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Below, is a list of commonly asked questions, if you don’t find the answers you are looking for, please contact us.

There is a wide range of applications for fetal bovine serum. The most important is in the field of biopharmaceuticals and vaccines.  It is used in the research, manufacture and control of human and veterinary vaccines and of drugs, many of which are at the cutting edge of drug development.
Fetal bovine serum is also used extensively in research. A technique known as "Cell culture" is widely applied in the manufacture of both vaccines and bio-pharmaceuticals in which bovine serum is broadly used. 

FBS is collected from the fetuses of pregnant cows, slaughtered in compliance with the OIE (World Animal Health Organization) guidelines and internationally accepted standards of veterinary inspection.

The OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) is an intergovernmental organization created in 1924. In 2011, the OIE totaled 178 Member Countries and Territories. Its missions are : 

  • to ensure transparency in the global animal disease situation
  • to collect, analyze and disseminate veterinary scientific information
  • to provide expertise and encourage international solidarity in the control of animal diseases 
  • to safeguard world trade by publishing health standards for international trade in animals and animal products
  • to improve the legal framework and resources of National Veterinary Services Organization

Given that the death of some pregnant animals is unavoidable, the fetus can be used to serve science, and generate jobs. This contribution benefits research and development and should not be underestimated.

The availability of FBS is diminishing. Meat and calf prices are increasing as consumers in some countries increase the consumption of beef; and as cattle breeding techniques are permanently improving. These combined factors lead to a reduced frequency of pregnant cows at slaughter. The collection of FBS in new countries has, for many years, compensated for the decrease in supply; but now there are no more new producer countries available. The present world supply of FBS is short and will continue decreasing.

The serum's origin has no influence on cell growth. Biowest has compared cell growth in FBS from seven different countries on three continents, and confirmed that regardless of the country of origin, all cell lines tested had the same average performance. One batch of FBS may work well for one specific cell line, but not for another. "Serum quality" is specific for each cell line. That is why testing of FBS is widely used when dealing with sensitive cell lines. Biowest performs the most extensive analysis of biochemical parameters and testing on cell lines in the industry, making available the results on the Certificates of Analysis

A huge price difference exists between countries classified as "FMD-Free-without-vaccination" for which demand exceeds supply, and countries listed as "FMD-Free-with-vaccination" where supply historically has exceeded demand. The price difference has been several hundred per cent, whereby serum users in the US have paid billions of USD more than serum users in the EU. Proposals from USDA to harmonize US and EU import rules for FBS relating to FMD (following OIE guidelines), have repeatedly been turned down by the US serum industry.

The serum's source is from a USDA Approved country. This means that serum is produced from blood collected in countries that have been approved by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to export ruminant serum products to the United States. Eligible countries that export fetal bovine serum into the U.S. include: Australia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, and Panama.

Australian FBS prices are higher because Australia is perceived to be a "safer" origin for BSE and cattle viruses. Canada and Australia were the first countries outside the USA where FBS was produced. In the 1980s, BSE cases that occurred in North America became a strong argument in favor of Australian FBS. The point was made that being "isolated", Australia was necessarily the most secure origin.

FBS Imports into the EU are less restricted than in the USA. A proposal made by USDA in 1994 to apply the same FBS import policies as the EU did not get support from the US FBS industry. The International Serum Industry Association (ISIA) supports efforts to harmonize import rules, suggesting compliance with the OIE recommendations. In the meantime, FBS in the USA remains more than twice as expensive as in Europe.