IdentiGEN Wins Trinity College Dublin Innovation Award 2008

Posted on: 21 January 2009

The Trinity College Dublin Innovation Award for 2008  has been won by the founders of IdentiGEN, Professor Patrick Cunningham, Dr Ronan Loftus  and  Ciaran Meghen.

IdentiGEN was founded as a result of  a spin-off company from world class research  led by Professor Cunningham’s research group in Trinity College’s Institute of Genetics where its genetic identification methodology was developed.   It emerged as a result of research undertaken by Ciaran Meghen as part of his doctoral studies where the emergence of BSE (mad cow disease) in the UK focused attention on opportunities to employ genetic technologies to assure consumers of the safety and integrity of meat products.

“IdentiGEN is a great example of a company which has grown out of a research intensive group within the third level sector. Complementing the desire to excel at research was a commercial opportunity that provided the ideal focus for the company,” stated Associate Director of Trinity Research and Innovation, Dr James Callaghan. 

The company acquired enabling technology from Trinity College Dublin and pursued the technology further into proof-of-concept testing and commercial deployment.   It pioneered the commercial-scale integration of sophisticated genetic technologies with industrial-scale meat processing and retailing and became the first company to deliver and implement an operational and scaleable DNA traceability solution for 100% of the fresh beef distributed by a national food retailer and the first anywhere to leverage this technology into consumer markets.

Food safety is currently being highlighted as a global problem and the discovery of dioxins in pork products in Ireland before Christmas reinforced that dilemma.  In the context of recent food safety crises, being able to offer reassurance to customers can build trust with retail customers and consumers. 

Speaking at the award ceremony, IdentiGEN cofounder and managing director, Ciaran Meghen said: “This award is very much appreciated by all who work in IdentiGEN. Our central technology, DNA Traceability, is a world first, developed here in Trinity College. It is the gold standard in ensuring food security, and IdentiGEN has made it available and affordable in a highly competitive industry. This award will further strengthen IdentiGEN’s position as the world leader in this field.”

Prof patrick cunningham with provost dr john hegarty

Prof Patrick Cunningham with Provost Dr John Hegarty at the Innovation Award ceremony

Notes to the Editor:

About IdentiGEN

IdentiGEN is a leading provider of innovative DNA-based solutions to the agri-food industry with major operations in Ireland and the US.  They apply their core expertise in genetic identification to develop and market a range of products designed to improve the safety, quality and integrity of the food supply.  DNA Traceback® is IdentiGEN’s principal product and is a tool that enables beef and pork producers to better manage the genetic make-up of their herds. 

The company began operations in early 1997.  They originally received Department of Agriculture funding to test the idea.   In 2002 they developed new markets in the Middle East and Japan.   IdentiGEN’s system is already in widespread use by two major grocery store chains in Ireland, Tesco and Superquinn, as well as by several European grocers.   IdentiGEN is also a major provider of BSE (“mad cow disease”) and GMO (genetically-modified organism) testing technology in Ireland, the UK and Continental Europe.  The discovery of BSE in Canada & US in 2003 and the collapse of export markets led to expansion in the North American market and the setting up of a facility in Kansas and the recruitment of a local management team. 

Identigen achieved a major milestone towards its US market acceptance in October 2007 when its DNA TraceBack system achieved stringent quality by the United States Department of Agriculture to gain designation as one of only 36 USDA Process Verified Programs.   The designation provides valuable third-party verification of the reliability and consistence of IdentiGEN’s DNA TraceBack system.