University of Arkansas Agri Division Inventions Generate Revenue

by Marty Cook  on Monday, Nov. 25, 2013 12:00 am  

Billy Hargis has spent 30 years trying to improve the health of chickens and has made remarkable advancements in the field of probiotics and vaccines.

Hargis, who runs the UA Division of Agricuture’s Poultry Science Lab, and Memo Tellez, one of Hargis’ colleagues, created a company to commercialize their patented probiotics but turned operations over to Pacific Vet Group of Fayetteville in 2008.

The partnership has worked well for PVG, which will approach $8 million in revenue this year, relying in large part on Arkansas licenses. It has also worked well for Hargis, Tellez and the lab.

PVG sells the licensed probiotics, which generate royalties for the Division of Agriculture and the inventors, but PVG contracts with the Poultry Science Lab for sponsored research. Chris Pixley is PVG’s vice president of operations and a former doctoral student of Hargis’, and he has hired eight Arkansas graduates in the past five years to help run the company.

“Four of our six products are Arkansas licenses,” Pixley said. “We try to take advantage of the [university relationship]. It has been a real key to our success.”

Pacific Vet Group put a new probiotic called FloraStart on the market two months ago, and Hargis said 15 percent of the domestic poultry industry has used the product. FloraStart is not an Arkansas license but was developed through some of the same technology and biological platforms. The spray treatment is for newborn chicks that saturates the animal’s GI tract with helpful bacteria called pioneer colonizers that promises to lower mortality rates.

Hargis also has developed several vaccines that pharmaceutical companies are waiting to bring to market once they’ve received regulatory approval. Hargis could easily find a high-paying job in the private sector, but he’s in it for the research, finding the answer to the next question.

“Without treatment, there are more infectious diseases, more grain waste and more animal suffering,” Hargis said. “In a hungry world, those things matter. We are running out of food in the world.

“The goal is to move research to commercial and to support research in our laboratories. It’s very satisfying as a scientist that stuff you made in a laboratory can help produce food, reduce animal suffering and increases the world’s food supply.”


McKinney calls John Clark the “Bear Bryant” of blackberries. Clark, by his own estimation, has developed or helped develop nearly 50 plant patents involving blackberries, grapes, peaches, nectarines, strawberries and blueberries.

Clark created a blackberry breed called “PrimeArk 45” that has sold more than 1 million plants since 2009. “Ouachita” has sold more than 2 million since 2003, and “Natchez” has sold 1.2 million since 2007.



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