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The Shrimp Immune System

January 19th, 2012

The immune system of crustaceans has become and area of increasing interest for the aquaculture community.  It has been long known that crustaceans, and also arthropods in general, may often harbor pathogenic infections without displaying overt signs of disease.  This fact has been partly responsible for the widespread increase in the adoption of advanced pathogen detection in broodstock in addition to the rapid application of SPF (specific pathogen free) stocks where feasible.  These and related technologies have allowed some level of control of disease in shrimp aquaculture and has undoubtedly resulted in a reduction of catastrophic losses and regional pandemics.  However, the fact remains that even these populations of cultured shrimp are still susceptible to disease.  Facilities near wild populations, that have open circulation systems, or are in close geographic proximity to other shrimp farming facilities have increased risk of disease.

Closed, recirculating, or in-land facilities are often considered the next best method to control the introduction of pathogens; however, when/if an outbreak occurs it is often more catestrophic as the experience and technology to deal with the disease and a lack of natural resistance of the shrimp stocks results in a highly susceptible environment.  Here in, enters the current research into the shrimp immune system.  By studying how the immune system functions in arthropods, or shrimp specifically, molecular interventions may be engineered to block or alter the transmission or virulence of viruses and other pathogens.

A central feature of innate immunity in a wide range of animal species is the Toll-receptor family.  These receptors detect conserved structures found in a wide range of viral and bacterial pathogens.  Once the receptors detect a hint of invading pathogens further immune responses follow.  These receptors were long suspected to be present in shrimp as well and a 2007 report confirmed the existence of Toll-receptors in shrimp, ultimately culminating with the cloning of LvToll1 [1].   More recently two additional receptors, LvToll2 and LvToll3, have been discovered as outlined Developmental & Comparative Immunology [2].  In this paper the authors observed the levels of the various Toll receptors responded distinctly different to different pathogenic agents.  This is not entirely unexpected as other organisms show a similar “combinatorial code” in response to pathogens.

A case in point to help demonstrate the utility of this research is how viruses display tissue specific tropism (simply, which tissues viruses preferentially target).  You need look no further than your own experiences with the common cold and flu viruses.  These viruses target various tissues (mucosal membranes, digestive system, etc), while leaving others (skin, muscles, etc) generally untouched.  Viruses often require specific sets of proteins to be present on a cell to allow for successful invasion.  This selection criteria for tropism is partly what allows viruses to adapt increased virulence properties and efficient transmission strategies.

Just as we see tropism with the cold virus in humans, studies of IMNV in L. vannamei have identified a similar phenomenon.  IMNV is found by quantitative measure to be enriched in the muscle and hemolymph, while being reduced in more peripheral tissues [3].  In light of the Toll receptor research it is clear that some components of the shrimp innate immune system display varying levels of expression in different tissues.  Furthermore, it may be possible that the “natural” pattern of toll gene expression or other innate immune system genes is not sufficient to provide an effective defense against the virus.  In a sense IMNV might have found a “hole” and is exploiting it.  Therefore, in the specific case of IMNV, modulating the expression of some of the toll pathway genes in the muscle may confer additional resistance to IMNV.

By understanding how these receptors respond to infections it could be possible to identify these “holes” that pathogens exploit.  Just like a software patch fixes a vulnerability in a computer operating system, it may be possible to “patch” these organisms to help their immune system more completely fend off viruses and bacteria.  One of TransGenada’s main charges is to identify these exploits and upgrade our shrimp for the betterment of the industry.

For those interested in additional information the following link has more details on the basics of the Toll mediated innate immunity [4].

Great Success: TransGenada’s Official Unveiling Event!

November 23rd, 2011

TransGenada would like to thank all of our attendees and stream viewers for making our Official Unveiling Event a great success! With over 40 in attendance at Sky Song and virtually via the event far exceeded our expectations! Getting feedback was particularly helpful and we wanted to thank all everyone that asked questions and shared their wisdom!

For anyone that may have missed the presentation, it will be available here  using the provided access code.

Remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates!

Here are some pictures from the event:

Dr. Jeremy Ellis, Ph.D. Speaking at ASU Skysong

Jeremy Ellis, Ph.D.

