An $8.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will establish the Swine Somatic Cell Genome Editing Center in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at the University of Missouri.
The center will focus on aiding the development of biomedical treatments for human diseases such as cystic fibrosis, a college release said. The center will also create protocols to evaluate the safety and efficacy of reagents – the tools researchers use to edit and repair disease-related genes.
“As new gene-editing tools come down the pipeline, this center will develop more efficient processes to apply them to disease treatments,” said Kevin Wells, co-lead researcher on the NIH grant and an associate professor of genetics in MU’s Division of Animal Sciences. “The first two years will focus on developing standard operating procedures and testing the efficacy of those procedures. When that is done, we will start applying those procedures to promising new therapies.”
Funding for the center will be dispersed over five years. The new center is the latest expansion of the NIH’s Somatic Cell Gene Editing Consortium, focused on developing quality gene-editing tools and making them available to researchers. This is the first NIH-funded center of its kind, the release said, and intends to create safe, more efficient and cost-effective processes to translate knowledge and technology into real treatments.
“We have had success using reagents to create resistance to deadly porcine viruses like PRRS and TGEV, and now this center will help pave the way for transforming similar breakthroughs into benefits for humankind,” said Randy Prather, co-lead researcher, director of the National Swine Resource and Research Center and Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Animal Science at MU. “We will likely see applications for livestock and agriculture, but these will be secondary. Our primary concern is human health.”
More from Farm Journal's PORK: