Our state-of-the-art laboratory conducts close to 5 million lab tests each year. Many of them in the routine lab of course, but we also have an R&D laboratory. Here, innovation and research are key. Harold van der Heijden, head of the R&D lab, is pleased to explain the extra possibilities offered by this unique lab.
GD is home to veterinarians, specialists, scientists and lab techs all working together in advice and laboratory testing. This combination of diagnostics and animal health expertise is unique. GD receives an amazing number of test requests, many of which can be conducted by the routine lab. Occasionally however, clients need GD to go the extra mile, for example in specialist laboratory work for a new vaccine. Harold and his team then spring into action. “We simply take over from where the routine lab stops.”
This team is part of the Research & Development department (R&D) which includes researchers in the various laboratory disciplines (bacteriology, virology, parasitology, immunology, molecular biology, biomechanics and toxicology), the Epidemiology department and the R&D laboratory. This lab is further divided into: the Service & Virology team, Immunology, Microbiology, Biomarkers and Molecular Biology.
“The R&D lab focuses on developing tests (innovation) and on those projects which would otherwise disrupt the routines of the everyday lab, such as specialities: “client questions,” explains Harold. And so they go one step beyond the standard techniques applied in the routine lab. From developing new methods based on PCR, ELISA, biochemistry, a test that needs to be conducted once and bacteriology, to monitoring the latest developments such as Whole Genome Sequencing and nanopore sequencing. “And we go further than PCR alone,” Harold proudly explains. “We compare pathogens from farms, allowing us to determine whether outbreaks are related. Is it exactly the same bacterium? It’s like a fingerprint using molecular technology as it were, while studying genetic material. Absolutely fascinating! There’s a great deal to be gained from molecular epidemiology, and we are pioneers in its use for veterinary diagnostics.”
So there is plenty of room for innovation. The R&D lab has improved the Malditof method for example, which actually comes from human diagnostics, but has been converted into a method for identification of veterinary bacteria, at GD. “We have also made great progress in terms of virology PCRs and we can implement a number of variants. These PCRs were also developed in-house.”
The unique feature of the laboratory is that we have virtually all lab disciplines for veterinary diagnostics under one roof, thanks to the combination of the routine lab and R&D lab. Harold: “Looking for bacteriology, virology and PCR? We offer it all in one lab.”
Reacting to clients’ needs
“The specialised researchers and analysts in the R&D lab are accustomed to stepping away from standard protocols and conducting specialised work. And so we can always respond to clients’ needs.” A big pro for such clients is that the GD laboratory is not only ISO 17025 but also GLP-accredited, with most of the GLP laboratory work taking place at the R&D lab. “That accreditation is essential, as it enables us to assist clients who are looking to sell their projects globally.”
The service team goes above and beyond for those client requests. Via the helpdesk for example, which is permanently available during working hours. “It is manned by specialists who can quickly and simply assess the simpler tasks: Can we do it, how long will it take and what will it cost the client?” Harold
continues. More complex issues are handled by the team leader of the service team. “Those questions reach the helpdesk via the Contract Research department. They have extensive contact with the client.”
The never-ending puzzle
Although many systems are already in place, Harold never stops dreaming and developing. “The standard approach is to discover which bacteria or viruses make animals sick, but other parameters can also be used for diagnosis. We want to step up the game and see whether we can forecast health issues in animals by means of biomarkers. This will enable us to provide farmers with practical advice and to focus on preventative measures. It’s a fascinating puzzle and it takes people from various disciplines to solve it.”
Precisely that puzzle keeps the work so interesting for Harold and his team. “I have the most amazing job and I work with the best people who are all committed to GD and to animal health. And that is reflected in our projects.''