TransGenada Unveiling Event Attendees|Full conference room with smiling people

A few of the Unveiling Event Attendees

Andrew Ripley at TransGenada's official Unveiling Event|Mic Check

Sound Check #4, we are live!

Dr. Jeremy Ellis of TransGenada showing a slide of a giant-sized shrimp

Dr. Ellis, talking about what TransGenada won't be doing...

Andrew Ripley of TransGenada showing a slide of TransGenada's inception

Andrew Ripley talking about the origins of TransGenada

James D. Ripley toasting to TransGenada's beginning|Man in yellow shirt with champagne

A toast to TransGenada! All great journeys have a great beginning!

TransGenada Unveiling Event, November 19th at SkySong: ASU

November 10th, 2011

TransGenada would like to formally announce our November 19th, official unveiling event! All the information is below. Please feel free to check this page as we get closer to the event for additional information.


This event is by invitation only. If you are reading this, you have most likely received an email from us asking you to come. If not and you are interested, please contact us. A signed NDA and a ticket number are required to attend or view online. Please contact us if you have not received an email and wish to attend. Spouses and significant others are encouraged but please keep in mind that they will also need to sign our NDA (see below).


TransGenada’s official unveiling event.

Where (2 options):

1. In person at…

Alliance Room #365
Arizona State University SkySong Center
1475 North Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale AZ 85257
480-884-1860 / 480-884-1888

View Larger Map

– or –

2. Virtually at (Videos on demand will be made available afterwards)

(This may be viewed through most browsers and mobile apps are available from Please login a few minutes prior as our channel may automatically play a commercial beforehand. You will be prompted to enter an access code. This will be made available to you once we have received a signed NDA so please make sure to have this faxed (909-912-8286) or emailed ( to us at least 48 hours prior. VOD links will be emailed out after the meeting and DVD copies can be made available by request.)

Online viewers may interact during the Q&A portion by phone, (480) 7190-DNA, or by chat (create a Justin.TV account to IM questions through Chat).

When: Saturday November 19th, 5:00 MST (UTC/GMT -7 hours).

Live attendees please arrive 15 minutes early with completed NDA. Virtual attendees, please send NDAs via  fax (909-912-8286) or via email to at least 48 hours prior.

Non-Discolsure Agreement: A copy of our standard NDA agreement is available online.  It may be downloaded here.  Be advised that all attendees, virtual or live, must have a signed NDA as some of our presentation will include sensitive intellectual property and trade secret information. Please note, for virtual viewers, you will need to make sure anyone watching with you has also signed the NDA.

Why (Abridged): The purpose of this event is to share what TransGenada is about with friends and family.

Why (Unabridged):

The idea behind this event is threefold. First, we want to simply officially unveil and launch TransGenada. Secondly, we want to crowd source our business idea to our closest circle of friends and family, drawing on their collective experience and knowledge to help improve our company vision, anticipate issues, and consider additional view points. Ultimately, we are excited to share what we have been working on. We believe that this company represents an important advance that directly addresses a global issue we are facing today and we hope after our presentation you will think the same.

The presentation will be approximately 45 minutes in length with time for questions and discussion afterwards.

We would love each of you to attend and provide feedback.  We will be unable to accept investments at this time due to tax reasons, State, and Federal Securities and Exchange Commission regulations.

Please make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates!

Using Microbial Warfare for Good

September 30th, 2011

Typically the industrial sector has focused on mechanical, chemical, or engineering methods to solve production problems; however, biology is a potent tool that is often overlooked.  The term “fighting fire with fire” is often relevant in systems that use biological processes, especially those that have industrial importance.  In fact, the antibiotic revolution (widespread medical use of antibiotics to save individuals from life threatening bacterial infections) is ultimately a hijacking of microbial warfare for our own use.  Plants, fungi, and bacteria often produce compounds that inhibit or outright kill competing or pathogenic organisms.  Sir Alexander Flemming discovered the first antibiotic, pennicillin, in 1929 whereby a fungi, Penicillium, inhibited the growth of Staphylococcus, a medically important group of bacteria.  As technology advances and our understanding of biology increases the sophistication and specificity of such biologically informed solutions continues to improve.  Current studies in the complexity of mixed microbial communities have shed much light on the use of species and class specific inhibitory or stimulatory compounds [1].

Of particular interest is the targeted use of viruses in biotechnology.  Phages, viruses that specifically infect bacteria, have been long studied and have previously been considered as potential therapeutic agents against bacterial infection.  The use of viruses to treat bacterial infections is called Phage Therapy [2].  These concepts are now starting to yield testable and promising agents.  A UK based company is now applying Phage Therapy that targets MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) that has become an increasing concern in human medicine [3].  Even now the FDA is reviewing a bacteriophage for use in soft cheeses that targets the dangerous Listeria bacteria [4].  Lastly, a poxvirus may even hold a breakthrough in the treatment of cancer [5]!

So, how does the “fighting fire with fire” concept apply to Aquaculture?  In the future, concepts such as this will likely assist in the control of many diseases that plague the industry.  Of note is the recent study that demonstrates when several Bacillus species isolated from the guts of healthy L. vannamei are added to the water individually or in combination with other Bacillus species can actually provide a protective effect against several Vibrio species (a significant problem faced by shrimp farmers) [6].  So much so, that the “probiotic” effect appears to be superior to some commercial shrimp probiotics and the use of an antibiotic that is commonly used in aquaculture!  The mechanism of the observed protective effect is not known, although it is not hard to imagine that the Bacillus could be indirectly competing for physical space with the Vibrio or that Bacillus produces a compound that represses or inhibits the pathogenicity or growth of Vibrio species.

The future and efficiency of the aquaculture industry depends on the successful implmenetation of this and related biological principles.  Can you think of other ways to pit microbes against one another to our benefit?

Investments in Biotech vs. Information Technology?

September 21st, 2011

The information technology sector and the rapidly developing biotechnology and life sciences industries are generally heralded as the top two technology sectors ripe for investment. The information and computing technology sector is lead by a few stand-out companies: Google, FaceBook, TwitterSkypeGrouponPandoraLinkedIn, Yelp, and Zynga. These companies have enjoyed incredible successes, but it is important to note that the vast majority of similar social media and web 2.0 start-ups failed.

Biotechnology and life sciences paint a very different investment outlook. While both industries are high risk and high return ventures, biotechnology is actually the safer of the two. In the 2000s fewer than 25% of information technology investments resulted in a gain. Whereas 42% of biotechnology companies produced positive profits for their financial backers. But this is just looking at the number or quantity of successful companies, we have not discussed the success of the respective ventures.

Bar Graph showing percent return on investment of different industrial sectors from october 2007 to December 2010|Biotech performs very well

During the same time period more than 8% of life science / biotechnology investments returned over five times the amount invested, while only 4% of technology investments have achieved this level. Given this, it could be seen that biotech investment not only has a more probable return, but also has better odds of a higher return on investment. To be fair, these statistics don’t paint the full picture. There are outlier IT companies such as Google that have garnered massive returns for their investors, with over 100 times the return on investment. Life sciences and biotech generally max out in the 20x return range. According to the trends observed over the last decade the gains associated with information and computing technology companies were larger than those of the life sciences industry. Overall, however, the former represents a larger risk on the part of the investor with lower odds of making your money back, let alone turning a profit. In a simplistic analogy, investment in life sciences and biotechnology could be equated to a game of blackjack, while IT investment could be compared to winning the lottery.

It is important to note that the world is in a different position in 2011 than it was in the 1990s. During that period larger portions of biotechnology (12%) and information technologies (18%) companies experienced ROIs of greater than 5x or more (data compiled from Salehizadeh 2011). In summary, during the current era of fiscal responsibility investment in any high technology sector is fraught with risks that is not for the faint of heart, but for those that recognize increased probability of potential returns.

Does this apply to TransGenada? Quite simply, yes. As with any early phase company here is risk associated with investment in TransGenada; however, our success will rely on the expertise of our associates, the needs of the market, and the abilities of it’s managers to administer the company successfully. According to our preliminary market research we think that TransGenada has a high potential ROI due to the broad international appeal and market driven adoption, while essentially revolutionizing the industry.

Learn more about our Investment and Collaboration opportunities.