Acceligen, a Recombinetics Inc. company, announced that it received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop bovine genetics optimized with traits desirable to smallholder dairy farmers.
The breeding program will contribute to more sustainable production by using traits that will increase farmer income and improve animal health for sub-Saharan Africa dairy systems.
Acceligen received the $3.68 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to deploy a suite of traits from their discovery pipeline into commercially important dairy animals with high genetic merit for production and durability.
Acceligen said this will be accomplished by gene editing multiple traits in a series of donor animals in the U.S. and Brazil. Primary traits include adaptation to tropical heat and milk yield, while traits for adaptations to local diseases and management preferences will also be added using input derived from smallholders. Complementary efforts are also in place to support regulatory review and other commercialization activities for these animals in target countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
"A critical part of this effort is to introduce multiple adaptation traits into the founder animals so that their hybrid progeny are fully functional in tropical environments," Acceligen chief executive officer and project lead Tad Sonstegard said, noting that native dairy animals, although typically well adapted to local environmental conditions, have undergone little or no selection for milk production.
"When we combine gene editing with top merit animals using advanced reproductive technologies from our partners Kheiron (Pilar, Argentina) and TransOva Genetics (Sioux Center, Iowa), we can make significant genetic improvement for well-adapted, high-yielding dairy cows. Our goal is to get these animals into the hands of smallholder farmers," Sonstegard added.
Currently, dairy animals in sub-Saharan Africa generally have a much higher ratio of greenhouse gas to animal protein output compared to breeds developed in the European Union and the U.S.
Sabreena Larson, Acceligen director of commercial operations, said, "By gene editing animals to be more sustainable and enable smallholder farmers to better provide for their families, this project exemplifies what Acceligen is really about. Acceligen is driven to implement the use of gene editing in livestock to increase animal welfare and sustainability while helping to improve the globe by reducing hunger and fighting climate change."
Founded in 2014, Acceligen is a leader in the global development, deployment and commercialization of precision animal breeding technologies.
Kheiron, a wholly owned subsidiary of Proinvesa Group, is a leading animal biotech company. Founded in 2012, Kheiron was initially focused on cloning of equine athletes but has now evolved into a broader platform that includes advanced reproductive technologies and precision breeding through gene editing of animal cells for welfare, production and regenerative human medicine.
Trans Ova Genetics, founded in 1980, offers advanced reproductive technologies to help breeders multiply the success of their elite cattle. These technologies include embryo transfer, in vitro fertilization, sex-sorted semen, as well as genetic preservation and cloning services. In addition to its headquarters in Sioux Center, Trans Ova Genetics has regional centers in Missouri, Maryland, Texas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, California, Washington and Wisconsin as well as multiple satellite stations throughout the U.S.