Edinburgh University develops gene-edited pigs resistant to disease

Gene-edited pork could soon be made available to global markets, following an agreement between Edinburgh University’s Roslin Institute and animal genetics company Genus PLC.

Researchers at the university have produced pigs which can resist a respiratory disease affecting livestock worldwide.

Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) is one of the most expensive animal diseases in the world, with around £1.8 billion revenue lost each year in the US and Europe.

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The disease causes breathing problems and deaths in young animals and can result in pregnant sows losing their litters.

Researchers hope the agreement will lead to disease-resistant pigs.Researchers hope the agreement will lead to disease-resistant pigs.
Researchers hope the agreement will lead to disease-resistant pigs.

By editing the genetic code of the animals, researchers have been able to avoid the virus, which has not been conquered by vaccines.

The Roslin Institute, has now signed a licensing agreement with Genus, facilitated by Edinburgh University’s commercialisation service, Edinburgh Innovations.

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Genus will now continue planned work for testing multiple generations of pigs and conducting studies required for FDA approval.

Professor Bruce Whitelaw, Interim Director of the Roslin Institute and Dean of Innovation at the University’s College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, announced the agreement to mark 25 years after the Dolly the Sheep breakthrough.

He said: “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.”

Dr Elena Rice, Chief Scientific Officer at Genus PLC, said: “We have long and fruitful relationships with

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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 John Lonsdale, Head of Enterprise at Edinburgh Innovations, 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.”

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