International animal genetics company, Genus, entered into a strategic collaboration with Beijing Capital Agribusiness (BCA) to develop pigs resistant to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRSSv).
Genus holds the global patent for commercialization of pigs genetically edited to resist PRRS, a disease that causes billion-dollar losses for the global pig industry each year through animal suffering, reproductive failure, increased mortality and reduced growth. There is currently no cure for PRRSv.
As China seeks to modernize its pork production practices, these efforts are significantly hindered by outbreaks of diseases including PRRSv, African swine fever (ASF) and foot-and-mouth disease.
Genus’ ability to breed pigs resistant to PRRSv has the potential to improve animal well-being, environmental sustainability of pig production, farm productivity and benefit consumers by significantly reducing the use of antibiotics, the company said.
Under the deal, BCA will set up Beijing Shou Nong Future Bio-Tech Co. Ltd to fund the development of the market and seek approval for commercial production of pigs resistant to the virus. This is expected to take several years and cost tens of millions of dollars, Genus said.
"The combination of PIC's PRRSv resistant genetics and related breeding knowhow along with BCA's deep understanding of the porcine sector in China and its distribution channels plays to the strengths of each party,” said Bill Christianson, COO of Genus PIC. “We are looking forward to rapidly progressing the PRRSv resistance program in collaboration with BCA and launching this important new product in China with our partners."
Genus Shares Surge
Genus shares surged more than 15% after the announcement and were on course for their best day in 17 years, Reuters reported.
China does not allow foreign firms to research and develop biotechnology in its market, Reuters added. This deal with BCA is an important first step towards getting this technology into China, a country that has no regulatory framework on the use of gene-edited animals which means BCA will need to lobby the government to create a regulatory framework to cover them.
Meanwhile, Genus is currently seeking approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to commercialize the virus-resistant pigs in the U.S.
Under the terms of the transaction, Genus will receive upfront and milestone cash payments of $20 million subject to certain conditions being fulfilled.
After obtaining regulatory approval for the PRRS-resistant pigs in China, it will receive between $120 million and $160 million for the creation with BCA of a joint venture to include Genus's existing pig genetics operations in China, Reuters reported.
Genus will also receive royalties from the joint venture on sales in China of PRRS-resistant pigs.
“The more countries that have approved the production or consumption of pork from PRRSv resistant pigs the smoother global trade. China is the largest consumer, producer and importer of pork in the world. It is important for Chinese consumers, Chinese producers and overseas producers—including those here in the U.S.—to have approval for use of this technology in China,” Christianson said.
The companies plan to work together on future research into pigs resistant to African swine fever (ASF). This a highly transmissible, incurable virus has spread rapidly in China’s pig herd since August 2018, forcing culling, devastating farmers, disrupting the country’s slaughter industry and pressuring pork prices.
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