Uniting to fight disease in pigs

Researchers and commercial partners have signed an agreement to continue their collaboration on developing pigs resistant to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, a disease that costs the industry in excess of $2.5 billion in Europe and the US alone.

The Roslin Institute – which famously produced Dolly, the world’s first cloned sheep - and animal genetics company Genus hope the licensing agreement will lead the way to gene-edited, disease-resistant animals being available pig farmers across the globe.

With the signing of the agreement, facilitated by Edinburgh Innovations, the university’s commercialisation service, Genus will test multiple generations of pigs and press ahead with the studies required to gain approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) causes breathing problems and deaths in young animals and can result in pregnant sows losing their litters.

However, tests with the virus and the gene-edited pigs found that the animals did not become infected at all – and the researchers said that the animals showed no signs that the change in their DNA had any other impact on their health or wellbeing.

“Animal health is a keystone of animal welfare as well as bringing benefits to food-producing economies and global food security,” said Dr John Lonsdale, head of enterprise at Edinburgh Innovations.

“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.”

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