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[genet-news] CLONING & ANIMALS: Allerca’s shady past and questionable science raise doubts about promises on GE hypoallergenic cats



                                  PART 1


------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  FELIS ENIGMATICUS

SOURCE: The Scientist, USA

AUTHOR: Kerry Grens

URL:    http://www.the-scientist.com/article/home/39383/

DATE:   01.01.2007

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FELIS ENIGMATICUS

 

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ARTICLE EXTRAS

What the Data Say

http://www.the-scientist.com/2007/1/1/35/1

Timeline: The Hypoallergenic Cat

http://www.the-scientist.com/2007/1/1/37/1

Simon Brodie?s Other Pet Projects

http://www.the-scientist.com/2007/1/1/38/1

Slideshow: Reporter?s Log on Allerca

http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/38250/

Timeline: Tracking Simon Brodie?s Criminal History

http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/39695/

The Scientific Evidence Behind Simon Brodie?s Cats

http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/39835/

Podcast: Suspicions develop over the authenticity of Allerca?s hypoallergenic cat

http://www.the-scientist.com/podcasts/theweek/2007/01/17/

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A company?s shady past and questionable science raise doubts on their promises of a $4,000 hypoallergenic cat

On a brilliant fall morning in west Los Angeles, cars zoom down Olympic Avenue, west toward the posh boutiques of Santa Monica, and east toward the hills of Westwood. Nestled between two midrise buildings on the corner of Olympic and Purdue, a sleek tower of reflected glass rises above the traffic. Inside, Suite 200 is the registered home of Allerca.

Knowing the address gives little insight into the secretive company that claims to have bred the ?world?s first scientifically-proven hypoallergenic cats.? There are no laboratories or scientists, no cats or kittens on the second floor of 11400 Olympic Avenue. Suite 200 is a shared office, leased to a number of companies to use for meetings and telephone answering services.

Then-Allerca spokesperson Steven May doesn?t meet me at 11400 Olympic. Instead, I interview him at a café near the University of California, Los Angeles, in October. ?There?s a reason why you can?t find the address,? says May, now president of the company. May explains that the company?s details are kept confidential to protect employees from people who ?have very personal feelings about what is happening? when it comes to animal testing and science. The company claims it has found and bred cats that possess a gene for the major cat allergen - a protein called Fel d 1 - that is modified so that humans do not have an allergic response to the cats.

Allerca?s confidentiality is selective, however. The company has been making the rounds of television, magazines, and newspapers advertising their low-allergen cats. Time magazine honored Allerca?s discovery as one of the Best Inventions of 2006. May speaks excitedly about the debut of the first litter, ?definitely in the spring of 2007.? By then three or four kittens will be ready for adoption. They are a modest start to satisfying what May says is an ?overwhelming? response by people with allergies seeking a cat - despite the one-year wait and $4,000 price tag. ?It?s a little pricey,? May says. ?However, if you break it down over the years, over 15 years that someone?s been deprived, it?s priceless.?

Theoretically, there could be many ?someones.? Cat allergies are some of the most common; in a survey of 10,000 Americans, 17% reacted to a cat-allergen skin test. 1 Fel d 1, which is unique to cats, is responsible for most people?s allergic reactions to cats. 2 Still, little is known about the protein and Allerca?s findings could lend insight into the unknown function of Fel d 1 in cats, says Leslie Lyons, assistant professor at the UC-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. ?We?re interested in pursuing this stuff a little farther,? she says, but ?they don?t present enough data to say how they?ve done it.?

Lyons isn?t the only one scratching her head over the lack of peer review of Allerca?s claims. ?There?s a lot of skepticism in the academic community about whether or not these cats are hypoallergenic,? says Martin Chapman, a former professor of Medicine and Microbiology at the University of Virginia and the founder of Indoor Biotechnologies, a company that designs allergy tests. ?We?ve not come across any documented scientific study that this is a real phenomenon.?

Compounding the scientific skepticism are the many failed and sometimes-fraudulent business endeavors of Allerca?s founder and chairman, a convicted criminal named Simon Brodie. Hot air balloons, glow-in-the-dark deer, the world?s most powerful computer, and knockout, allergen-free cats have all collapsed despite Brodie?s public optimism and legal issues often trail behind these entrepreneurial efforts.

GENETIC FEASIBILITY, CLINICAL CONCERNS

In June 2006 an Allerca press release announced that customers could begin reserving their hypoallergenic cats. Less than a year earlier Allerca?s scientists (whose identities have been kept under wraps) stumbled upon a family of hypoallergenic cats while testing out the company?s newly developed genetic assay, says Brodie. He explains that the researchers were screening cats randomly across the country for the initial project to develop allergen-free cats using RNAi. ?The test was initially to look for the fel d 1 gene,? Brodie says, ?and it was not found positive for the mutant cats. We did additional work ... and found the molecular weight of the protein was different in the mutant cats.? Brodie declines to say more about how the assay was developed or precisely what it is designed to detect in the cats.

Allerca hired Microbac, a commercial laboratory in Tennessee, to compare the fel d 1 sequences between Allerca?s cats and control cats. Robert Brooks, then the biotechnology laboratory manager at Microbac, conducted the analysis in May, June, and July 2006. Allerca provided Brooks with cheek swabs from several parent cats, and later from several kittens. Brooks used the DNA to compare amino acid sequences between Allerca and control cats.

Fel d 1 comprises two subunits, each encoded by a different gene. 3 In chain 2 Brooks found several amino-acid differences in Fel d 1 between Allerca cats and control cats, which have not been documented in the literature. ?Every Allerca cat had those,? Brooks says. He would not disclose the differences, saying that the information is proprietary. He did not sample the actual cats, nor did he do any work with Fel d 1 to see how changes in the sequence might affect the hypoallergenicity of Allerca?s cats. ?I don?t have anything to do with cats themselves,? Brooks says. ?There are definite differences [in their protein]; what they mean, I can?t tell you.?

Brodie says Allerca?s researchers (not Microbac?s) discovered that these differences translate into cats that don?t elicit allergic responses in people. Allerca?s team also found the trait was passed along to offspring, and began breeding the hypoallergenic cats in the fall of 2005 to ?allow allergic consumers to enjoy the love and companionship of a pet without the cost, inconvenience, risk, and limited effectiveness of current feline allergy treatments.?

Such a finding is feasible, says Lyons. There could be enough variation in the fel d 1 gene in the domestic cat population (about 30 million in the United States) to allow for a hypoallergenic mutation to exist, she says. Others have shown it?s feasible at the molecular level as well. Modifying a recombinant Fel d 1 to destabilize the protein can result in hypoallergenicity. Hans Gr??nlund at the Karolinska Institutet Hospital in Stockholm and his colleagues showed that modifying the three-dimensional structure of Fel d 1 could reduce its IgE antibody-binding capacity 400 to 900 times that of an unaltered Fel d 1. 4 Gr??nlund writes in an E-mail that it?s impossible to speculate on what mutations might be responsible for the Allerca cats? hypoallergenicity, though ?probably a deletion or several point mutations would be needed.?

Lyons says that demonstrating a mutant fel d 1 gene in certain cats would be easy, as several studies have described the gene and protein. Characterizing the way humans will respond to the animals, and showing that they really are hypoallergenic, would be more difficult. Lyons says she doesn?t have many doubts as to whether Allerca could have found cats with a mutant Fel d 1. ?For me, the question is, how are they proving it??

That?s where Sheldon Spector comes in. An allergist with the California Allergy and Asthma Group in Los Angeles, he conducted Allerca?s human exposure trial earlier in the year. (Spector declined to be interviewed until after his second round of trials was complete, which an Allerca spokesperson estimated would be in late November. As of press time, Spector had not responded to further requests.) For his first trials Spector used three rooms, each randomly housing a hypoallergenic cat, a regular cat, or a stuffed animal. Volunteers who had been diagnosed with allergies entered the room blindfolded and reported their allergic responses. Spector found the hypoallergenic cats did not elicit an allergic response, though he has not published the results in a peer-reviewed journal.

Using this experimental design is not always a reliable predictor for hypoallergenicity, says Andy Saxon at the UCLA Medical Center: ?It?s a mess using cat rooms; they?re totally uncontrolled.? Saxon says several problems exist with cat rooms: The amount of allergen a person is exposed to is not controlled, and a person?s response (even to the same amount of allergen) can vary with each exposure. Even Spector told The New York Times in October that he would not recommend people buy an Allerca cat, because his study was not definitive and people can still react to other allergens that cats produce.

Sensitization also plays a role. ?If you eliminate only part of the protein, you may develop sensitization to a different part,? says Fernando Martinez, director of the Arizona Respiratory Center. Martinez says that the number of epitopes humans respond to on Fel d 1 is not well known, and sensitization to particular areas of the protein has not been explored exhaustively. ?I would argue that there are essentially unlimited number of epitopes,? writes Gr??nlund. As the oldest generation of Allerca cats is just three years old, there is no evidence that they will maintain their hypoallergenicity for pet owners over a lifetime. The lack of a published peer-reviewed trial concerns a skeptical Martinez. ?It?s very worrisome that before there?s any demonstration of a true effect, we start giving these [cats] to people,? he says.

ALLERCA?S HISTORY

In 1992, Brodie was a young, Lamborghini-driving man of 29, working out of plush offices in London and renting a large home. He had launched a hot-air ballooning company called Cloudhoppers, which, according to news reports in 1992 by British newspaper The Argus, grossed ??1 million in its first year and had ambitions for expanding to a ??50 million enterprise stateside. It was advertised as the largest ballooning company in the world, but after Brodie announced that the company was going to be bought for ??4 million, his success collapsed.

Reporter Richard Fleury of The Argus conducted an investigation that exposed a number of lies and ultimately resulted in a jail sentence for Brodie. Not only did the ??4 million deal never take place, ?We discovered Cloudhoppers owned just two balloons and had been running up sky-high debts for months,? reported The Argus in 1994. ?The firm was continuing to take bookings for expensive balloon flights even after the Civil Aviation Authority revoked its license to fly.? The Lamborghini was repossessed, the offices abandoned, and employees were not paid. According to published reports, Brodie was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail after pleading guilty to multiple counts of false accounting.

Brodie?s legal troubles followed him to the United States. Olympic Avenue, where Allerca had its official headquarters, dead-ends behind the Santa Monica County Building. Court records inside the low, white building reveal Brodie has been sued a number of times in the Los Angeles Superior Court for contractual fraud, eviction, and unpaid debt. A 2004 case shows Brodie was using an alias, Simon Campbell, and was connected with Cerentis Corporation and Integra Associates. Cerentis? goal in 1999 was to develop the world?s largest supercomputer by linking together 10,000 PCs with a downloaded screensaver called Terra One, according to a press release. The project never saw completion, or perhaps never even began.

Similarly, one of Brodie?s former companies, Geneticas, claimed it would provide customers an allergy-free cat based on RNAi and had already accepted hundreds of nonrefundable $250 deposits. Geneticas also predicted it could bring the cost of cloning a cat below $10,000. The cats never came and Geneticas disappeared (see ?Doubts About Allergy-Free Cats? and ?Cloning for Profit,? The Scientist, Jan. 31, 2005).

In July of last year, the San Diego Union-Tribune detailed more of Brodie?s former undertakings, each leaving behind a stain of debt, broken contracts, and phantom products. Brodie says the report is ?full of inaccuracies? but wouldn?t be specific. (May calls the report ?grossly inaccurate.?) ?I can?t say much more because there are some legal things going on,? Brodie says. ?I?m here to talk about the company. I?m not here to talk about me.? But when asked about the company - where the offices, laboratory, and breeding facilities are located, who the scientists are that discovered the cats, and what precisely is the mutation responsible for the cats? hypoallergenicity - Brodie says ?we don?t want to divulge the process and our information.?

To find out more about Allerca, one must follow the trail of legal breadcrumbs down from Los Angeles to San Diego, where Allerca claimed its headquarters from 2004 to 2006. Inside the records room of the Hall of Justice the clerk hands over another court file, this time against Allerca and not Simon Brodie. In February 2006 the company was sued in San Diego Superior Court for $3,297 in back rent for a loft space just a few blocks from The Hall of Justice in the stylish Gas Lamp district. (A company Brodie founded in 2005, called Cyntegra, is still registered to the address, according to the California Secretary of State?s Web site.)

A court file against Allerca for unpaid rent

Searching through the files of the San Diego Superior Court leads to yet another courthouse, situated among the strip malls of Clairemont Mesa Boulevard. On a hand-written note, a former Allerca employee asks for an extended date to serve Brodie a small-claims court suit for $4,600 in unpaid fees, because ?he seems to know that I am trying to serve him and he is avoiding me ... he must have done this before and is quite skilled at hiding.? The case was ultimately dismissed. (My attempts to contact the plaintiff, Daniel McDonnell, were unsuccessful.)

Allerca has been successful at keeping company details secret. Six full-time employees run the company, but May says up to 2,000 people can be working for Allerca at any given time. Most of them maintain the breeding facility (which May has not visited) and conduct research. Aside from Microbac?s participation, no other names and locations have been reported.

The core of the company is hard to get a handle on as well. As of October, May was the spokesperson for the company, which then claimed its headquarters in San Diego though it was registered in Los Angeles. A press release on November 15 announced that May would become president of Allerca, Brodie would become chairman, and Robert Stephenson would become chief operations officer. The headquarters would move from San Diego to Los Angeles, and a satellite office was due to open in New York City. Shortly after the press release, Allerca moved its registered address from 11400 Olympic Avenue to another shared office down the road at 10940 Wilshire Boulevard. Brodie?s name was replaced on the registration by that of Megan Young, Allerca?s CEO.

Brodie wrote in an E-mail that the changes are part of Allerca?s ongoing growth. But David Avner, a former partner of Brodie, says he?s convinced that Brodie?s secretive behavior is all part of a fraudulent pattern, and hypoallergenic cats are no exception.

FALSE STARTS

Brodie began promising cats for people with allergies long before the hypoallergenic cat was discovered. His first attempt was in 2004, and the plan was to design them allergen-free. Making an allergen-free cat has been on the mind of Avner, an emergency room physician at Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, Colo., for over a decade. During the 1990s Avner worked in a lab at University of Virginia, trying to find a way to reduce the presence of Fel d 1. After testing over-the-counter products and bathing cats, he concluded that no effective method was available to get rid of the allergen. (Cats secrete Fel d 1 through their sebaceous glands and squamous epithelial cells and spread it through their fur during grooming. 5 Cat allergen is one of the most common allergens, found in nearly all US homes. 6 )

?That?s when I came up with the idea for genetic modifications to make an allergy-free cat,? says Avner. ?I said, why don?t we just turn off the gene that makes the allergen altogether?? But to launch his idea, Avner would need financial backing.

According to Avner, Simon Brodie approached him with a deal: Avner would set up a lab and Brodie would provide the capital. In 2004 the two men agreed to set up a company called Allerca and start working on knocking out a gene for Fel d 1. But before the first gene could be silenced, Brodie pulled out of the deal. ?Within two weeks he basically took everything and claimed it was his own,? says Avner. ?He took all of our business plans, marketing, and filed his own papers to create his own company with the same name and everything.?

On October 26, 2004, Brodie incorporated Allerca with the California Secretary of State, and shortly after that, Avner took Brodie to court. The judge ruled in Avner?s favor, and enjoined Brodie from developing and marketing Fel d 1 knockout cats until May 31, 2006. But, Brodie claimed to have found an easier way to produce hypoallergenic cats. One week after the injunction lifted, Allerca distributed a press release that the company was able to selectively breed, not clone, cats that don?t stimulate the human immune system.

Avner says he thinks it?s all a scam. ?I don?t believe they exist,? says Avner, who is still seeking funding to launch his allergen-free cat research. ?It?s not a grudge. Their science is unsupported. Their claims are unsupported.?

PROOF IS IN THE PETS

Brodie says not to expect any peer-reviewed papers or patents on Allerca?s discoveries. His reasons are twofold. ?Coca-Cola doesn?t publish its secret recipe,? he explains. With interested customers in 85 countries, Brodie says he wants to protect the international market and keep the information on the cats? mutation and their screening process proprietary. ?We have something special here and we want to keep it confidential.? Brodie?s other reason stems from the death threats Allerca says it receives each week from animal activists. ?Our biggest concern is security. ... The more intelligent people out there realize it?s dangerous [work].?

Brodie says he understands there are doubters, particularly in the scientific community. But with the first round of kittens planned for delivery in the next several months, Brodie says the truth about the cats will become apparent. ?The proof is going to be that customers [with allergies] will have these cats and will be living with them. And that is the proof. We can provide every piece of scientific evidence and there will still be doubt.?

UCLA?s Saxon sees only one reason why Allerca should keep data from the public. ?If they haven?t published, why? Because it didn?t work?? he asks. ?I?m all for a hypoallergenic cat, but I?m not buying one yet.?

 

References

1. S.J. Arbes, Jr. et al., ?Prevalences of positive skin test responses to 10 common allergens in the US population: results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey,? J Allergy Clin Immunol, 116:377-83, 2005.

2. M.C. Anderson, H. Baer, ?Allergenically active components of cat allergen extracts,? J Immunol, 137:972-5, 1981.

3. I.J. Griffith et al., ?Expression and genomic structure of the genes encoding Fd1, the major allergen from the domestic cat,? Gene, 113:263-8, 1992.

4. T. Saarne et al., ?Rational design of hypoallergens applied to the major cat allergen Fel d 1,? Clin Exp Allergy, 35:657-63, 2005.

5. P. Mata et al., ?Fel d 1 allergen-skin or saliva,? Annal Allergy, 69:321-2, 1992.

6. S.J. Arbes et al., ?Dog allergen (Can f 1) and cat allergen (Fel d 1) in US homes: results from the National Survey of Lead and Allergens in Housing,? J Allergy Clin Immunol, 114:111, 2004.

7. J.P. Morgenstern et al., ?Amino acid sequence of Fel dI, the major allergen of the domestic cat: protein sequence analysis and cDNA cloning,? Proc Natl Acad Sci, 88:9690-4, 1991.

8. O.A. Duffort et al., ?Studies on the biochemical structure of the major cat allergen Felis domesticus I,? Mol Immunol, 28:301-9, 1991.

9. K. Leitermann, J.L. Ohman, ?Cat allergen 1: biochemical, antigenic, and allergenic properties,? J Allergy Clin Immunol, 74:147-53, 1984.



                                  PART 2

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  THE MURKY BACKGROUND OF THE ASHERA AND ALLERCA

SOURCE: Messy Beast, USA

AUTHOR: 

URL:    http://www.messybeast.com/asheras.htm

DATE:   01.09.2008

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THE MURKY BACKGROUND OF THE ASHERA AND ALLERCA

The ?Ashera? Serval hybrid recently appeared in the media as an exotic pet with a premium price tag. The Ashera is a marketing, rather than breeding, venture and its creator is a convicted fraudster with a history of leaving other people out of pocket. Both the Ashera and his previous invention, the hypoallergenic Allerca cat, fit into his pattern of persuading people to part with large amounts of money up-front for franchises and hyped products that appear too good to be true. His several pet-related schemes, though hyped in his companies? press releases, have attracted adverse media and legal attention.

This webpage collates information from multiple sources, published and personal. For detailed press reports about Simon Brodie and his companies: [see links at the web page]

CAT BREEDER OR CON ARTIST?

Simon Brodie, the Ashera?s creator is also creator of Allerca hypoallergenic cats so this article references both ?breeds? (or rather both ?products? since they are commodities produced by companies). He was convicted and jailed in the UK for false accounting relating to one of his franchise schemes. Court records in the US show a string of financial offences and unpaid debts. He has left behind thousands of dollars in debts and defaulted loans, court judgments, liens, evictions and unpaid employees.

There is also the issue of Brodie?s appropriation of other people?s ideas and material. In 2001, Brodie was a potential investor in Transgenic Pets LLC who aimed to remove the allergen-producing Fel d1 gene from cats. Brodie dropped out and the founder of Transgenic Pets LLC later sued him alleging Brodie had kept the company?s confidential material. Brodie later produced hypoallergenic cats. More recently he failed to obtain Savannah (serval hybrid) breeding stock by deception. He later launched a product that copies the Savannah, using photos of servals without permission of the copyright owner.

The claims of genetic techniques surrounding both the Allerca and Ashera cats have not been peer reviewed or independently verified. The secrecy and refusal to submit data for peer review (citing proprietary information) makes it likely the claims would not stand up to independent scientific scrutiny. Without such verification, they are claims on a par with the pseudo-science of beauty product adverts.

WOULD YOU GIVE THIS MAN YOUR MONEY?

