If you have seasonal allergies, you may be used to taking medication for months each year to prevent sniffles and sneezes. But when your four-legged friend has allergies, sometimes the paw licking, scratching and around-the-clock tag-wiping can go on year-round, with few options for relief.
Now, two University of Wisconsin-Madison grads are selling a new answer, and it comes from a surprising place: pig guts.
Happy Scratch, a nutritional supplement for cats and dogs with seasonal or food allergies, originated in the laboratory of the late UW-Madison animal science professor Mark Cook, who nearly 10 years ago teamed up with molecular toxicologist Jordan Sand to fight allergies. Technology was discovered. The two patented their discovery in collaboration with the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
Now, Sand has teamed up with veterinarian Maria Deshek, whom he met while they were both working in Cook’s lab, to commercialize the discovery and build a facility in Middleton. A manufacturing facility can be opened. First orders of Happy Scratching Their medicine-based startup Coldwater Technologies will be available early next year.
Trust your gut.
Cook and Reit stumbled upon the allergy-fighting potential of pig guts in 2012 when he and his lab team were trying to raise money for a new meat science building on campus.
“We were looking for ways to take low-value products from the meat industry and turn them into high-value products,” Sand said.
About 70 percent of an animal’s body is meat, Reet said. The other 30% is “what keeps him alive,” including the brain, intestines, spleen, and bladder. Those parts are “highly bioactive,” but Americans rarely eat them.
“This is where we wanted to get new products for animal health,” Sand said. They began experimenting with the lining, or mucosa, of pig intestines. “We knew it was really immunologically active. So we fed it to literally millions of chickens. We fed it to cattle, pigs and horses and chickens,” said Reit.
When they fed it to a group of lab rats with food-induced dermatitis, it cut their scratching by more than half. Their itchy, red spots disappeared. His hair grew back.
“We actually fixed them,” Sand said. “It was a bit of a surprise to us.”
Turning to the scientific literature, they learned that many people and animals with chronic skin problems do not have enough of an anti-inflammatory antibody called immunoglobulin A. Without it, patients’ immune systems can attack their own bodies, which can trigger asthma, allergies and other immune problems.
Pig mucosa is rich in immunoglobulin A. “What was not known was that we could extract it from another animal and it would perform the same way with another animal,” Sand said. “We’re solving the immune problem. They just don’t have a part of the immune system, and we’re giving it back.
Dog owners notice the difference.
In a clinical trial by UW-Madison’s veterinary service, the supplement was administered to 15 dogs that had not responded to other treatments. Owners sprinkled the supplement on their dogs’ food, and on average, it cut their scratching by about half.
“These are very difficult cases and the fact that we’ve seen so much improvement is very encouraging for us,” Sand said.
When Dashick gave it to her dog, she knew she wanted to help Sand commercialize the product. Kiba, a long-haired Chihuahua mix, had allergies so bad that when she adopted him, his back was bare and his white hair was stained red from saliva. Since then, she was paying $50 to $75 a month for a daily pill Kiba didn’t like taking.
“When we were talking about starting the company, I tried it on my dog and felt really strongly about it,” Dashek said. “Instead of needing to give him (a pill) every day 365 days a year, I only need to give him a few weeks a year when the air pollution is at its worst.”
Dog owners can also opt for monthly injections given at the vet’s office. “You have to rearrange your life every month to give your dog a shot, or you have to try to give them a shot every day,” Sand recalls. That we have a powder and it’s really delicious.” Samples were given to
“Some dog owners had to close the drawer in it, and one cat owner reported seeing the cat tearing through four plastic bags.”
For cats with allergies, there are currently no prescription treatments available.
As a pork byproduct sold as a pet treat or “nutraceutical,” Happy Scratch meets Association of American Feed Control Officials standards for ingredients. “Generally recognized as safe.so it does not need to undergo additional testing.
That means Coldwater Technologies can sell Happy Scratch over the counter for about $30 a month, Deshek said, making it “cheaper and easier to access than pharmaceutical drugs on the market.”
Pride of Wisconsin
This isn’t Sand’s first start. In 2015, he and Cook teamed up with entrepreneur Chris Salem to found Ab E Discovery to commercialize another discovery from the Cook lab: a protein found in eggs that, if sprinkled on livestock feed so, May replace antibiotics By improving the gut health of animals and making them less susceptible to disease. Rhett worked on the project for seven years before leaving to found Happy Scratch.
Coldwater Technologies is backed by Veno Fund, a venture capital firm that invests in startups in Wisconsin, though the founders declined to say how much funding it has received. After more than a year of trying, the company finally secured a pig mucosa supplier. Now, the company is building out its new production facility in Middleton and taking pre-orders. It plans to ship its first orders early next year.
While running the startup Sand Medicine full-time, Dashick lives in Missouri, where she teaches chicken care to doctoral students as an assistant clinical professor at the University of Missouri’s veterinary school.
Still, the company keeps its Wisconsin ties strong, and both hope Coldwater Technologies will eventually offer additional products. “We are very proud to be based in Wisconsin,” Dashek said. “We’re also proud to be science-backed and a product of the University of Wisconsin.”
What are the most important values that drive your work?
Dashack: For me it is honesty, integrity and backed by science.
How are you creating the kind of community you want to live in?
Dashack: My dogs are a big part of my life. They are my fur babies. That’s why we’re making the community a more pet-friendly place to live and giving pet owners other options to keep their pets healthy, and as comfortable as possible. . Many pet owners feel their pets are living a better life than they are, and I hope Happy Scratch can contribute to that.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Sand: Commitment is key. Sticking is important. But you also have to recognize if you’re doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. It took us over a year to source the raw material, so you have to stick with that stuff. Nothing comes easy. And then you have to be smart about who you hire, how you raise your money, things like that.
Are you recruiting?
Sand: We will be, very soon. Once (our goods) are in, we’ll probably try to hire some people to help on the manufacturing end.