July 13, 2021
Roslin Institute, Genus in agreement to produce disease-resistant pigs
The Roslin Institute and animal genetics company Genus have signed an agreement to produce pigs that are resistant to a respiratory disease which causes around $2.5 billion in losses each year in the United States and Europe alone.
Both parties hope the licensing agreement will lead the way to gene-edited, disease-resistant pigs being available to global pork-producing markets.
With the agreement — which is facilitated by Edinburgh Innovations, the University of Edinburgh's commercialisation service — Genus will continue planned work for testing multiple generations of pigs and conducting studies required for approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) causes breathing problems and deaths in young animals and can result in pregnant sows losing their litters.
Vaccines have mostly failed to stop the spread of the virus that causes PRRS, which is endemic in most pig-producing countries worldwide.
The Roslin Institute has produced pigs that can resist the disease by editing their genetic code. The research received funding from Genus and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
"Roslin is rightly recognised for pioneering animal biotechnology that enables genetic engineering of farmed animals. The strong, productive and durable partnership with Genus has been a key aspect in seeing academic endeavour translate to useful and useable translational projects for the livestock sector," Professor Bruce Whitelaw, interim director of the Roslin Institute and dean of innovation at the University's College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, said.
Project leaders say that by partnering with Genus, the Roslin Institute will benefit from its existing relationship with the FDA, insights into the pork sector, its established supply chain and its distribution channels in the world's biggest pig markets, including China, Europe and the United States.
"We have long and fruitful relationships with Roslin and admire the depth of Roslin's research and pioneering spirit. Together, we laid out the groundwork for combating PRRS, and Genus is working with the FDA to obtain approval for this technology," Dr. Elena Rice, chief scientific officer at Genus PLC, said.
"Animal health is a keystone of animal welfare as well as bringing benefits to food-producing economies and global food security. This highly specific edit to the animals to ensure disease resistance is a result of decades of work at Roslin, and we're delighted to be helping to improve animal welfare by bringing this technological breakthrough to market through this partnership with Genus," Dr John Lonsdale, head of enterprise at Edinburgh Innovations, said.
- The Roslin Institute