University of Minnesota Opens Study of Genetic Basis of Muscle Disorders in Horses

January 27, 2020

Saint Paul, Minnesota

The Equine Genetics and Genomics Laboratory at the University of Minnesota is conducting a study using 3,000+ horses to study the genetic mechanisms behind different muscle disorders in horses and how diet and exercise may impact these disorders. The results of this study will provide veterinarians, researchers, and horse owners with information on genetic and management factors that influence muscle disease and aid in developing treatment strategies for muscle disease in individual horses. This will be the largest study of muscle disease ever conducted in the horse. To make this unprecedented study happen, we need help from the owners of horses affected by muscle disease.

For more information about the study, FAQs, and detailed instructions about how to participate, please visit our study website .

To contribute to this important effort owners will to need to:

1) Provide information in our Muscle Disease in Horses survey for a horse on your property with suspected or diagnosed muscle disease.

2) Provide the same information in the same survey for another horse of similar age and breed on your property without suspected or diagnosed muscle disease.

Here is the survey .

3) Upload photos, videos, blood test results with creatine kinase (CK) and aspartate transaminase (AST) values, muscle biopsy results, and genetic testing results for each horse from the survey to our secure file-receiving folder on Dropbox .

4) Mail in hay, grain, supplement, and hair root or blood samples for each horse from the survey to our laboratory.

EquiSeq adds P8 and K1 to Myopathy Panel

October 13, 2019

Fayetteville, AR

At the Al Khamsa Annual Meeting and Convention today in Fayetteville, Arkansas, EquiSeq announced that it has added the P8 and K1 tests to the Myopathy Panel at no extra cost. EquiSeq's Myopathy Panel, priced at $249, now includes tests for P2, P3, P4, Px, P8, and K1.

The P8 and K1 genetic variants are missense alleles of undisclosed genes of known function. P8 and K1 are known to be pathogenic as a result of EquiSeq's internal validation process. The genes will be disclosed in a peer-reviewed scientific publication.

The P8 genetic variant is prevalent in Arabians, but has also be found in Thoroughbreds, stock breeds (Quarter Horses, Paints, and Appaloosas), Icelandics, and other breeds.

The K1 genetic variant is prevalent in Arabians, but has also been found in Morgans, American Miniatures, Haflingers, and Standardbreds. It is rare in stock breeds (Quarter Horses, Paints, and Appaloosas) and appears to be absent in Thoroughbreds.

Tests for the P8 and K1 genetic variants will be included at no extra cost in EquiSeq's Myopathy Panel through January 31, 2020. After that, the price of the Myopathy Panel will increase to $299.

UNM Alumni Magazine Features EquiSeq

March 3, 2019


EquiSeq decodes equine genetics for better health and performance
By Leslie Linthicum

At the core of most living things is the genome, the package of genetic materials stored in long molecules of DNA. It's what makes a person, a whale or a blob of algae grow and develop different characteristics. And it is at the core of developing more effective disease treatments and cures.

Scientists around the world have collaborated to map the human genome and continue to work in laboratories to tease out longer pieces of DNA and more complete genomes and to apply genomic discoveries to helping mankind.

UNM Professor Jeremy Edwards and retired biology Professor Paul Szauter pursue those ideals, but they also apply those same scientific questions and techniques to horses.

Partners in the Albuquerque-based startup EquiSeq, they have already patented and licensed four genetic tests that will allow breeders to screen for common but devastating muscle diseases in horses.

And they have hit on a trade secret that could revolutionize Thoroughbred racehorse breeding. It began with a simple question: What made Secretariat, the fastest horse in racing history, run so fast? The answer is that his heart was more than twice the size of a normal horse's heart. Bigger heart, better cardiovascular performance, faster speeds.

The EquiSeq team went looking for the gene responsible for larger equine hearts and found it. A test for that gene is just one of the performance trai tests the company plans to market.

Of all the genetic puzzles to try to unlock, why horses?

The founders knew that the human genome marketplace was crowded and competitive. So instead of competing as one fish in a big pond, they decided to become the big fish in a small but lucrative pond.

"Nobody was working this area. It was wide open," Edwards says. "And horse owners invest a lot of money in their horse. To get a Thoroughbred to age two or three, it's a couple hundred thousand dollars. And you can make millions of dollars in stud fees. So they are looking for technology to protect that investment."

EquiSeq turned to UNM Ph.D. student Alex Hafez ('14 BS) to run the company.

Hafez spends his time working out human problems - his doctoral research in the biomedical sciences focuses on trying to find a molecular basis for leukemia and lymphoma, which he hopes will have real-world implications in faster drug discoveries. His only experience with horses was taking a ride at Boy Scout camp.

But he also has an interest in business and completed his coursework for the Anderson School MBA. Through Anderson he met Szauter and got the opportunity of a lifetime - to start in a business at the top, as CEO, while still a student.

Szauter, a longtime biology professor, left UNM to found the company and serves as the Chief Scientific Officer. Edwards holds the unusual title of "Chief Visionary Oracle."

"My role," says Edwards, "is meeting with them and dreaming up new ideas and applications of technology."

Their search for genes associated with other performance traits and diseases continues.

Center for Animal Genetics licenses new genetic tests for horses from EquiSeq

Tuebingen, August 1, 2018

CAG GmbH – Center for Animal Genetics has signed an agreement with EquiSeq to be the exclusive testing center for their Equine Myopathy Panel in Europe. Horse owners can now test their animals without requiring an invasive blood draw or muscle biopsy.

Equine Myopathy Panel tests for mutations in three genes associated with Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy type 2 (PSSM2) and a mutation in one gene associated with Recurrent Exertional Rhabdomyolysis (RER). These mutations have been detected in affected horses of many breeds, including Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, Warmbloods, Arabians, Gaited Horses, Draft Horses, and many pony breeds. Affected horses often do not show symptoms until they have already been used for breeding or have had many years of investment in training.

Using genetic testing, owners and breeders can identify an affected horse prior to breeding or extensive training for sport. Veterinarians and other horse health professionals can make specific diagnoses and management plans. Although the diseases cannot be cured, a horse's quality of life can be substantially improved with a correct diagnosis and the development of an appropriate management plan.

More information about the disease and tests can be found on the CAG website . Tests can be ordered and paid for through the CAG webstore . Samples sent to CAG will be tested in the in-house accredited laboratory.

"We are very pleased to be able to offer the Equine Myopathy panel to our customers," said Melissa L. Cox, Ph.D., CAG Scientific Lead. "The diseases collectively known as PSSM2 are difficult to diagnose, because symptoms can vary in severity and age of onset. There are many horses and owners who will benefit from having correct, early diagnoses."

EquiSeq's Myopathy Panel, developed by researchers in New Mexico, USA, is the first commercial offering by the company, which is currently researching additional genetic variants affecting horse health and performance.

CAG GmbH is an animal genetics testing and research company specializing in horses, dogs, and cats, located in Tuebingen, Germany. It was founded in 2014 by CeGaT GmbH, a human molecular genetics testing company, and dw Sportpferde, a sport horse breeder. CAG's research program has also identified new mutations responsible for muscle diseases in dogs.

EquiSeq Names New CEO, Signs Licensing Deal with CAG.

July 23, 2018

By Collin Krabbe – Technology reporter , Albuquerque Business First
Jul 23, 2018, 2:33pm MDT

Albuquerque-based biotechnology company EquiSeq has been busy with two new developments: the hire of a new chief executive and a fresh licensing agreement.

Alex Hafez is the firm's new CEO. He is pursuing a dual-degree from the University of New Mexico in business administration and biomedical science. "I think research is really interesting... [but] I'm more interested in management of biotech companies," Hafez said. "Growing up, I've always found myself in positions of leadership."

The 26-year-old Oregon native said being educated in both the business and science fields gives him a different perspective on the cost of conducting research and development for a private company. The new CEO will not earn a salary in his new position, but will rather be given an undisclosed amount of equity in the company.

Business First reported in January that the firm's previous CEO, Lexi Palmer stepped down due to concerns about the distribution of funds in Albuquerque's startup scene.

Hafez said his appointment comes at an exciting time for EquiSeq, which produces genetic tests for horses. The firm just entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with Germany's Center for Animal Genetics, according to Chief Scientific Officer Paul Szauter.

