A team of researchers at the University of Missouri and global agricultural biotechnology company Genus and Kansas State University have developed pigs that are resistant to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus (“PRRSv”).
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.
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.”
Dr Randall Prather, professor of animal sciences at the University of Missouri, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources 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.”
“Once inside the pigs, PRRS needs some help to spread; it gets that help from a protein called CD163,” said Prather. “We were able to breed a litter of pigs that do not produce this protein, and as a result, the virus doesn’t spread. When we exposed the pigs to PRRS, they did not get sick and continued to gain weight normally.”