Many of you have probably seen the extremely popular T V series called the Big Bang Theory. One of the main characters, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, in one of the episodes experiments with some fish using a fluorescent gene to create a glow in the dark fish that he refers to as Sheldon’s fish night light. In fact, the idea for the development of GloFish originated with the company co-founder, Dr. Richard Crockett in 2001. During his undergraduate studies, Dr. Crockett learned about fluorescent protein marker genes.
Dr. Crockett was intrigued by the possibility of using these genes to develop fish with novel fluorescent colors without the use of injected dyes or hormones. Each fish would be born with its unique color, which would then be passed along to its offspring. In this way, marine coloration could be possible in a freshwater fish without any harm to the fish.
Having identified fish that could be sold to the ornamental fish market, they worked for nearly two years to exclusively to obtain the intellectual property rights to produce and market the fish.
The final step in the process was to be absolutely certain that the fish would be safe for the environment and for human health. In addition to the internal safety review, they painstakingly worked with distinguished scientists and multiple state and federal regulatory agencies.
GloFish are probably the most scrutinized fish to ever be sold in the ornamental fish marketplace. Regulatory jurisdiction for the fish in the United States is maintained by the FDA.
Given their novelty and media attention, it was often stated at the time of the launch that GloFish was no more than the latest industry craze. Predictions were made that it would be a “here-today, gone-tomorrow” sensation.
But, the fish are now among the most popular in the industry. This was not something that happened overnight, but instead over many years of diligently focusing on quality and building the brand. Perhaps the biggest boost came when they added the Electric Green and Sunburst Orange lines to the original Starfire Red. Now there is also Cosmic Blue and Galactic Purple. This allowed GloFish owners to create a “splash” of different colors in their aquarium.
They have been pleased to find interest in their fish from the educational community. In particular, they have received inquiries from a number of educators that were interested in the fish as a teaching tool to help students understand the scientific, ethical and regulatory aspects of biotechnology. They have recently posted a number of lesson plans on their website and think they will be valuable classroom resources.