"This was one odd," Szauter said, adding that prior to the agreement, he was expecting that the company was going to have to publish their discoveries in a peer-reviewed journal before striking a deal. But that was not the case. "These guys really wanted the exclusive marketing rights [for the European market]."

Szauter declined to disclose the exact amount of the contract's worth, but did saw that in addition to an upfront payment, EquiSeq will receive a certain percentage of sales from the Center for Animal Genetics. That amount, he said, is less than 10 percent.

"That percentage is about as much as we'd take home [after] setting up over there [in Germany]," Szauter said.

According to the American Horse Council, an association that works with federal agencies on issues impacting the equine sector, the U.S. horse industry had an economic impact of approximately $122 billion and support 1.74 million jobs.

EquiSeq is making other efforts as well. Just this week, the company is planning to file more product patents. Other potential deals are also on the horizon.

"We're working with several breeders now," Szauter said, confident that several licensing deals would be made once their research was published in a scientific journal.

Also on the docket is a product that will screen for the "X-factor," or an enlarged heart, one of the main factors behind decorated racing horse Secretariat's dominance, according to Hafez.

But Szauter, while excited for the future, is anticipating "massive pushback" from breeders not dependent on fast, accurate genetic testing but rather the hope that a stud will pass on favorable genes to its offspring.

"The horse community will fight back," Szauter said.


March 8, 2018

Albuquerque, NM

EquiSeq today disclosed the genes affected by the P2, P3, and P4 genetic variants that are part of its Myopathy Panel. The genetic variants are in part responsible for Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy type 2 (PSSM2), also known as Myofibrillar Myopathy (MFM). The genes affected by the P2, P3, and P4 genetic variants were disclosed at a poster presentation at the 2018 BioVenture Partnership Event at the University of New Mexico on March 7.

The P2 genetic variant affects MYOT, the gene encoding myotilin. The P2 variant is a missense allele that causes a nonconservative amino acid substitution in a highly conserved position in the myotilin protein. Myotilin is an actin-binding protein that is part of the Z disc, the part of the sarcomere to which actin thin filaments are anchored. Mutations in human myotilin are the cause of Myofibrillar Myopathy 3 and Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy 1A.

The P3 genetic variant affects FLNC, the gene encoding filamin C. The P3 genetic variant is a pair of missense alleles that cause two nonconservative amino acid substitutions in highly conserved positions in the filamin C protein. Filamin C is a muscle-specific member of the filamin family, an actin-binding protein that is also part of the Z disc. Mutations in human filamin C are the cause of Myofibrillar Myopathy 5 and two forms of hereditary cardiomyopathy.

The P4 genetic variant affects MYOZ3, the gene encoding myozenin 3. The P4 genetic variant is a missense allele that causes a nonconservative amino acid substitution in a highly conserved position in the myozenin 3 protein. Myozenin 3 is a component of the Z disc that binds other Z disc proteins. It has been shown to be important for myogenesis in cultured mouse cells, but pathogenic variants in human have not yet been identified. About half of the cases of human Myofibrillar Myopathy cannot be assigned to any of the eight known genes; it is possible that variants of human MYOZ3 are the cause of some cases.

EquiSeq has not yet disclosed the specific amino acid substitutions caused by these genetic variants, and has also not disclosed any of the supporting evidence that these variants are pathogenic. These data will be presented in a future peer-reviewed scientific publication.

It is clear that there are other genetic variants associated with equine myopathy. EquiSeq's research team is currently evaluating several newly-discovered genetic variants that may become part of its Myopathy Panel in the future.

All questions should be directed to EquiSeq's Chief Scientific Officer, Paul Szauter, Ph.D. (

EquiSeq Offers Free Testing for Registered Thoroughbreds

December 8, 2017

EquiSeq is conducting a study of the effect of myopathy variants (P2, P3, and P4) on Thoroughbred performance.

We seek registered Thoroughbreds of any age for this study.

To have your Thoroughbred included in the study, you must be a horse owner in the United States with one or more registered Thoroughbreds.

Your Thoroughbred must be included in the Pedigree Online Thoroughbred Database.

You must be willing to submit a 10 ml EDTA blood draw at EquiSeq's expense. We will cover all costs, including vet fees.

If your horse is selected for the study, you will receive results for P2, P3, P4, and Px at no cost to you.

If you have a horse that meets these criteria, please email Paul Szauter at

Please feel free to share this message.

Free testing for registered Thoroughbreds will end on September 1, 2018. Thoroughbred owners who have initiated contact with EquiSeq prior to that time will receive free testing.

EquiSeq CEO Lexi Palmer Wins ABQid Ski Lift Pitch Competition

February 28, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque startup EquiSeq dominated the slopes this year at the third annual ski lift pitch competition, beating out 11 other companies to win a $10,000 prize at the Taos Ski Valley on Tuesday.
The competition, organized by Albuquerque's ABQid business accelerator, is a novel twist on pitch competitions that places competing companies on Taos Valley’s Kachina Peak Lift alongside investors and entrepreneurs who judge their business presentations while riding up the slopes.

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Si66: EquiSeq Gene Test Can Eliminate Crippling Disease In Horses

November 1, 2016

This is the third and final installment of a three-part series on the growing field of genomics and bioformatics in the Silicon66 region, which includes Oklahoma, the Texas panhandle, New Mexico and Arizona. The series included an examination of genetic research being done at Oklahoma’s Langston University to help goat producers, and a look the work of Agric-Bioformatics.

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ABQid Demo Day 2016: EquiSeq

August 26, 2016

On August 26, 2016, EquiSeq was invited to an encore presentation at ABQid Demo Day. EquiSeq CEO Lexi Palmer joined five companies that had just completed the accelerator program and two other companies making encore presentations. Click the link to see a video.

Watch video »

Local Startup Wins Pitch Competition

September 6, 2016

EquiSeq, an Albuquerque startup incubating in STC's Cecchi VentureLab, recently took top honors at the Tech.Co ABQ 2016 Albuquerque Startup of the Year Pitch Night. The company, developing a genetic test for equine polysaccharide storage myopathy, a disease that damages the muscle tissue in horses, is led by CEO Lexi Palmer. "I feel humbled to act as a voice for our amazing EquiSeq team and honored to have the support of the horse community. Without their cooperation, our achievements would not be possible. Together we will be able to give horse owners a lifetime with their best friend," Palmer said.

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How an NM company's using social media to jump-start genetic research

August 4, 2016

"This is the first time that I've run a science project through Facebook," Paul Szauter said.

Szauter, the chief scientific officer at EquiSeq, an Albuquerque-based horse genetics startup, worked through the social media platform to conduct research leading to the creation of a genetic test that the company says can identify a genetic muscle wasting disease in certain breeds of horses.

He says the company, which graduated from ABQid in 2015, chose to research horse genetics because it was a noncompetitive industry where a small startup could make a big difference.

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NM Start Ups Get $20 Million Investment

January 20, 2016

New Mexico just lost the chance to bring a space flight company here. Arizona will be the home of a new manufacturing company that will bring people to infinity and beyond.

In the wake of that, there is a new push to help home grown entrepreneurs get started.

A lot of entrepreneurs are drooling right now over the possibility of getting more funding for their start up, in hopes it turns Albuquerque into a hot-bed for innovation.

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Lexi Palmer-The Real Albuquerque- On EquiSeq

January 14, 2016

The Girl that Did, well after this episode it should be the girl that is doing. This week we have a really fun episode with the amazing, Lexi Palmer of EquiSeq. There are a lot of reasons to go out on your own and build a business, Lexi Palmer isn't in it for the glory instead she is in to bringing value to the equestrian community. Building something that transcends yourself, time and space is truly amazing. That is how Lexi Palmer rolls. She is all about helping the community and helping future horses' owners find their healthy best friends one DNA marker at a time. We are excited to see where Lexi Palmer and EquiSeq take the equestrian DNA sequencing to. One of the quotes we love from Lexi Palmer is, "Anybody can ride perfectly, but it is how you adapt to the mistakes and missteps and that what is going to make you successful."

