Convergent Animal Health Strategic Research Partner TTUHSC Receives $250K Funding to Expand Proprietary Next Generation mi-RNA Biomarker Test for Chronic Wasting Disease

June 5, 2024, Lubbock, TXConvergent Animal Health (Convergent A-H) announced today that strategic partner Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) has received a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to validate its miRNA test to address concerns about the increasing frequency of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer.  Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a prion disease that attacks a deer’s brain function much like the prion disease bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) — also known as Mad Cow disease — attacks a cow’s brain, slowly destroying the brain and spinal cord.  The USDA grant includes funding to refine and scale up the test to aid deer breeders with surveillance testing for CWD prion exposure.  CWD has been detected in cervids in 34 states including Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.


Convergent A-H’s CWD exposure test is a revolutionary patent–pending micro-RNA (miRNA) blood test that allows breeders to test their deer for exposure to CWD prions even if the deer shows no CWD symptoms.  The test’s minimally invasive protocol will allow herd managers to send blood samples to a lab for routine, rapid testing to confirm whether a deer can be safely placed with other animals.  Convergent A-H and TTUHSC are also working together on a related test for deer harvested by hunters to determine whether the deer has been exposed to CWD prions.  As per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are no reported cases of CWD infection in humans; however animal studies suggest CWD poses a risk to certain primates that consume meat from or come in contact with CWD-infected animals.  Since 1997, the World Health Organization has maintained the importance of keeping all known prion diseases from entering the human food chain. Americans consume on average 315 million pounds of venison annually.


“When CWD data showed that both pen-raised and wild deer are increasingly infected with this fatal disease, we began to develop these next-generation tests to allow hunters, deer breeders, and regulatory agencies to determine whether their deer was exposed to CWD prions even in the absence of overt CWD symptoms,” said Dr. Rick Vierling, co-founder of Convergent Animal Health.


“Our partnership with Convergent Animal Health on this expanded research initiative will not only establish the utility of exciting new miRNA technology for detecting exposure to CWD, but will also help us adapt it to the high throughput capability that is critically needed in the fight against CWD,” said Dr. Daniel Hardy, the TTUHSC principal investigator of the USDA-funded research.


About Convergent Animal Health

Headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri and founded in 2021 by a team of geneticists and data scientists, Convergent Animal Health’s mission is to fundamentally change animal testing and surveillance of viruses and pathogens that infect mammals and avian species, by leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) algorithms, to gain predictive insight and quantitative mitigation strategies based on rapid miRNA diagnostics. Convergent A-H believes that the ultimate pandemic risk mitigation rests in AI analysis of rapid, pre-symptomatic animal and wildlife data, coupled with human surveillance data using their proprietary platform. Convergent A-H’s patent-pending next-generation micro-RNA (miRNA) biomarker test for the presence of prions in white tailed deer, mule deer and other wild and pen-raised cervids 6 months of age and older is also applicable to other prion diseases such as BSE and scrapie, as well as viral, bacterial, and fungal pathogens. Convergent A-H, in collaboration with Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, is working to further develop this next generation miRNA platform to test for a range of pathogens in other mammalian and avian species.


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