Brodie?s vanished companies include ones to create the world?s most powerful computer processor and one to create a national Wi-Fi network. Other Brodie-owned or affiliated companies followed, including Integra Associates, Cerentis Broadcasting Co., Samba Wireless, Geneticas Life Sciences, ForeverPet, Genetiate, GeneSentinel, Cyntegra and Allerca.

His ventures have left behind debts, court judgments, liens, and unpaid employees, according to court records and statements from former associates and victims while Brodie enjoys the high life (such a Lambourghini funded by Cloudhoppers). He claims to have created and sold several successful private companies and start-ups and blamed the failures on lack of investor funding and on the activities of rival companies.

1994, England: Brodie is convicted in the UK of 7 counts of false accounting. He was given a 2.5 years jail sentence for his part in Cloudhoppers, a failed hot air balloon-flight business in East Sussex. It offered franchises for £200,000 pounds each and collapsed in 1992 leaving people out of pocket and owing £214,000 to banks. He claimed in 1992 news reports The Argus) to have grossed £1 million in the first year with ambitions to expand to a £50 million concern in the USA. Brodie announced the sale of Cloudhoppers, claimed to be the largest ballooning company in the world despite having only only 2 balloons, for £4 million. He continued to take bookings for expensive balloon flights even after the Civil Aviation Authority revoked his company?s license to fly. After serving less 1 year in jail, he left Britain and went to the USA where court records show a string of financial offences and unpaid debts.

1999, Delaware, USA. Brodie founded Cerentis LLC. One of Cerentis? products was software training packages. Customers bought a $50,000 package and expected to be employed after training. According The Boston Globe (July 2007), one British customer was trained at California-based Alphalogix in 1999, but Brodie vanished before the 3 week course was completed and the promised job did not materialise. Computer Weekly and found Integra clients struggling to pay off huge debts for the exorbitant course fees. LA County court records show Alphalogix were owed $30,600 by Brodie who denies having ever heard of Alphalogix.

September 1999, New York. Cerentis proposes to use the web to create ?the world?s most powerful computer processor.? Set-up in the same way as the nonprofit SETI At Home project, Cerentis? Terra One venture would process data for clients, but would charge for the service. The Cerentis news release stated ?in association with the biggest and best online retailers,? such as Amazon.com and Dell, in which users would build up credits that could be used to make purchases at online stores. Amazon.com and Dell have never had any association with either Cerentis or Brodie. Cerentis? mailing address was Brodie?s New York home address. Cerentis owes more than $50,000 in state taxes and has numerous liens against it.

1999: Brodie and 2 Brodie-affiliated companies, Cerentis and Integra Associates, defaulted on a $72,280 promissory note.

October 2004: Allerca set up in California and announces plans to genetically engineer allergen-free cats. It takes deposits to reserve cats in advance of their creation.

December 2004: Colorado-based Transgenic Pets LLC sue Allerca and Brodie for allegedly stealing trade secrets and business plans. Brodie, representing Florida-based Geneticas Life Sciences, had posed as a potential investor in Transgenic Pets. He signed a nondisclosure agreement in order to view confidential information. In Sept 2004 he had signed articles of incorporation to create Allerca, with Transgenic founder David Avner as its president and agreed to invest $2.5 million in the new company, but in October he told Avner he and Geneticas would not participate. Instead, he incorporated Allerca in California and issued a press release about hypoallergenic cats.

2005: Brodie?s Los Angeles landlords win a judgment against Brodie for failure to pay his rent. Brodie tries to raise $500,000 to fund a San Diego animal diagnostics company, GeneSentinel (owned by Allerca), of which he was chairman, president and CEO although the company assets were only $3,000 and its debts were $200,000! GeneSentinel plans create tests to screen animal samples for genetic mutations. They have extensive discussions with Minneapolis-based Fair Isaac Corp regarding the development of a similar product using Fair Isaac technology. Negotiations break off in June 2005. Fair Isaac inform Allerca that any attempt to move ahead with an alternative technology would result in legal action if Fair Isaac believes Allerca is using or disclosing Fair Isaac?s confidential information. Gene Sentinel becomes Cyntegra.

January 2006: Brodie and Allerca were sued for defaulting on a $25,000 loan. February 2006: Allerca was evicted from its San Diego HQ, which was also Brodie?s home, for failing to pay the rent.

March 2006: Novartis Animal Health, makers of Sentinel pet medicines, sues GeneSentinel, Allerca and Brodie, for infringement of Novartis? Sentinel trademark and cyberpiracy. Brodie sells his stake in Allerca to an unidentified investment group, but remains a consultant.

April 2006: Novartis is granted a permanent injunction against Brodie and his companies. Around the same time, GeneSentinel lays off several employees, who are owed thousands of dollars in unpaid wages, and becomes Cyntegra. Cyntegra, with Brodie as CEO, becomes embroiled in legal action against IDEXX Laboratories over diagnostics for early detection of bird flu.

November 2006: California?s Department of Corporations orders Brodie and Allerca to ?desist and refrain? from offering or selling franchises until they are registered with the state.

February 2007: Brodie has a $285,000 federal tax lien placed against him by the Internal Revenue Service.

August 2007: Itchmo revealed that Brodie is the CEO of a company that owns pet-timeshare service Flexpetz. Brodie was CEO of Tetros Inc, which was purchased by ColdStar Capital in April 2007. A few days later, Flexpetz issued a press release describing itself as a wholly owned subsidiary of Tetros, who are both owned by ColdStar Capital. ColdStar is based out of the Cayman Islands. Brodie denied having any knowledge about ColdStar Capital, but retracted his denial when confronted with the SEC filing that listed him as CEO of Tetros Inc.

June 2008: Ashera cats exported to The Netherlands DNA tested and prove to be Savannahs bred by Chris Shirk, Pennsylvania. Brodie changes name to Simon Carradan and now in Big Sky, Montana; sets up Carradan Skis claims to produce a unique brand of ski designed and crafted using a proprietary blend of materials never before seen in a ski. Deposits are taken from customers 6 months in advance, actual product appers non-existent. Brodie claimed the name change was to protect himself from radical elements opposed to Ashera/Allerca/FlexPetz. Carradan skis uses same mailing address as Flexpetz. His partner and front-woman in Carradan Skis and Flexpetz ventures is Marlena Cervantes (the pair appear to be more than just business partners). As with previous ventures, the address is just an office and there is no actual street address.

Brodie has a habit of denying involvement with companies in spite of listings and court records that link him with those companies. Some victims of past schemes already term Brodie a con-man and his companies as smoke and mirrors with no actual substance.. With this history of fraud, untruthfulness and companies that vanish, would you give this man your money?

FRANCHISES OR FRAUD?

In 1983/4 I worked for an estate agent that sold franchises. The managing director found it an easy way to make money. ?Branches? paid to set up an office and use the name and the logo and, supposedly, the ?image?. Head Office got the franchise money and a percentage on any sales made by franchisees. Whenever a franchisee went bust this was blamed on the individual and the territory was franchised to someone else. Regardless of the franchises that failed, Head Office made money. After leaving the company I discovered they had deducted tax and National Insurance from my wages (wage slips proved this) but not paid the deductions to the Inland Revenue or state pension. In certain hands, franchises are a way of making easy money at the expense of franchisees who find there is no real product for them to sell.

