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Biotech Livestock Come of Age at BIO’s Livestock Biotech Summit

The genetic engineering of animals can produce animals that are resistant to deadly diseases, reduce their carbon footprint, and produce proteins used in human pharmaceuticals and other health therapies.  The field, still in its early stages a few years ago, has undergone some dramatic changes in the last several years.

For example, in June 2008, BIO released a report at its International Convention.  The report, Genetically Engineered Animals and Public Health – Compelling Benefits for Health Care, Nutrition, the Environment and Animal Welfare, discusses how GE animals enhance human health, food production, environmental protection, animal health and provide cutting-edge industrial applications.  Specifically it addressed the regulatory environment at the end of its executive summary stating,

“Today, there are more than two dozen drugs in development derived through the genetic engineering of farm animals, and numerous agricultural animal applications with beneficial environmental and husbandry attributes suitable for commercialization. But so far, the practical benefits of this technology have not reached American patients and consumers, owing to regulatory and political obstacles rather than scientific limitations. The public health benefits can only be realized when we create the regulatory framework for governing how these animals can provide human health, environmental and food and agricultural benefits. Establishing a predictable, rigorous, science-based regulatory pathway is essential if this technology is going to be allowed to deliver practical benefits in the areas that the science of genetic engineering of agricultural animals is now enabling.”

Then in September 2008 FDA released its draft regulatory guidance for genetically engineered animals and their products —a sign that the industry was maturing.  The final guidance was issued in January 2009.

“The publication of FDA’s regulatory guidance was a huge milestone,” says Dr. David Edwards, Director of Animal Biotechnology at BIO.

Now, to keep human health researchers, animal health researchers, regulators, drug and vaccine developers, biomedical device makers, animal disease model developers, and xenotransplantation specialists all on the same page, BIO is launching its first-ever Livestock Biotech Summit to be held September 28-30 at the Sioux Falls Convention Center in South Dakota.

The program will include a day and a half on the “Care of Livestock in Biomedical and Agricultural  Research” and another day and a half on “Genetic Engineering of Ag Animals-Bridging to New Technologies,” which will include expert panels discussing topics such as biopharming, animal stewardship, products in the pipeline, research funding, and the regulatory process.

“We are very excited about the experts speaking at this meeting,” said Dr. Edwards, “We think that the attendees will find the program exciting and the opportunities to network excellent.”

To register for the conference visit the Livestock Biotech Summit website.

The Livestock Biotech Summit is Coming!

Don’t miss your chance to get the special early-bird registration rate for the 2010 Livestock Biotech SummitRegistration is now open, and our early-bird discounts will expire on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 11:59 pm Eastern Daylight Time.

 The first-ever Summit of its kind, scheduled for September 28-30, in Sioux Falls, S.D., will provide participants three days of cross-cutting discussions among industry, academic and government leaders.

Program highlights include:

-A unique workshop tailored specifically to the care of agricultural animals in research as well as an interactive presentation on the newly revised Ag Guide.

– Lively sessions focused on genetically engineered animals and around such topics as real life case studies of products weaving their way through the regulatory process, food and biomedical applications, and funding opportunities for animal biotechnology research.

– W.R. Gomes, Ph.D., Vice President Emeritus of the University of California, will speak on developing global solutions through animal biotechnology.  Gomes recently retired from the University of California, where he served as Vice President of Agriculture and Natural Resources for the university-wide system, Director of the California Agricultural Experiment Station, and Director of California Cooperative Extension. 

Bruce Knight, Principal and Founder of Strategic Conservation Solutions, will give an overview of animal agriculture focusing on the increasing importance of animal care.  Formerly the Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at USDA and Chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Knight is a nationally recognized expert on conservation, agriculture, and the environment.  He is currently a consultant focused on conservation and environmental issues related to agriculture.

– Dr. John McGlone of Texas Tech University will be coordinating the workshop on the care and use of livestock in biomedical and agricultural research.  Dr. McGlone speaks globally on topics of animal welfare, sustainable animal production, animal behavior, stress physiology and humane animal care.

– Panels of experts speaking on the “Case Study on the First Success Story on the U.S. Road to Regulatory Approval”, the “BIO GE Stewardship Program”, “New Products in the Pipeline”, “Funding Research on GE Animals”, and “Challenges for the Future”. 

BIO’s first-ever Livestock Biotech Summit is co-sponsored by: AAALAC International; Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Animal Care – USDA; Exemplar Genetics, Hematech, Inc.; Sigma-Aldrich; South Dakota Biotech Association; South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development; South Dakota State University; Trans Ova Genetics; University of Illinois; and ViaGen, Inc. 

For more information on the Livestock Biotech Summit – including updated program information and registration instructions – go to www.bio.org/livestockbiotechsummit, or contact David Edwards, BIO’s Director of Animal Biotechnology, at dedwards@bio.org.

Go “Green” with the EnviropigTM

We’ve all heard it, “Pork, the other white meat.” It’s an ad campaign as ubiquitous as, well, pork. According to the National Pork Producers Council, pork at 42.6 percent, is the world’s most widely eaten meat. And while pork is popular, hog farms can sometimes cause environmental problems. Until now…Move over conventional hogs, and enter the EnviropigTM.

The saliva of EnviropigTM contains the enzyme phytase, which allows the pigs to digest phytate, the principal form of phosphorus, in their diet. Without phytase, the phosphorus passes though undigested to become the single most important pollutant in pig manure. Phosphorus run-off from fields spread with manure on flowing into ponds and streams leads to extensive algal grow, which can be a human health hazard. To develop the EnviropigTM Cecil Forsberg and his colleagues at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada had to find a stable form of the enzyme phytase, with high activity in acidic conditions. The scientists found their enzyme in Escherichia coli, a bacterium commonly found in the hindgut of many animals, including humans. The scientists had to figure out how to insert the phytase gene into the pig and have it be expressed in the correct place. After all, having the phytase gene in the pig, but having it expressed in the tail, would be completely useless since the phytate problem is in the digestive tract and not the tail.

To get the gene expressed in the correct place, the scientists needed to find a directive switch to which the gene is connected. That is, a switch, or what scientists call a promoter, that would turn on the gene at the right time and in the right place in the pig. Forsberg and his team found that the promoter that worked best was from the mouse, the mouse constitutive parotid secretory protein promoter.

Forsberg and his colleagues then injected both genes into pig embryos. The injected pigs did express the trait, that is, they secreted phytase in their saliva. Of the transgenic pig embryos, the ones showing the highest levels of phytase activity were selected for breeding. This trait has now been bred through seven generations of pigs. This is an exciting advancement in animal biotechnology but there are some important things to remember:

  • Phytase activity is not found in any of the meat cuts or other major food tissues such as the liver and kidneys of the pig.
  • The mouse promoter does not make any protein product and only serves as a DNA on-off switch.
  • The gene that makes the phytase, comes from E. coli. But this doesn’t mean the pork will contain E.coli, scientists are only using the gene – not the bacteria! Humans have E. coli in their guts, and likely have phytase as well.

All of this means that we can conserve the environment and have our meat too, in a way that would have been impossible without biotechnology.