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Podcast Release: Talking with Paul Szauter and Lexie Palmer of Equisec

December 7, 2015

Episode 2 of Startup Spot with Sonja, I interview Paul Szauter, Chief Scientific Officer, and Lexie Palmer, CEO of Equiseq.

Hear about how their business is changing after researching their original direction.


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Anatomy of a Startup

November 4, 2015

EquiSeq is developing a test to determine whether a foal has a specific gene that causes a fatal muscle malady within the first few years of life.


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Annual Pitch Fiesta Draws A Crowd

September 20, 2015

Equiseq, a new Albuquerque startup marketing genetic horse tests for breeders, won first place at this year's New Mexico Pitch Fiesta at the Standard Diner Downtown Thursday night.

The Pitch Fiesta, an annual competition that began in 2013, drew a crowd of nearly 75 startup enthusiasts and entrepreneurs, who listened to 11 aspiring entrepreneurs present their business ideas in two-minute "elevator pitches."

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Pitch Fiesta 4.0

September 17, 2015

The room was packed, the wait staff was bustling around serving the 80+ attendees. There was electricity in the air. Then the pitches started and the energy level went through the roof.

Was it because of the amazing food at Standard Diner? Was it because the judges had been drinking? Was it because of the great prizes that were annouced (over $1250)? Was it the additional prizes for Trivia answers provided by CNM? Was it the comedy team of Nyika Allen and Lisa Adkins from the New Mexico Tech council with their set of Entrepreneurial jokes? Was the the eleven brave, nervous, anxious presenters?

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ABQid Demo Day

September 4, 2015

Last Friday was the ABQid Demo Day and it was a packed house at the Epicenter. I rarely get to see these type of activities, but my wife let me use some of my paternity leave to check it out.

The energy and excitement of these events blows me away every time. The presenters, sponsors and audience create an atmosphere that makes it real easy to believe a lot of great things are happening and going to be happening in Albuquerque.

This event allowed the 10 companies from the second ABQid accelerator class to pitch their company in 6 minutes. They all did a great job on their pitches and I feel lucky to have gotten to watch this.

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ABQid Demo Day

August 28, 2015

Paul Szauter of EquiSeq pitched his company to the crowd at Epicenter on ABQid Demo Day on August 28, 2015.

Watch Video »

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EquiSeq CEO Szauter says learning to pitch is 'hand-to-hand combat'

August 14, 2015

Paul Szauter says he's getting his pitch together "to get a second date," with some of the investors that will be in the crowd at the ABQid Demo Day.

Demo Day for ABQid is still two weeks away, but the CEOs are just now putting the final touches on their six-minute pitches for the event.

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5 StartUps You Didn't Know Existed In Albuquerque

May 6, 2015

New Mexico Technology Council and ABQid hosted a Scrappy Startup Challenge where 11 entrepreneurs pitched their ideas in front of a panel of venture capitalists/judges.

The catch, they only had 3 minutes to sell their product and idea. Here are the winners of the competition...

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Scrappy Startups, V2V Edition

May 4, 2015

Value Proposition: EquiSeq analyzes the genetic material of horses to provide horse owners with information on their horse's health, performance traits, and breeding. We will reach customers by providing high-value information to veterinarians and horse breeders, the key opinion leaders in this niche.

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Albuquerque's Szauter flips the startup pitch on its head

May 4, 2015

Your startup pitch can be used to entice employees and customers just as much as bring in venture capital and investors. It's a better way to pitch, says Paul Szauter, the CEO of EquiSeq - one of 11 startups that will compete at Monday's Scrappy Startup Challenge at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque.

It's a change in thinking for many startups whose pitch contest is usually only focused on those with the money. EquiSeq has designed a new, fast way to sequence DNA for horses. Yes, he's tuned his company's pitch for investors, but he's also looking to get more out of pitch events and contests - and thinks others would benefit too.

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Albuquerque entrepreneurs pitch for "Shark Tank"-like contest

April 4, 2015

Geneticist Paul Szauter thinks he has the next big thing.

The entrepreneur and scientist says his company EquiSeq will cater to a niche market with a lot of money to burn.

"We analyze the genetic material of horses to provide horse owners with information on health, performance and breeding," said Szauter. "Join us and together we'll build a super horse."

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