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Technology protection impact

The Roslin Institute and animal genetics company Genus have signed a licensing agreement to breed disease-resistant pigs.

Dr Christine Tait-Burkard
Dr Christine Tait-Burkard

The agreement, signed in 2021, allows the company to exploit intellectual property developed at the Institute to breed pigs that are resistant to a deadly respiratory disease.

Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) is caused by a virus and is the most detrimental pig disease worldwide costing the industry around $2.5 billion each year in the US and Europe alone.

Endemic virus

Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) is caused by a virus and is the most costly pig disease worldwide.  It causes breathing problems and deaths in young animals and can result in pregnant sows losing their litters.  The virus evolves very rapidly which has meant that vaccines have mostly failed to stop the spread of the virus which is endemic in most pig-producing countries.


The Technology

The Roslin Institute developed a breakthrough technology based on a decade of research to produce pigs that can resist the disease by editing their genetic code. The edit to a single gene makes the pigs 100% resistant to the disease.


The Role of Edinburgh Innovations (EI)

The research received funding from Genus and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.  From the outset of the research, EI provided extensive support, helping the research team secure the necessary funding, managing the engagements between the Institute and Genus, and securing patent protection for the technology.  EI's Technology Transfer team played a key role in establishing the ultimate license agreement with Genus that will ultimately lead to this ground-breaking innovation being successfully delivered to market.


The commercial impact of genetic technology

The licensed technology will benefit pig breeders, farmers and the entire chain of pig product users.  It will improve the sustainability of the pig industry while lowering the costs of pig products. Importantly, engineering resistance will greatly increase the health and welfare of the pigs and piglets. From a scientific point of view, this work and the fundamental techniques underlying it paves the way for targeting other diseases affecting large animals and is an example of the type of work supported by the facilities at the Roslin Institute.

With the signing of the agreement, Genus will continue planned work for testing multiple generations of pigs and conducting studies required for approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  While it is anticipated that it may take a number of years before the technology ultimately reaches the market it has the potential to deliver significant wide-ranging benefits across the whole of the pig sector.


Useful and useable translational projects

Roslin is rightly recognised for pioneering animal biotechnology that enables genetic engineering of farmed animals. The strong, productive and durable partnership with Genus has been a key aspect in seeing academic endeavour translate to useful and useable translational projects for the livestock sector.

Professor Bruce WhitelawInterim Director of the Roslin Institute and Dean of Innovation at the University’s Easter Bush Campus

We have long and fruitful relationships with Roslin and admire the depth of Roslin's research and pioneering spirit. Together we laid out the groundwork for combating PRRS, and Genus is working with the FDA to obtain approval for this technology.

Dr Elena RiceChief Scientific Officer at Genus PLC


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