In October 2006, the Sand Diego Union Tribune reported that San Diego-based Allerca (claiming to have hypoallergenic cats) was offering franchises at $45,000 a territory. Coverage by major news agencies including NBC, CBS and The New York Times meant business was so brisk Allerca had already filled its franchise quota.

Franchise experts and traditional breeders warn potential franchisees, already tempted to put down money, to be cautious. Not only are there concerns about the viability of a cat breeding franchise ? cat breeding is not actually a viable business - there is Brodie?s history of leaving investors out-of-pocket. Allerca, and now Lifestyle Pets, have little operational history and have a sketchy financial background. This does not augur well in the light of Brodie?s previous franchise operations.

In states such as California there are strict franchise laws. Allerca acted illegally in offering franchises in California because it prohibits the offer, never mind the sale, of a franchise until a franchise offering circular has been filed with and registered by the Department of Corporations. In spite of this, Allerca promoted franchises on its website and in emails to Californians without registering with the Department of Corporations.

Allerca?s claimed the promotions and emails only sought ?expressions of interest? from potential business partners and that no payments would be accepted from potential franchisees in affected states until after official paperwork had been registered. The San Diego Union-Tribune contacted Allerca about its franchise marketing. The following day, Allerca changed its website (apparently following legal advice), removing a statement that it was ?currently accepting expressions of interest for franchise territories available in the USA and internationally?, removing a ?Franchise Program Interest? link giving contact information for interested franchisees and removing a statement that an Allerca representative would contact interested parties to further discuss the franchise programme.

In spite of this apparent compliance with franchise laws, emails from Allerca and Brodie to prospective franchisees suggested the franchise programs were fairly advanced: the franchise in hypoallergenic cats was closed ?due to high demand? and Allerca was ?no longer accepting provisional applications.? Instead, Allerca (now Lifestyle Pets) was accepting applications for its upcoming Ashera franchise!

In spite of Californian franchise laws, Brodie had emailed a prospective Californian franchisee stating the ?base (franchise) price of $45,000 will increase as territories become allocated, providing a price benefit to early purchasers? and that franchisees would receive ?sales commission of up to 35 percent on each sale and also receives either a hypoallergenic or Ashera kitten.? The emails further encouraged applications from Californian contacts by stating ?a number of territories have already been reserved so we cannot guarantee availability in your area.? (San Diego Union-Tribune, October 2006)

In November 2006, California?s Department of Corporations ordered Brodie and Allerca to ?desist and refrain? from offering or selling franchises until they were registered with the state. The images of proposed Ashera-type cats sent to prospective franchisees were images of wild servals taken from a wildlife photographer?s website without permission.

There are successful franchises in the pet care field, but they are related to veterinary services, grooming services and pet product, not to breeding. Cat breeding to conform to breed standards and ensure health is, ultimately, a labour of love rather than a profitable pursuit. Animal breeding franchises could be tantamout to kitten-farming (kitty-mills) and has already Allerca/Lifestyle Pets? breeds being termed ?McKitties? (McDonalds fast food empire is a famous franchise operation equated with bulk turnover and low prices/wages).

Allerca/Lifestyle Pets, like Brodie?s previous companies, is very good at promoting franchises, but are those franchises actually worth anything? Probably not, considering possible legislation changes. Hybrid cats such as Savannahs, and therefore also Asheras, are already illegal in some US states and/or counties. Serval hybrids, except those several generations removed from the serval parent, are either not permitted in some European countries or the prospective owners require a wild animal licence (Asheras, as described by Brodie, are F2 generation ? i.e. the serval is a grandparent). Some US legislatures may place further bans or curbs on ownership of wild/domestic cat hybrids. This would make it illegal to own or sell Asheras in those areas. Franchisees might pay non-refundable money to Lifestyle Pets without realising they can neither breed nor sell the cats.

A previous cat breeding franchise was set up by Ann Baker (Ragdoll cats) and ran from 1969 to 1976. It failed to provide a long-term source of income and failed to completely control the breeding of the cats. Cat breeding, except to supply research laboratories (we?re talking animal experimentation/vivisection here), just isn?t a sound business model.

HYPO-ALLERGENIC OR JUST HYPE?

Brodie was behind Allerca whose claimed hypoallergenic cat (the work wasn?t peer-reviewed) was to be bred through a franchise operation. The origin of the cats and the business is murky.

In 2001, Denver doctor David Avner founded Transgenic Pets LLC with the aim of removing the allergen-producing Fel d1 gene. Brodie was a potential investor in Transgenic Pets LLC and spoke to Dr Avner about the project. Ultimately Brodie never invested in Transgenic Pets LLC . Avner sued, alleging Brodie had kept the company?s confidential material. The appropriation of information/material is later echoed in Brodie?s ?undercover? attempts to obtain Savannah cat breeding stock.

Avner and Brodie settled the case in February 2005. Brodie agreed not to enter the genetically engineered hypoallergenic cat market prior to June 2006. According to The Boston Globe in July 2007, Brodie claimed a scientist, whose name he claimed to be unable to remember, told him that some cats had a naturally mutated Fel d1 gene and produced less allergen. He said another person, whose name he would not reveal, gave him some of those cats and these became Allerca?s breeding stock. The Allerca kittens are tested for their Fel d1 levels before being delivered. The prospective owner and the new home must also undergo FDA-approved allergen tests to establish a baseline for any pre-existing allergens in the environment. If that baseline exceeds a threshold level then the individual will not get the cat on the grounds that they might not cope with the cat?s low level of allergens on top of the environmental allergens. By July 2007, Allerca Lifestyle Pets, claimed to have sold 24 h
 ypoallergenic cats in North America.

According to Allerca?s Megan Young (National Geographic, 2006), researchers used genetic sequencing to identify natural variations in the genetic code of the allergen and selectively bred cats to express this protein at a lower molecular weight that was less likely to trigger an allergic reaction in susceptible humans. Also according to Young, Allerca had previously pursued genetic modification until 2005, but researchers ran into challenges silencing the allergen-producing gene. At that point they switched to genetic testing to focus on less potent versions of the allergen. A division of Transgenic Pets (who sued Brodie for keeping their proprietary information) was still exploring the genetic modification option in 2006. The role of the Fel d1 gene is not fully understood; silencing or removing it could have damaging side-effects.

Breeders of Siberian cats point out their naturally occurring breed has the same low- allergy qualities, at a fraction of the Allerca cat?s $3,950 price-tag and free of hype. Siberians can be bred without franchise agreements. Allerca hypoallergenic cats can take up to two years to be delivered (payment in advance). Siberian breeders list their kittens in cat magazines.

Cat geneticists and allergists in the USA are unconvinced of Allerca?s claims. Allerca refuses to release any scientific data for independent review. It has not published its data in peer-reviewed journals, but continues to use genetic claims in its advertising. It claims the data is proprietary information. Were it genuine research, the company would have nothing to hide.

