Genus*, a global pioneer in animal genetics, has announced the development of the first pigs resistant to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus ("PRRSv"), through a long-standing collaboration with the University of Missouri.
The production of PRRSv resistant pigs is a significant breakthrough in combating this devastating porcine disease, and Genus is excited to be progressing the development of this technology under an exclusive global license from the University of Missouri.
PRRSv is the most significant and harmful pig disease faced by many farmers, causing animal reproductive failure, reduced growth and premature death. Even though it has challenged the pork industry for more than 25 years, there is currently no cure for PRRSv. The technology has the potential to eliminate the disease impact on the animals, improve the well-being of pigs, and enhance pig farm productivity, which ultimately will help meet the global demand for pork products.
Using precise gene editing, the University of Missouri was able to breed pigs that do not produce a specific protein necessary for the virus to spread in the animals. The early stage studies conducted by the University demonstrate these PRRSv resistant pigs, when exposed to the virus, do not get sick and continue to gain weight normally. Genus will continue to develop this technology, and we expect it will be at least five years until PRRS resistant animals are available to farmers. Genus intends to commercialize the technology through PIC, its porcine division.
The university research results have been published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Nature Biotechnology, on December 7.
Speaking about this breakthrough, Dr Jonathan Lightner, Chief Scientific Officer and Head of R&D of Genus, said, "The demonstration of genetic resistance to the PRRS virus by gene editing is a potential game-changer for the pork industry. There are several critical challenges ahead as we develop and commercialize this technology; however, the promise is clear, and Genus is committed to developing its potential. Genus is dedicated to the responsible exploration of new innovations that benefit the well-being of animals, farmers, and ultimately consumers."
Dr Randall Prather, distinguished professor of animal sciences at the University of Missouri, said, "We are delighted to have been working with Genus and to have discovered a major breakthrough in tackling this devastating disease that causes suffering to so many animals around the world."
* Co-author Alan Mileham (Genus) chairs KTN's Animal Sector Advisory Board.
Story source: Genus press release, 8 Dec 2015
Journal reference: Kristin M Whitworth, Raymond R R Rowland, Catherine L Ewen, Benjamin R Trible, Maureen A Kerrigan, Ada G Cino-Ozuna, Melissa S Samuel, Jonathan E Lightner, David G McLaren, Alan J Mileham, Kevin D Wells & Randall S Prather. Gene-edited pigs are protected from porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus. Nature Biotechnology (2015). Published online 07 December 2015. doi:10.1038/nbt.3434