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After 30-year wait, AquaBounty founder celebrates GM salmon milestone

Exec was well off on his original timeline, but the project has proved to be worth the effort.

Back in the early 1990s a Scottish salmon farmer told Elliot Entis, founder and CEO of fledgling GM salmon producer AquaBounty, that it would take 10 years before the fish would make it to market.

"I said, no, we'll do it much faster than that," Entis told IntraFish Monday.

Though he was well off in his optimistic projections, Entis is celebrating the long-awaited decision by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last Friday to lift an import restriction that has been preventing Massachusetts-based AquaBounty from producing and selling its genetically modified fish in the United States.

fc25c29ff1a0196c2e69e8f33e29e7ca Elliot Entis, founder of AquaBounty. Photo: Facebook

"I am extremely pleased the FDA was able to see its way clear to lifting the restriction," he said.

No one is more familiar than Entis with the long, hard struggle that culminated in the FDA decision.

Entis, who founded AquaBounty in 1992, left the company in 2008 and no longer plays an active role in the operation of the salmon farming firm. Today, he sits atop Liftlab Inc., a Massachusetts-based subsidiary of his company AF Protein. Liftlab sells a line of skin care products created using a patented cell protection protein found in arctic plants, animals and marine life. AquaBounty began its life as a subsidiary of AF Protein.

"I understand why the FDA took its time," said Entis, referring to the more than two decades it took to get the regulatory approval necessary to bring GM salmon to market. "Beyond the science, there was a thorny underbrush of political obstruction to clear, particularly in the last few years when some in Congress pushed regulations to deny AquaBounty access to the domestic market."

Entis praised AquaBounty for its recent hiring of new CEO Sylvia Wulf, who most recently spent time as US Foods, one of the country's leading foodservice distributors.

"Now the real work begins, building a significant market for the salmon -- perhaps a bit later than I forecast back 1995," Entis said. "Good thing I didn't become a weatherman as I once wished."

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