Cat geneticists say the claim is feasible, but fairly unlikely. According to Leslie Lyons, an assistant professor in the school of veterinary medicine at the University of California, it would be possible to use empirical data to identify hypoallergenic/low-allergen cats (such as Siberians) and develop a hypoallergenic breed in as little as one or two crosses. However, Brodie?s refusal to document the science, publish it in a journal or have it independently reviewed makes his claims dubious. It is probable they would not stand up to scientific scrutiny. Brodie?s statement in the Boston Globe, July 2007 was ?Geneticists are not our customers.?

Although Time Magazine called the hypoallergenic cat one of the best inventions of 2006, the refusal to have the science independently confirmed suggests it is snake oil ? or a repackaged Siberian with an inflated price. Allerca consistently refuse to discuss where the company or breeding facility are located or how many people are employed.

Megan Young, Allerca?s CEO, claims human-exposure trials conducted by Allerca and an independent lab found that known cat-allergy sufferers, ranging from mildly to highly allergic, had no adverse reactions to the claimed hypoallergenic cats. In 2006, she claimed that Allerca plans to submit its findings for publication in a peer-reviewed journal in early 2007, yet by 2008 Allerca still had not submitted data for review and currently refuse to do so.

Scientists say they need to know more before they would recommend that anyone buy these cats. Dr Dale Umetsu, allergist and immunologist at Harvard Medical School and Children?s Hospital Boston, contacted Allerca, asking to study the hypoallergenic cats and perhaps publish an article about its work. Allerca refused to submit to a study. Dr. Andrew Saxon, allergist and professor of medicine at UCLA will not believe Allerca?s claims until he sees the raw data. He told the Boston Globe ?This is just a business claim. A real company would show the data.? (Boston Globe, July 2007)

Allerca?s alleged work in creating genetically hypoallergenic cats has not been peer reviewed nor published in scientific journals; the raw data was not made available for scientific scrutiny or independent verification and yet the company issued glowing press releases based on these unverified claims. In addition to its claims related to a hypoallergenic cat, it claims to be genetically screening the Ashera for size and pattern.

Brigitte Cowell, a qualified microbiologist, noted that Brodie must have remarkable luck in to have located first genetic markers for hypoallergenic qualities and then located markers for size and pattern. If these markers have genuinely been discovered then the company would have nothing to hide. Otherwise these claims are probably no more valid than those of genetic manipulation that surrounded Ann Baker?s Ragdoll cat (also a franchise operation).

Note: In Denver, the Colorado-based Felix Pets (a division of New York-based Transgenic Pets LLC who sued Allerca), is trying to produce hypoallergenic cats using direct cellular modification. At the single cell stage of embryo development (just after fertilization) the DNA can be modified to remove or suppress the gene that produces the Fel d 1 protein. According to president David Avner, the genetically modified cell can be injected into a surrogate mother to create an allergen-free kitten. He claims this is quicker than screening cats for their allergen producing genes and selectively breeding them (which could take decades to properly eliminate the allergen-producing gene). This is much like breeding ?knockout mice? in labs and would produce consistently allergen-free kittens. presumably these could then be bred together in the conventional way.

Avner hoped to have transgenic allergen-free cats ready for the market by 2008. They would initially be expensive, but the price was expected to fall to around $800 - $1,000. However, no-one yet knows what side-effects (possibly damaging) silencing or removing the Fel d1 gene would have on the cats. Duane Kraemer (professor of veterinary physiology and pharmacology, Texas A&M University in College Station) the owner of cloned cat ?CC? says the only way to find out is to create knockout cats in the lab and see how they manage without the gene. In addition, there is a low success rate in implanting embryos into surrogate mothers.

A NOT-SO HYPO-ALLERGENIC KITTEN

It could prove equally difficult to get money back on a cat that does not live up to the hypo-allergenic guarantee. Allerca could use the get-out clause that the purchaser?s allergy was not to Fel d1, but was to another protein and therefore the cat is hypoallergenic for Fel d1 as advertised. This makes it the purchaser?s fault, not Allerca?s fault and they can refuse to have the kitten back or to refund the full price.

One Allerca customer paid for ?premium placement? on an Allerca kitten in September 2007 with a promised delivery for Spring 2008. At then, Allerca had discontinued the environmental allergy tests. The purchaser had no communication from Allerca since making the payment and emailed and phone continually between April and August 2After several promises of kittens for September and october 2008 delivery, which didn?t materialise, they were offered a kitten forimmediate November delivery, with no choice as to gender or colour.

The kitten had rough fur on its back. This could indicate be a hidden mutation surfacing through inbreeding from a very small foundation stock or attempts to widen the gene pool using supposedly hypoallergenic rexes. Worse, the kitten caused a severe and immediate allergic reaction! In other words, it was not at all hypoallergenic. Allerca claimed the allergy sufferer had a rare reaction to one of the minor proteins and not to the usual allergy-causing Fel d1 protein. It would be interesting to see if the kitten triggers allergies in people known to be allergic to Fel d1.

According to the purchaser, Allerca promised to arrange an immediate return, but over a week later, the buyer was left with a kitten which caused a severe reaction. This raised the question of whether Allerca would ever take back the not-so hypo-allergenic kitten and provide a refund for thousands of dollars. If Allerca don?t reclaim the kitten in a timely manner, the purchaser has no option but to dispose of it in another way - rehome it or relinquish it to a shelter. However much it originally cost, it is just one more homeless kitten and it may be against a clause the purchase contract to resell it as hypo-allergenic (or even to rehome it without permission!). This would leave the purchaser out-of-pocket.

If the kitten isn?t collected and money proves irretrievable, one very good option would be to relinquish it to a university veterinary facility who can analyse whether it really does have a mutated Fel d1 gene and even whether it is a rebadged Siberian cat. Since Allerca consistently refuse to submit information to verify their claims, this would allow the matter to be settled by submitting an Allerca kitten for scrutiny (after which it would be rehomed to somewhere its progress could be followed). If it turns out to have normal Fel d1 (or to cause a reaction in other cat allergy sufferers), this invalidates Allerca?s claims.

It would be interesting to find out how many more owners are turning out to be allergic to these supposedly hypo-allergenic cats. The size of the gene pool is also a concern - if it?s derived from only a few cats then inbreeding could cause small litter size due to poor fertility and also cause a poor immune system. There?s also the risk of breeding the foundation animals too frequently to keep up with orders. If new blood is introduced i.e. an outcross (to increase output/combat inbreeding), it would be necessary to screen the offspring to see if they have a normal gene from the outcross of a mutant gene from the foundation stock.

REPACKAGING THE SAVANNAH

In October 2006, the Sand Diego Union Tribune reported that Brodie?s company was launching the Ashera franchise ($45,000 each) in March 2007. Asheras would cost $6,000 each. Advance photos sent to prospective franchises were of African Servals. The Ashera, when unveiled, was not a Serval lookalike, but was a repackaging of an existing hybrid breed called the Savannah.

The serval photos used in the emails were owned by photographer Tim Knight and taken from his website without permission. Savannah breeders say that the cat once depicted on Lifestyle Pets site was a Savannah though the site did not identify it as such. In fact Allerca/Lifestyle Pets refused to show pictures of the actual Ashera breed until the franchises had been launched ? in other words, franchisees were asked to pay for an unknown cat.

In press releases and interviews, Brodie says the Ashera is a serval crossed with an undisclosed type of purebred cat. The F1 hybrid females are then bred to another top-secret purebred and the F2 generation is the Ashera. Elsewhere, Lifestyle Pets claimed to have merged two wild bloodlines. This merging of wild bloodlines had already been done by Savannah breeders who used the Bengal breed (Asian Leopard Cat hybrid) with servals. The undisclosed purebreds are widely believed to be Bengals (some Bengals contain Margay genes from foundation stock and have, therefore, already merged 2 wild bloodlines!).

Brodie initially attempted to obtain breeding Savannah (serval-hybrid) cats by deception. He ordered several breeding Savannah females from Chicago-based breeder Cynthia King in August 2006 using a false name of Campbell Francis from a company called Monsenco Capital. A San Diego man with a British accent wanted to buy between 5 and 7 F1 Savannah females that were proven breeders. The address used in the sale contract is also used on a US Patent and Trademark Office application covering the ?Ashera? name.

The man told King that his partner, Megan Young, whom he identified as a veterinarian, would be caring for the animals. Megan Young was Allerca?s chief executive officer and is not a vet. Campbell Francis/Simon Brodie promised the cheque ($7000 per proven breeder) was in the post, but he never delivered the money and never got the cats.

He admitted approaching Savannah breeders, using a false name, to buy breeding cats, but claimed the subterfuge was to ensure King didn?t hike the price if she knew he represented Allerca. He claimed his company?s cat breeding experts required the Savannahs in order to devise ?the right formula? for the Ashera. He also claimed he mistakenly (rather than fraudulently) identified Megan Young as a veterinarian. He further claimed the deal wasn?t closed because Allerca ultimately didn?t need the cats. So why did he keep claiming the cheque was in the post if he didn?t actually need the cats? Having failed to get Savannah foundation stock he then produced a much-hyped copycat serval hybrid intending to franchise it.

Brodie?s view is that Lifestyle Pets is not breeding Savannahs, so he doesn?t know what?s irritating them so much. What is irritating them is the fact he has copied the work of dedicated cat breeders in order to fleece people of large amounts of money (based on previous schemes there is no guarantee Lifestyle Pets will be around any longer than his other companies, so people who have paid up-front for cats or franchises may well find themselves out of pocket).

He claims the Ashera is aimed at people who would not otherwise consider cat ownership. He claims Lifestyle Pets? market research proves they would be interested in something large and unusual such as the 25 lb cat that has the size and markings of a small leopard. In other words, the Ashera is simply a marketable living commodity and a fashion accessory sold to people for whom an expensive fashion accessory is disposable when they are bored of it.

According to Brigitte Cowell (Kirembo Cattery, San Francisco) of the Savannah Cat Club in the USA, crossing a serval with any kind of domestic cat gives you a Savannah. It is obvious to her that Brodie is breeding Savannahs and calling them by a different name. Lifestyle Pets are repackaging the Savannah breed (or F2 generation Savannahs), surrounding it with dubious genetic claims and putting a big price tag on it.

Brodie claims his company uses genetic markers to scientifically predict an Ashera kitten?s size and markings in adulthood, something breeders can only guess at and something no recognised scientific laboratory has claimed to do. He also says he can cut corners with breeding to servals by using artificial insemination, ensuring the parents don?t physically need to meet and the serval sire doesn?t have to be raised alongside domestic cats.

Brodie said his company used unspecified ?genetic techniques? and artificial insemination to combine components of three breeds to create the Ashera. While it may look similar to a Savannah and has serval genes, he claims it isn?t a Savannah. Lorre Smith, author of ?The Savannah Cat Book? and Savannah breed chairman of TICA stated that any serval-domestic hybrid is a Savannah and that servals were widely available in the USA. Cynthia King (Kasbah Cattery) said ?Anything that comes out of a serval that is hybrid of any kind is basically a Savannah. Period.?

Brigitte Cowell has a degree in microbiology and knows what she is talking about. She has stated that Brodie has ?remarkable luck in first locating genes for hypoallergenic qualities in the Allerca cats, then finding markers for genes controlling patterning and size in Asheras.? The fact none of this has been published in peer-reviewed journals casts serious doubts on these claims ? without evidence (which Brodie claims is proprietary information) it is just advertising puff that gullible people will swallow. Cowell found the claims of artificial insemination ?fascinating? because not many people have achieved kittens. ?He?s doing a lot of firsts, I guess.? In fact he?s claiming a suspicious number of firsts: hypoallergenic cats, artificial insemination, genetic markers for size and pattern ? all of it unsubstantiated. Experienced scientists working with endangered cat species don?t claim a high success rates with artificial insemination, yet a non-scientist with a long histo
 ry of fraud and deception claims a higher success rate. Independent reviewers know which one of those they would sooner believe!

Brodie, though denying it has directly copied Savannah, having first failed to acquire actual Savannahs, and is charging over-the-odds for them based on hype. Meanwhile, he dismissed Savannahs as being a cross between a serval and any old domestic cat ? yet he resorted to deception in his attempts to buy proven F1 Savannah breeding stock. Unlike the Savannah, the copycat Ashera is not eligible for registration or exhibition; this ineligibility is one of the factors that cause Ragdoll franchisees to break away from Baker?s scheme in the 1970s.

In June 2008 it was confirmed that Asheras were Savannahs. On 17th January 2008, Dutch customs officials at Schiphol Airport confiscated 3 Ashera kittens imported into the Netherlands as the cats might violate the CITES treaty that forbids the sale or trade of protected species and their offspring. One cat had been bought by a Dutch couple for 27,000 euros ($40,000) and the other 2 were in transit via the Netherlands. US cat breeder Chris Shirk identified the 3 seized cats as F1 Savannahs (first generation serval x domestic hybrid) bought from his Pennsylvania-based Cutting Edge Cats cattery for $5,000 - $6,500 and being resold as Asheras for many times that price. LifeStyle Pets/Simon Brodie would not respond to Dutch authorities? telephone calls or emails about either the seizure or the allegations of reselling F1 Savannahs.

Shirk identified the cats from photos printed in the Dutch press. One of the photos printed in the Dutch media was Shirk?s own online advertising photo (Brodie has previously used serval and Savannah images on his website). Shirk had sold 3 young F1 male Savannahs to Martin Stucki of Oklahoma-based A1 Savannahs, shipping them by air on 11th January 2008. Stucki also refused to answer questions about whom he sold the 3 F1 Savannahs to, but said the buyer did not identify themselves as Brodie (Brodie has previously used other names in when trying to buy Savannah cats). However, he confirmed that Brodie had contacted him in 2007 about purchasing a number of Savannahs. Shirk filed a claim with Dutch authorities to reclaim the cats and provided their pedigree documentation, photos to prove their lineage (and highlight the fraud) and blood samples from the parents of the 3 cats he identified as bred by him. Chicago-based Savannah breeder Cynthia King, also identified photos as bein
 g photos of one of Shirk?s Savannah cats.

