Better prevention, healthier animals and people

(30-11-2021) Ghent University spin-off Biocheck.UGent protects the health of animals and people by focusing on better prevention

Biosecurity has been high on the agenda in recent years, among livestock farmers, veterinarians and policymakers. Ghent University professor Jeroen Dewulf has been working on the theme for 15 years. Due to the high demand, he and a number of colleagues are now setting up a spin-off based on his research to help veterinarians and livestock farmers make better efforts to prevent animal disease.

Better health for animals and humans

“Biosecurity is essentially about infection prevention. How can we prevent certain diseases or at least reduce the risk of infection? With Biocheck.UGent we want to help livestock farmers and veterinarians with this: give them insight into the current biosecurity of their company so that they can take the right measures to optimize prevention tailored to their company,' says professor Jeroen Dewulf, co-founder and delegate director of Biocheck.UGent.

‘We developed a risk-based measurement system to map the biosecurity in pig, poultry and cattle farms. On the basis of questionnaires and an associated scoring system, a farmer or advisor can identify the strengths and weaknesses of his business and which additional measures are needed to minimize the spread of germs on the farm,' explains Jeroen Dewulf.

“With this start-up we want to help build sustainable and healthy livestock farming,” Jeroen Dewulf continues passionately. "Because focusing on prevention does not only lead to healthier animals. It also improves their well-being as their immune system is less taxed. Research also showed that an improvement in biosecurity leads to better production and therefore a higher profitability of the company. Animals have to take fewer antibiotics, which reduces the selection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This ultimately benefits us all." In short, optimizing biosecurity not only improves animal welfare, but also animal and human health.

"Our trajectory is really one of cross-pollination between academia and industry." Jeroen Dewulf, Ghent University professor and co-founder of Biocheck.UGent

From academic tool to spin-off

© Shutterstock - Vladimir Mulder

As professor of Veterinary Epidemiology, he has been researching animal biosecurity for 15 years. "Initially, we developed the measurement system that forms the basis of Biocheck.UGent to support and expand our own research. At that time, there was simply no system for analyzing risks or assigning scores to the quality of biosecurity. We have gradually automated and perfected this system. At the same time, we noticed that the demand from veterinarians and livestock farmers itself was growing. Veterinarians and other animal health consultants, of course, ran into the same boundaries as we do. Although they understood the importance of biosecurity more and more, there were no tools to help them map or improve the situation in companies.”

"With the help of Ghent University business developer Sven Arnouts, we finally started a process two years ago to make this academic tool more accessible to companies. We have developed additional functionalities and training, so that companies can easily interpret the results themselves. We received support for this from the Industrial Research Fund, funding from the Flemish government specifically for applied research. Because companies have been able to use the system for some time - it is now used in more than 30,000 companies in more than 70 countries - we not only receive a lot of data, but also a lot of input from companies. That data, in turn, offers us as researchers a lot of possibilities and insights. So our trajectory is really one of cross-pollination between academia and industry."

At the same time, Jeroen Dewulf and his team were preparing the establishment of their spin-off. Prevention is becoming increasingly important for livestock farmers and governments for various reasons. First, we notice that epidemic diseases are coming back more and more often. Just think of the bird flu, which has cropped up again and again during the winter for several years now. But diseases for which there are currently no vaccines or medication, such as African swine fever, are also spreading to our regions. In addition, social pressure to use fewer antibiotics is also increasing. Livestock farmers must therefore focus more and more on the prevention of infectious diseases. And governments today also recognize the importance of disease prevention in animals. Just think of the Animal Health Law, which the European Commission approved. This encourages national governments to map out and improve biosecurity in their own country.”

Four spin-offs in six years

With Biocheck.UGent (, the Ghent Faculty of Veterinary Medicine is now establishing a fourth spin-off. These spin-offs offer not only economic, but also social added value by focusing on valorization of academic research. Mexcellence ( is specialized in mastitis management and helps livestock farmers to improve the udder health of their cattle. Imaqua ( focuses on research and services related to shrimp health. And PathoSense ( focuses on the development and implementation of new diagnostic methods for veterinary medicine. With these spin-offs, the faculty once again confirms its number 1 position in the Shanghai Ranking. A position that the Ghent faculty has held for five years in recognition of the scientific research that is conducted there. We can therefore expect even more spin-offs from this faculty in the coming years.

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