Scientists make Leap in genetics research
A NEW research collaboration between academic and industry scientists aims to boost the selective breeding of stocks of vital UK aquaculture species.
The £1.7 million AquaLeap initiative will focus on four key species that have substantial economic and environmental importance for the UK: Atlantic salmon, lumpfish, European lobster, and European flat oyster.
Researchers will work with industry partners to identify sustainable solutions to current challenges facing aquaculture production, including significant diseases.
The interdisciplinary consortium is led by the Roslin Institute in partnership with the Universities of Aberdeen, Exeter and Stirling, and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas).
The commercial partners are Hendrix Genetics, Xelect, the National Lobster Hatchery, Tethys Oysters, and Otter Ferry SeaFish.
Teams will use cutting edge genetic sequencing technologies to identify DNA markers that are linked to economically important traits, such as disease resistance or growth rate. This information will help develop and apply new tools to improve breeding programmes for these valuable species.
Experts will also develop gene editing techniques to understand genes controlling resistance to diseases, and explore possibilities of using this technology to speed up stock improvement.
The scientific programme is complemented by a series of training, dissemination and public engagement activities, including addressing skills gaps identified by the ARCH-UK network, pioneered by Stirling University’s Institute of Aquaculture.
The Roslin Institute will host a one-day conference on May 20, focused on the application of genetic technologies for improvement of finfish and shellfish.
AquaLeap is funded by the UK government’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Natural Environment Research Council and the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC).