Bovine Biotech delivers $22 million payout

In Vitro Brasil

In the world of innovative startup companies, there’s no greater proof of business maturity than a successful trade sale to international investors – a multi-million dollar feat achieved so far by just a tiny handful of Brazil’s scientist-entrepreneurs.

Notable among these is In Vitro Brasil, a high-tech bovine embryo business servicing the livestock industry that has gone on to supply half the world’s requirement for the in-vitro fertilised (IVF) embryos used to impregnate cattle herds in high-tech agribusiness. IVB today has 170 employees, and is planning expansion into India and China.

The 2016 sale to ABS Global of In Vitro Brasil (IVB), a company founded in 2002 but which now has 33 laboratories in 14 countries, is also a validation for the “virtuous circle” concept of recycling public funds from taxpayers through innovative startups, with the aim of creating new generations of mature and profitable businesses – whose taxes will in turn fund over-the horizon startups.

Funding a national champion for meat   exports come at a price - as teh government discovered with JBS  has

Upgrading the genetic quality of Brazilian beef and dairy herds has been boosted by IVF technology. Photo Wikimedia

IVB was established in 2002 by José Henrique F. Pontes (who after the deal continues as CEO of ABS Global’s IVB division) to meet the need for bovine IVF technology from commercial dairy producers in Brazil. Today, IVB is the primary commercial provider of bovine IVF embryos with a leading presence in Brazil, the globe’s largest bovine IVF market, and a growing presence in other Latin American countries and the United States.

Before it was able to attract any private investment capital however, Mogi Mirim- based In Vitro Brasil (IVB) depended on three rounds of soft funding from the PIPE programme from 2007 – 2014 to get itself going.

IVB received three consecutive grants of R$ 100,000 (US$32,000) plus US$ 4,745; then R$ 137,000 (US$43,750), and finally R$ 229,000,00 (US$73,000).

Since then, however, IVB has benefitted from the huge expansion in beef and dairy farming across Brazil, and the greater focus on genetic improvement of herds shown by modern farmers. For example,  in 2016 sales rose  to R$ 28 million — that’s  100  times  the level  back in 2007. And by 2013, when global production of bovine embryos for IVF had risen to 546,628 —  IVB produced 266,000 or almost half. the world  total. By 2016 IVB’s labs around the world had topped that figure, producing almost 450,000 fertilised embryos – 55% of the world market.

According to Andrea Basso, IVB’s head of research and PI for one of the PIPE grants (Development of genomic tools for selection of breed cows presenting high fertility). “We had a number of projects funded through FAPESP. All this helped improve the company tremendously,” she told an interviewer. “In those early days the fertile embryos we produced had to be inserted immediately into the mother cow, with a chance of no more than 35% of producing a healthy calf. Today we can produce fertile embryos with defined breeding characteristics, which can be frozen, stored, even exported. Our production methods improved tremendously because of those PIPE programmes.” PIPE also helped to define its methods for embryo genotyping.

In April 2017 the Madison, Wisconsin-based bovine genetics company ABS which is world in supplying genetically-elected bull semen, acquired100% of IVB. ABS already controlled 51% of Brazil’s leading biotechnology company focused on the production of bovine embryos through in-vitro fertilization (IVF), but then chose to anticipate the planned acquisition of all shares (which was to have taken place in 2020). In 2015 ABS was reported to have paid R$25 million for the 51%stake, and in 2017 a further R$45 million for outright ownership – making IVB worth a reported US$22 million.

IVB will be well-positioned to meet the growing demand for IVF in the dairy and beef industries—enabling farmers to accelerate genetic improvement in their herds. You can read a detailed magazine article about In Vitro Brasil and its innovations by Brazilian journalist by clicking here.

Researching in Brazil

Brazil’s best-known scientist, the veteran nuclear physicist  José Goldemberg,  in September 2015 took office as the president of  the São…

Read more