Aggie Square Announces UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory as New Research Tenant

Leader in Animal Genetics Brings Innovation to Sacramento

Rendering of Aggie Square's "Building on the Square" with blue sky on background.
Aggie Square’s “Building on the Square” is a three-story building that will be home to UC Davis’ Veterinary Genetics Laboratory among others in the life sciences industry. (Wexford Science & Technology LLC)

Aggie Square, the innovation district anchored by the University of California, Davis, in partnership with Wexford Science & Technology LLC, has announced the UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL) as its newest research tenant. The world-class laboratory, known for its pioneering animal DNA testing and genetics services, is situated within UC Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine, the No. 1 veterinary program in the nation.

For the first time, the School of Veterinary Medicine is expanding its presence beyond the Davis campus into Sacramento. Nearly 80 employees — with knowledge of the genetics of over 20 species — will operate VGL’s research and genetic testing programs in Aggie Square’s standalone “Building on the Square.” The portion of the building to be occupied by VGL is estimated at 21,000 square feet and will be equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment for high throughput genotyping to optimize and improve efficiency for VGL’s testing procedures and accurate DNA testing to occur in a single space.

The move to Aggie Square will expand VGL’s educational programs to the community and industry partners, extending knowledge on the importance and best use of veterinary genetic testing to advance animal health. The laboratory will be fully operational at its new site in 2025.  

“By bringing veterinary science to Aggie Square, we are expanding our research footprint and advancing our mission in Sacramento,” said Gary S. May, chancellor of UC Davis. “This strategic move highlights our commitment to accelerate life-changing discoveries and advance human and animal health to improve future outcomes. With the support of our researchers, industry partners and community leaders, Aggie Square will be at the forefront of science and innovation benefiting our community now and for generations to come.”

The School of Veterinary Medicine has established a reputation for excellence in veterinary education and research, both globally and locally. Its cornerstone One Health Institute brings UC Davis’ leading researchers together to tackle many complex problems that affect health and conservation across animals, humans and the environment. The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory will build on this legacy and bring its 70 years of expertise in animal genetics and genomics to Aggie Square.

“Having the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory in Aggie Square is an exciting next step in our establishment of veterinary programs throughout California and beyond,” said Dr. Mark Stetter, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine. “This marks Veterinary Medicine’s first footprint in Sacramento, and we look forward to VGL’s successful relationships with future Aggie Square residents and the potential industry partners this move could produce.”

As part of its mission to advance veterinary science and genetics research, the laboratory will foster relationships and bridge research collaborations with the School of Veterinary Medicine and other science- and health-focused tenants in Aggie Square. Through collaboration, employees of the laboratory will accelerate the pace of discovery and drive innovations that will improve the health and well-being of animals and humans alike.

“The genetics laboratory is currently housed in several different buildings that date to the 1980s, with an even older main laboratory,” said Dr. Rebecca Bellone, director of VGL. “This move puts VGL’s facilities on par with the world-class offerings our clients from all over the world have come to expect. This move will take VGL to even greater heights by allowing us to expand our diagnostic and research services in an environment that will foster rapid innovation through collaboration with industry partners and colleagues in the School of Medicine, engineering, life sciences and beyond. This move will also allow us to best deliver our educational programs in partnership with those involved at Aggie Square’s Life-Long Learning Building.”

Veterinary Genetics Laboratory

VGL has a rich history of innovation and leadership in parentage verification and genetic research. It was originally established at UC Davis in the 1950s to verify the parentage of cattle using a process called blood typing, which was later developed for horses in the 1960s and for llamas and alpacas in the 1980s. In the 1990s, VGL pioneered the transition of parentage testing from blood typing to DNA. Today, VGL is recognized as a world leader in parentage testing for more than 20 species.

VGL has an active research program in genetics and genomics across domestic and wildlife species, contributing to the field of conservation genetics and to the discovery of many genetic mutations responsible for diseases and pigmentation including horses, dogs and cats, among others. Two recent groundbreaking discoveries include the second genetic cause of congenital stationary night blindness, which affects certain horse breeds’ ability to see in low light or dark conditions, and evidence of the causal role for an inherited eye cancer risk factor in horses.

The laboratory offers hundreds of tests for traits of interest, like coat color, and disease. Popular diagnostic tests in dogs include those discovered at UC Davis such as chondrodystrophy (short-legged phenotype characteristic in dogs breeds like dachshunds) and chondrodysplasia (short-legged phenotype as well as disc degeneration and herniation, to which these breeds are highly susceptible). For the most popular breed of horse the lab offers the American Quarter Horse Disease panel, which bundles several genetic tests, four of which were discovered by researchers in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis.

VGL also developed a small-scale veterinary forensics program in the mid 1990s and became the first accredited crime lab dedicated to domestic animal DNA analysis. It is now recognized as a world leader in the field of veterinary forensics and has been involved in many high-profile criminal cases both nationally and internationally. While the forensics program was accredited in 2010, in 2020, all of VGL services achieved the highest level of laboratory accreditation by the American National Standards Institute National Accreditation Board.

Aggie Square

Aggie Square will bring together university research and teaching, industry and the community to create opportunities across the region. It will be home to research programs, private industry partners, classrooms, student housing and public-facing programs that engage local communities and entrepreneurs. It’s projected to inject $5 billion annually to the regional economy and support 25,000 ongoing jobs. The first phase is expected to be completed in the first quarter in 2025

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