The Gates Foundation has awarded a $1.3 million dollar grant to Dr. Bhanu Telugu in the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to facilitate cutting-edge research into the development of precision breeding technologies. Specifically, the grant will fund development of methodologies for generating genome edited livestock with improved tropical adaptability and performance traits.
Genetic modification of livestock has a longstanding and successful history, starting with domestication and breeding of animals several thousand years ago. Modern animal breeding based on marker-assisted selection, genomic selection, artificial insemination, and embryo transfer have led to a significant improvement in the performance of domestic animals, and are the basis for a regular supply of high quality animal derived food. However, the major limitations of current breeding paradigm is the requirement to breed over multiple generations to introduce novel traits. This strategy is not realistic in responding to the unprecedented challenges faced by the animal agriculture such as climate change, pandemic diseases, and feeding an anticipated 3-billion increase in global population in the next three decades. Addressing these pressing challenges require “next generation” breeding technologies that permit replacement or transfer of genetic information between individuals, lines, breeds, and even species. The availability of genome editors such as CRISPR/Cas that allow for facile genetic modification are therefore needed to make this a reality.