Chicken Vaccine Tech Hatches a Startup Success

Posted By Frank Vinluan

Randy Marcuson turned a startup based on technology from North Carolina State University into a publicly traded company whose medical device is now responsible for vaccinating an estimated 90 percent of the chickens on the market.

But before that company, Embrex, was acquired by Pfizer Animal Health (now Zoetis), the company took a lot of twists and turns as it sought to develop its technology and find a market, founder and former CEO Randy Marcuson told the RTP Rotary Club.Embrex started in the mid-1980s, when there weren’t many funding opportunities for agtech companies. But the company went on to raise funds venture capital funding, and in 1991, completed an initial public stock offering. Marcuson said the company relied on a diverse mix of workers who brought innovative ideas to the company’s approach of delivering a vaccine to a chicken before it hatched from the shell.

Once the technology was ready for market, Embrex also had to develop a novel business model. Rather than sell its medical device to chicken producers, Embrex leased the machines, creating recurring revenue. After winning over Tyson Foods, the largest U.S. chicken producer, other chicken producers followed, leading to the estimated 90 percent market share that Embrex’s technology claims for chicken vaccinations.

“If you had a chicken sandwich today, it was vaccinated using Embrex’s process,” Marcuson said.

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