Inside Columbia Magazine CEO Spring 2010 : Page 58

IF Tariq Shah ever forgets how far he and his company have journeyed in the past few months, he has a reminder close at hand. A set of unusual cuff links adorns his sleeves, a Christmas gift from his wife, Audrey. Each cuff link depicts a map — one of Boone County with Columbia prominently marked and the other of Cheshire, Shah’s home county in England. “The cuffl inks serve as a reminder of where I have come from and where my roots are,” Shah says, “and where I am now laying down new roots, for myself of course, but also for Audrey and our daughter Isabella.” The 39-year-old’s international fashion statement is more than a style choice or a treasured memento — the chic accessories symbolize the itinerary of Columbia’s extensive reach into the life sciences industry, a bold stretch that has grabbed a laboratory in Nottingham, England, and plunked it down in the middle of the American Heartland. Shah is the commercial director — and fi rst Columbia employee — of PetScreen Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of British veterinary diagnostics company PetScreen Ltd. Since his mid-December arrival in Columbia, Shah has worked at a whirlwind pace setting up PetScreen’s U.S. headquarters in the University of Missouri Life Science Business Incubator. “The quietest day is the fi rst day on the job,” Shah says. “Since then, we’ve been running — there’s no walking — to set up this company here.” PetScreen offers disease-detection and treatment tools for veterinarians to combat illnesses in cats and dogs. The 58 I InsIde ColumbIa’s CEO I sprIng 2010 company currently markets a cancer- screening product for lymphoma, the most common malignancy that affects dogs — and one of the more treatable, if caught early. PetScreen’s blood test utilizes proteomics technology to detect biomarkers that indicate a high likelihood of the disease. The test can be used to diagnose lymphoma or as a routine screen in high-risk breeds such as golden retrievers, boxers, German shepherds and terriers. The company claims its canine lymphoma blood test may also lead to better treatment success rates by providing an assessment of remission in dogs undergoing cancer treatment, as well as an early indication of relapse that could lead to timelier retreatment efforts. Available only through a veterinarian, the blood test requires just 1 milliliter (about a fi fth of a teaspoon) of patient blood, and is a minimally invasive alternative to fi ne-needle tumor aspiration. Results are available in two to four days. “The beauty of this test,” Shah begins, and then quickly adds, “Well, no test is perfect. But if the vet suspects a dog has lymphoma, even though there are no discernable lumps yet, a simple blood test is the easiest diagnostic tool. It’s common sense and it saves time for treatment.” PetScreen also provides a directed chemotherapy assay for dogs and cats diagnosed with any type of cancer. The assay highlights drug sensitivity or resistance of individual tumors and identifi es the most likely effective treatments. The service, which requires a tumor biopsy, uses cell culture techniques to measure the relative effi cacy of different chemotherapy agents. Results are available in about a week. Cancer kills one in four dogs, Shah notes. PetScreen is working on development of several other diagnostic tests to use in the battle to keep pets healthy. “We’re already developing a feline lymphoma test,” he says, “and several others will hopefully follow.” Those others that the company aims to develop include biomarker tests for canine osteosarcoma, canine mast cell tumors (skin cancer), canine renal disease, and a heartworm test for dogs and cats that can detect the parasite at a younger stage, allowing diagnosis and treatment up to six months earlier. The tests will be developed and performed in PetScreen’s Columbia lab, in keeping with the company’s plans to move its research and development headquarters here. As the lab is outfi tted, and technicians and researchers join Shah, he expects 10 people to be working in the incubator soon. PetScreen is negotiating with a large U.S. diagnostic company he couldn’t name yet for marketing the tests and processing some of the lab work, an arrangement that would free up space and time to concentrate on R&D developments. The company also expects to collaborate with the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine and the Life Sciences Center, as well as other animal health companies located in the so-called animal health corridor that runs from Manhattan, Kan., through Kansas City and east to Columbia. PetScreen’s journey across the Atlantic began with an American veterinarian’s stroll through a British science expo and a blunt demand. Helped along by Summerfest serendipity and even

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