AquaBounty posts $4.7m loss, but has funds to take its GE salmon to market if approval is granted

By Elaine WATSON

- Last updated on GMT

AquaBounty :  "Working on the assumption that FDA approval will be forthcoming in 2014"
AquaBounty : "Working on the assumption that FDA approval will be forthcoming in 2014"

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AquaBounty Technologies - which is hoping to become the first company to introduce a genetically engineered (GE) animal to the human food supply - posted net losses of $4.7m in 2013, up from $4.4m in 2012.

However, the firm - which has been stuck in regulatory limbo for years as the FDA mulls over its technology - says it has enough cash to keep funding its operations after majority shareholder Intrexon Corporation agreed to undertake a subscription for new common shares of $10m in January.

AIM-listed AquaBounty, which is also preparing to seek a listing on NASDAQ, says it expects its AquAdvantage genetically engineered salmon (AAS) to gain regulatory approval this year.

The salmon contains a growth hormone gene from the faster-growing Chinook salmon that is effectively ‘turned on’ all year round instead of only during the warmer months, halving the time it takes to reach maturity.     

CEO Dr Ron Stotish said: "While we cannot be certain about the timing, the Board is working on the assumption that approval will be forthcoming in 2014.

"The strong support provided by Intrexon provides the Company with sufficient financial resources to fund our operations through mid-2015 and carry out appropriate preparations for commercial development once AAS receives approval."

Regulatory limbo

Last November, Environment Canada concluded the AquAdvantage salmon are not harmful to the environment or human health when produced in contained facilities, following a risk assessment by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

However, for the eggs and fish to be approved for sale in the US and Canada, AquaBounty still needs final regulatory approvals from the FDA and Health Canada.

Trader Joe's
Trader Joe's is one of several food retailers to say it will not sell GE seafood, even if the FDA gives it the seal of approval

So far, the only approved growing facility for the fish is operated by AquaBounty in Panama. However, if the FDA gives the technology the green light, several partners are poised to set up facilities in other locations in which to grow the fish, each of which would require FDA approval on a case-by-case basis.

In the meantime, the list of retailers that have pledged not to stock the salmon should it get the regulatory green light is rising, and now includes Kroger, Safeway, Target, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.  

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