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Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

CVM Alum Develops Organic Horse Fly Repellant

March 10th, 2014

tim-john-small-animalAt the Pilchuk Veterinary Hospital in Snohomish Washington, beavers are everywhere. Not the aquatic, furry kind; the OSU Vet Med kind. Three co-owners of the practice are OSU alums: Tim John (class of 1990), Jeff Duke (Class of 1984), and Kevin Wilson (Class of 2001).

Dr. Duke’s areas of special interest are surgery and small animal reproduction; Dr. Wilson focuses on disease prevention and pain management; and Dr. John is interested in internal medicine and cancer therapy. Oh, and his newest interest is flies.

“My wife and daughter are passionate about horses,” he says. “I was reading a journal article about the problems of developing an effective new fly spray, and it got me thinking about fly sprays in general.” Dr. John started looking into the topic and became intrigued and concerned.  “Most fly sprays fall into one of two categories: Pyrethrin-based or essential oils.  Pyrethrins have been around for quite awhile and some are starting to lose their effectiveness, but more alarming is that current research has shown a link as an estrogen disruptor.  Essential oils, on the other hand, typically are not very effective and don’t last very long.”

Fortunately, as his investigation of fly sprays continued, he came across a researcher in California that had discovered a compound of FDA-approved, food-grade fatty acid that repelled and killed flies and mosquitoes. That’s when the lightbulb went off. “It was a totally new way to rid ourselves of these pests,” he says. “The most exciting part for me, as a vet, was that it repelled the Cullicoides flies (midges) that start the immune reaction that leads to Sweet Itch.”

But taking a great idea and making it a useful reality can be a long and rocky road. As anyone who watches the television show ‘Shark Tank’ knows, many great ideas have stalled from red-tape, lack of funding, and/or the right connections.”I was pretty naive, some would say delusional, about bringing this product to market,” he says. “It involved a lot of bureaucratic approval, to say the least” But he didn’t give up and now is able to sell his Ecovet Fly Repellant in the Northwest. He hopes to take it to national markets soon. “I can say that it has truly been fun and also quite a growing process,” he says.

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