Exemplar Genetics of Sioux Center has genetically engineered miniature pigs for use in research about heart disease. Company president and CEO John Swart says this kind of research has depended on using mice and rats to test drugs for possible human use.
“We founded the company eight years ago to develop a better model, that hopefully would be more reliable, give you better information as you are testing new drugs, rare diseases (like) cancer and, in this case, heart disease,” he says.
Swart’s company has just gotten federal approval to sell their miniature pigs to other companies that are conducting tests on new drugs for humans.
“We can sell that to large therapeutics companies developing new treatments for heart disease and then they can use that in their drug development program to test those new drugs to make sure that they work and that they’re safe,” Swart says.
Swart hopes to breed other lines of mini-pigs which could help find cures for other diseases like cancer and cystic fibrosis.
“We’ve got a dozen additional models that we’ve already developed, so we think we’ll receive the same kind of authorization,” Swart says.
Swart says compared to mice, miniature pigs are much closer to humans anatomically, physically and genetically.
(Reporting by Doug Broek, KSOU, Sioux Center)