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September 21, 2023

Puritan Medical Products, GenoTyping Center partner on innovation for life sciences lab work

person wearing blue gloves with machinery Courtesy / GenoTyping Center of America A GenoTyping Center of America employee works on a new noninvasive tissue sampling service developed in collaboration with swab-maker Puritan Medical Products.

For a lab mouse, the extraction of tissue in order to identify its DNA is all in a day’s work.

The process is called genotyping and it’s a constant necessity in biological research.

Typically, the process requires using a surgical procedure to take a tissue sample from the animal, which requires a pain-killing analgesia and sometimes anesthesia. The process can be stressful for both the animal and animal care staff. 

Now two biotech firms have developed an alternative option to collect DNA from without the need to harvest a fresh tissue sample from every rodent.

GenoTyping Center of America, a genetic testing company based in Waterville, developed a noninvasive buccal, or cheek, swab service and collaborated with Guilford-based Puritan Medical Products, which will produce specialty swabs for the effort.

“GTCA helps researchers by providing genetic identification of their research animals, but we also strive to enhance the well-being of those animals and reduce stress on research staff tasked with acquiring tissue samples for testing,” said CEO Michael Greene. “This new service, supported by Puritan swabs, enables us to achieve all these goals.”

Using Puritan swabs, the GenoTyping Center developed a DNA collection method that produces sufficient DNA from mouse cheek swabs to enable non-invasive genotyping. 

Goals include improving animal welfare, making sampling less stressful for research staff and delivering reliable genotyping results in two to three days.  

Puritan Medical Products
Robert L. Shultz, president and CFO of Puritan Medical Products

“Using our swabs, GTCA’s experts have found a way to collect DNA from mice and enable non-invasive genotyping, without jeopardizing animal welfare,” said Bob Shultz, Puritan’s president and CFO.

GenoTyping Center of America's production activities have been on the upswing, with a recent expansion of space and the addition of more equipment and employees at its Waterville headquarters and an expected increase in volume of genetic testing output for U.S.-based research institutions and biomedical operations — driven in part by the launch of the non-invasive buccal swab technique.

Puritan took on a global profile in 2020 when the federal government picked it to produce millions of swabs to be used in COVID tests. But waning sales of COVID tests resulted in the elimination of 272 jobs earlier this year.

For both companies, the new noninvasive genotyping service illustrates the growth of Maine’s life sciences industry, said Heather Johnson, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. 

“We are glad that Puritan is working to develop new and alternative uses for their specialty swabs in partnership with other Maine businesses,” Johnson added.

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