S.D. biotech company expands, rebrands following investment stake from global company

Nearly 30 years after a group of South Dakota State University professors founded it, a Brookings-based biotech company has a new name and a growing global reach.

Rural Technologies Inc., or RTI, is a national leader as a contract research organization, specializing in the registration testing of vaccines for food-producing animals.

A full-service, pre-clinical contract research organization, or CRO, it provides both clinical or in-vivo and laboratory or in-vitro services.

“Our highly qualified teams excel in both clinical and laboratory biological research and testing in both virology and bacteriology,” CEO Rollie Nevins said.

“We can assist clients from the very early stages of discovery to the final regulatory process.”

In 2022, New York-based Clinvet USA LLC, a Clinglobal group company, acquired a stake in RTI. Clinglobal’s group of companies originated from Clinvet South Africa, founded by the Fourie family in 1999. The global animal health services company was established as a contract-holding and centralized service provider. It offers a suite of clinical research and global veterinary product development consultancy.

“Clinvet has increased the global reach of RTI, making us part of the Clinglobal group and a premier animal health CRO in the world,” Nevins said. “It has also brought with them a whole support team ready to assist us in many areas such as IT, quality assurance, HR, business development and project management.”

From Clinvet’s perspective, the partnership “allows us to leverage our systems and processes to add a world-class research team and facility to our group,” said Clinglobal CEO Wessel Fourie.

“Through our facility in upstate New York and Clinvet South Dakota, we can now support North America’s companion and food-producing species product development. Moreover, Clinglobal consultancy services complement Clinvet SD clinical research services and allows us to propose a comprehensive veterinary product development service to our customers.”

Earlier this year, RTI rebranded as two separate entities. The clinical operations are RTI LLC, doing business as Clinvet South Dakota, and the laboratory is RTI LLC, doing business as RTI Labs.

“This will enable more focused marketing and clearer identification with a wider marketplace,” Nevins said.

RTI’s history dates back to 1994, when a group of SDSU professors led by Dr. Chris Chase formed the company to provide scientific guidance and study design expertise in the animal health care industry while providing career opportunities to SDSU graduates.

After several years of providing services as needed, the first employee was hired in 2000, and the team grew to eight by 2012, including veterinarians, microbiologists and animal scientists – all SDSU grads.

In 2013, then-president Chase restructured the company as RTI LLC, focusing on vaccine research for food production animals: cattle, poultry and swine. Revenue has grown fivefold, and the company now employs 28 people and several part-time SDSU students, with a new 21,600-square-foot biosafety level 2 barrier facility in Brookings to enhance its ability to research the many infectious diseases that affect the health of animals.

“What made Clinvet and Clinglobal the right company to join forces with is that we had the same values – for the safety and well-being of people and animals, the importance of being customer-focused, for having respect and belief in teamwork and for exceeding quality expectations,” Nevins said.

“In Clinvet, a family-led business, we valued the opportunity to join a leading global animal health CRO with an aligned vision. In return, RTI offered them a U.S. company highly regarded in biological research production animal CRO to expand their U.S. band of services and presence. Joining forces increases the size of the service opportunities for both companies moving into the future.”

The company’s growth is significant to the South Dakota biotech industry, said Joni Ekstrum, executive director of South Dakota Biotech.

“We’re thrilled to see RTI take this next step in their development and believe this further solidifies South Dakota as a national leader in the animal biotech industry,” she said. “The global reach this partnership allows RTI could result in significant additional investment and job growth in South Dakota.”

The long-term desire is to maintain operations, staffing and facilities in Brookings, Nevins added.

The company is adding five staff members and investing $1 million in new clinical space.

“The objective is to make the Clinvet SD Brookings site the premier food animal CRO for biological products,” he said. “The site will have increased abilities through upgraded IT, HR, QA and training systems supported by Clinglobal and will provide data management through the Clindata company. We expect substantial growth for both Clinvet SD and RTI Labs, creating more jobs and investment in the Brookings area.”

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