US Fish and Wildlife supervised the taking of blood samples from Shirk?s cats. These went directly from the vet surgery to the Dutch Netherlands government. The forensics labs confirmed the DNA tests on the seized ?Ashera? kittens showed all 3 to be F1 Savannahs bred by Shirk from a serval and Egyptian Mauowned by Shirk. The cats exported as ?Asheras? by Brodie?s Lifestyle Pets were Savannahs sold on to unsuspecting buyers for a huge profit. The results were made public in June 2008. In that month, Brodie assumed the name Simon Cadarran, moved to Big Sky, Montana and set up a luxury ski business.

CUT AND RUN?

During August 2008, Andrea Gawrylewski, an editor at The Scientist received announcements from Allerca that the cats would be doubling in price. The Allerca would go from $5,950 to $7,900 in September and to $15,000 in November. The Chakan (a variant of the Siamese) would go from $10,900 to $22,750 and the Ashera from $31,000 to $47,000 despite DNA tests in June that proved the cats were another breeder?s Savannahs being resold by the company.

According to the press releases, the boost in international sales and booming demand has raised its production costs. The Scientist tried to find out more and called the LifeStyle Pets (Allerca?s parent company) public relations phone number. The number is not in service. They emailed Brodie directly, but received no response. They phoned the company headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware and left a voicemail, but the company did not respond. Other extensions on their phone line, including sales and customer service ended up at an automated voicemail box. Perhaps after the embarrassment of the DNA tests, the company has raised prices to deter new custom and is no longer answering calls, especially with Brodie now calling himself Cadarran and running a luxury ski venture in Montana.

The Chakan (Thai word for ?lithe?) is Allerca?s alleged hypoallergenic Siamese-style cat derived from pedigree Siamese and Allerca crosses. Since the naturally low allergen Siberian occurs in pointed versions (Neva Masquerade) and some cat-allergy sufferers are able to tolerate Siamese cats, it certainly doesn?t take expensive genetic manipulation to get colourpointed low-allergen cats. It would appear that Siamese cats are also being resold to unsuspecting owners in the same way that Savannahs have been resold as Allercas.

REVOLUTIONISING CAT BREEDING?

Brodie claimed Allerca would revolutionise the ?cottage industry? of cat breeding by providing customers with higher levels of service, and by ensuring a consistent product. However, his previous companies failed to deliver on similar promises. The aftercare packages will be useless once Lifestyle Pets follows the Brodie trend and also vanishes. Ann Baker tried, and ultimately failed, to set up a cat breeding franchise scheme.

Cat breeding is not a ?cottage industry? as Brodie has claimed. Apart from kitten farms (kitty mills) it is not an industry at all and cat breeders do not exist to make profits. Anyone who believes cat breeding to be a profitable industry does not understand the aims of reputable breeders. Brodie claims Allerca and Ashera kittens are cared for by vets, fully socialized, and spayed and neutered before going to their new homes. Franchisees will apparently turn down customers who don?t check out and will accept unwanted cats back and place them in adoptive homes. The neutering is arguably as to control ?copycats? rather than concern for animal overpopulation, even though the hypoallergenic cat is a copycat of the naturally low allergen Siberian and the Ashera is a Savannah copycat.

In fact, a cat breeding franchise is neither new nor revolutionary. Ragdoll originator Ann Baker, businesswoman first and cat breeder second , franchised the Ragdoll breed in 1969. Like Brodie, she surrounded her breed in unusual claims including one of genetic manipulation and hype such as immunity to pain. Baker wanted to totally control the breed and believed a franchise operation would provide a lifetime source of income for her.

Baker issued an 8 page Franchise prospectus that included the following conditions: breeders of Ragdolls would be limited to one breeder per state and a 50 mile limit would hold regardless of state boundary lines; Ragdoll breeders would be limited to only 12 breeders in the world; the prices were set according to markings and ranged from $150.00 through to $275.00 for a show quality cat. The franchise cost $1500.00. The down-payment on a breeding pair was $500.00 (this tied up the territory against other applicants) and the full price for a breeding pair was $1000.00. Each kitten bred by a franchisee would mean $5.00 payable to Baker. The franchisees were encouraged to join Baker?s International Ragdoll Cat Association (IRCA) for $10.00.

In 1976, the franchising of Ragdolls ceased. It was expensive to run and required the services of an attorney. Breeders had already broken away from Baker?s scheme in order to get the cats on a sound footing as a breed. IRCA remained until Baker?s death and, like Brodie, IRCA launches new breeds such as the Honeybear and had 2 planned breeds called the Little American and the Catenoid. IRCA?s cats were not registrable with the major cat associations. After Baker?s death, IRCA Ragdolls were different enough to the more widely recognised Ragdoll that they were renamed RagaMuffins in order to be registrable in conventional cat fancies and for exhibition..

Franchises to sell hybrid cats are not revolutionery either. In 1975, Mr T Harrison Van Ard of San Bernadine claimed to have discovered a new breed of cat and was selling state franchises for $7,500 to unwary investors hoping to raise these felines. The ?new breed? were domestic x Asian Leopard Cat hybrids (the Bengal breed was not developed until later). The regional branch of the Long Island Ocelot Club, specialists in wild and hybrid pet cats, denounced the scheme as fraudulent and reported Van Ard to the Better Business Bureau, District Attorney, Attorney General and others. No more was heard of the scheme.

The franchising of cat breeding is not a viable proposition because there are many different breeds, some of which are superficially similar, and the market for any single breed is relatively small. Brodie?s Ashera may ultimately cause people to buy the cheaper, more widely available and practically identical Savannah.

SNAKE OIL

This individual is known to be good at promoting schemes that don?t deliver what is promised. He has multiple fraud convictions and was sued for cyberpiracy and for infringing a Novartis trademark. He used a wildlife photographer?s copyrighted photos to promote his own business. He allegedly kept data on hypoallergenic cats from a company after posing as a potential investor. He attempted to obtain Savannahs by deception and now sells Savannah copies. He offered breeding franchises in spite of state regulations on franchise registration and has a history of operations that left people out-of-pocket.

If you put down your money in advance, is there any guarantee of getting a cat or a franchise or will the current companies also vanish, leaving defaulted loans, debts and broken promises in their wake? Will the aftercare packages included in the Ashera?s price tag be valid in the long run or will this latest company also vanish, leaving franchisees out-of-pocket a and genuine breeders, cat lovers and cat rescue organisations to mop up in its wake?

To those who?d pay huge amounts to a person with such a dubious background and who is selling hyped copies of Savannahs and cats with scientifically unverified claims of being hypoallergenic the short conclusion is

?A fool and his money are easily parted.?


-----------------------------

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