement. But an interim statement would be released within the next few weeks, he said.

Although Mr Pearce also declined to comment on the details of the agreement with MAFF, it is understood that the agreement allows MAFF to buy any test, if one is developed, at a discount price.

The first development could be a new diagnostic test for BSE in slaughtered cattle.

EI chairman Sir Michael Grylls, who confirmed that he had made a substantial investment in the company, amounting to several hundreds of thousands of pounds, said he was satisfied that good progress was being made in the companys work.