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2016 BIO Animal Biotech Summit Day Two Highlights

September 29, 2016

Day #2 Session topics specifically focused on Poverty Reduction & Food Security and Biotech & Biodiversity.

BIO concluded its 2016 Animal Biotech Summit on Friday, September 23, 2016. BIO chose “One Health” as the theme of this year’s conference. “One Health” is the notion that the health of animals, the health of people, and the viability of ecosystems are inextricably linked.

Franck Cesar Jean Berthe, DVM, PhD, Senior Livestock Specialist at The World Bank, kicked off Day Two with a discussion on how we must meet the increase global demand for food while ensuring that it is safe to eat:
"If you talk about food production these days, you need to talk not only about quantity but also about safety."

Dr. Berthe argued that livestock is a hugely diverse sector and that we have to embrace this diversity. He made a reference to The Livestock Global Alliance, which is a coalition of international organizations having a global mandate in the livestock sector. The objective of the Alliance is to ensure access to clear, science-based information upon which the public – from consumers to policymakers – can better understand the sector and its global public good dimension.

Dave Conley, Director at Aquaculture without Frontiers (AwF), continued the session by stating that by 2014, 580 species around the world were farmed and that only 2% of global food supply annually comes from our aquatic environment. He argued that aquaculture is a better source of livestock production because it’s the most efficient converter of feed to protein.

He also brought an interesting perspective to the debate around GMOs. He argued that in affluent countries the debate around GMOs is whether or not we should embrace the technology. Whereas in developing countries, he argued that the debate around GMOs is whether or not we embrace the technology can determine if we live or die.

Conley concluded his remarks by outlining his wish list for aquaculture biotechnology to alleviate poverty:

• Faster growth rate
• Better feed utilization
• Better disease resistance
• Low oxygen tolerance
• High temperature tolerance
• Poor water quality tolerance
• High omega-3 content
• Enhanced vitamin & nutrient profiles
• Slower decomposition – longer shelf life

Mark Walton, PhD,Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs at Yorktown Technologies, addressed the role that genetics plays in food abundance:
"We are in a different time right now – the global demand for meat is rapidly increasing. We are now focusing on genetics and its role in animal welfare and husbandry."

So what about abundance in sub-Saharan Africa, Walton asks attendees. 800 million people globally that are food insecure; a quarter of those are in sub-Saharan Africa, he states. Disease can have about $4 billion dollar in costs in sub-Saharan Africa:
"We have a moral obligation as an economically advantaged country to help those who aren’t economically advantage."

He concluded by calling for changes to our regulatory system:
"We need a system that recognizes what we have learned from the past 20 years and adjusts to new conditions...we need a system that recognizes biological hazards and adapts our response to what we have learned."

Ryan Phelan, Executive Director and Cofounder of Revive & Restore kicked off the last session of the conference - Biotechnology and Biodiversity. She talked about the role of biotech in conservation and how it can provide solutions to genetic diseases. She used the example of the Black-Footed Ferret and referenced the 2015 published study - A Road Map for 21st Century Genetic Restoration: Gene Pool Enrichment of the Black-Footed Ferret. Here is a brief blurb from the abstract:
"Interspecies somatic cell nuclear transfer (iSCNT) could benefit recovery programs of critically endangered species but must be weighed with the risks of failure....Here, we use the black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) as a case study for evaluating this emerging biomedical technology as a tool for genetic restoration.

"The black-footed ferret has depleted genetic variation yet genome resource banks contain genetic material of individuals not currently represented in the extant lineage. Thus, genetic restoration of the species is in theory possible and could help reduce the persistent erosion of genetic diversity from drift...

"The information gained from a well-planned research effort with the goal of genetic restoration via reproductive cloning could establish a 21st century model for evaluating and implementing conservation breeding that would be applicable to other genetically impoverished species."

Learn more about how Revive & Restore is using genetics to rescue endangered and extinct species by visiting their site here.

Wayne Hunter, PhD, Research Entomologist at U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), continued the session by speaking on the role that biotech can play in improving pest management. Dr. Hunter argued that the application of RNAi technologies in the treatment and management of disease can offer new solutions to disease problems through the naturally occurring biological processes of living organisms.

He specifically focused on his work to improve the health of honeybees. Dr. Hunter discussed that successful application of RNAi strategies can produce targeted treatments for bee pathogenic diseases:
"IAPV specific dsRNA (Remebee-I) was used successfully to prevent bees from succumbing to infection from IAPV...These field results demonstrate the successful application of dsRNA as a viable treatment to solve a real world problem, which may further lead to concerted efforts to utilize this ubiquitous natural mechanism, RNAi, for the benefit of the bees, beekeepers, and hopefully to other applications in agriculture and veterinary health."

Mark Allan, PhD, Director of Genetic Technology at Trans Ova Genetics spoke on how our increased understanding of genetics has allowed us to make massive improvements and Image result for 1957 v. 2001 chicken sizeadvancements in animal breeding. He used the example of genetics in chicken production. In regards to gene editing, Dr. Allan made this notable point:
" We aren’t getting rid of the old breeding tools when adopting gene editing, we are just adding a new tool to the tool box."

Jonathan Lightner, PhD, Chief Research & Development and Scientific Officer at Genus plc. closed out the Biotechnology and Biodiversity session animal by discussing his companies' work to significantly improved pork, dairy and beef production:
"Genus is a world leader in applying science to
animal breeding creating advances through
biotechnology and selling added value products for
livestock farming and food producers."

Through latest science and gene editing, Genus continuously improves its proprietary lines of breeding animals and helps their customers see faster genetic gains. Dr. Lightner focused his remarks on how genetics has allowed farmers and producers to have better, healthier livestock while reducing their inputs.