Research collaboration announced at conference

Tess Langfus

In a scientific effort to share research and knowledge in animal genomics, the University and three other research institutions have announced plans to form an alliance.
The private company, AniGenics, will retain commercial rights to any discoveries. Steve Niemi, president and CEO of the California-based company, made the announcement Monday at the International Society for Animal Genetics conference.
The University was selected by AniGenics because of its leading research in swine genomics.
Other alliance partners include: the University of Illinois, renowned for mapping the genes of livestock; the Roslin Institute of Scotland, known for the first successful sheep cloning; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat Animal Research Center.
The collaboration “provides an exchange of information between the leading institutions of the world,” said University animal science professor Larry Schook.
Members of the alliance will individually research the genomics of domestic animals in order to offer better products and better feed to the public.
The intention of the alliance, Niemi said, is not to conduct genetic engineering, but to “create the tools that will allow farmers and ranchers and producers to raise healthier and more productive animals for less money, resulting in higher quality and safer meat products.”
With simple blood tests or hair samples, these producers could decipher the DNA fingerprints of their livestock to determine which variance of a given gene the particular strain of animal has. The animals with the “right variance” of a given gene will most likely be chosen for selective breeding.
While the alliance’s research will not include human genetics, Niemi said some genes they discover in animals might be similar enough to human genes that it could eventually assist pharmaceutical companies to discover new drugs for human use.