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Research and Development

R&D in Benchmark Genetics

Benchmark Genetics has an international team of researchers and geneticists sharing knowledge, experience and technology with solve local biological challenges and increase productivity in salmonids and other farmed fish. The success of our breeding programmes for different species in diverse markets depends on applying world-class science to the needs and expectations at a local level. R&D projects which develop technology for one species and market often provide an opportunity for application in others. Benchmark’s customers in Atlantic Salmon benefit from the sharing of technology between Europe and Chile.

Benchmark Genetics are also working in close collaboration with world leading research institutions such as the Universidad de Chile, Institute (Norway) and the Norwegian Research Fund.

Disease Resistance

All families of each year-class are tested for resistance to commercially important pathogens such as SRS and Caligus in controlled conditions. The tests generate information used in family selection and GS to identify individuals with high resistance to disease for use in breeding. With data from Norway, Iceland and Chile covering all of the major commercial diseases, Benchmark can apply GS in each programme for the range of disease challenges that are important in each market.

Research Projects

Benchmark and BGCL will continue to develop genetic technology to deal with the commercially important issues in each market, in particular resistance to emerging disease such as CMS and HSMI.

Collaboration in research is an important aspect of research to develop new genetic and genomic technologies. In areas such as sea lice resistance, species of the parasite differ between markets and salmonid species vary in resistance. Collaboration is therefore essential between international researchers and global, multi-species companies. Recent collaborative work between AquaInnovo (now Benchmark Genetics Chile), The Roslin Institute, UK and the Universidad de Chile is identifying genes in salmon skin that control Caligus resistance for use in breeding or identifying new treatments.

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Gene Editing

The CRISPR-Cas9 technology gives the geneticists a new set of very powerful tools.

Selective breeding relies on genetic variation caused by natural mutations. Gene Editing (GE) using enzyme complexes such as CRISPR-Cas9 and TALENS that edit the DNA sequence can be used to make precise targeted changes in the genomes of plants and animals. Such mutations would occur naturally in populations of plants and animals, but at a very low level. This GE technology gives geneticists a new set of very powerful tools to improve efficiency, health and welfare.

Benchmark considers GE to be a separate technology to transgenesis (moving genes between species) which was used in defining Genetic Modification (GM). Regulators consider GE to be genetic modification because the resulting alterations occur by non-natural methods. Benchmark anticipates that authorities will develop a constructive, regulatory system that permits development and production of GE animals with improved health and welfare.

Benchmark Genetics does not use transgenesis or GM in its products.

Benchmark’s overall focus is on sustainable breeding and to operate as an ethical and responsible company. The company sees GE as a tool for breeding livestock with improved health, animal welfare and performance, and will research applications that do not constitute a risk to the genetic integrity of the individual, population or environment. Research in functional genomics, where Benchmark already is positioned in the forefront in the aquaculture industry, will identify genes that affect health and welfare as targets for GE.

Acting responsibly, as the guardians of our animals, we will develop strains capable of high performance in modern production systems. We will implement GE technology where it proves to be socially and legally acceptable and when it can be shown to improve the efficiency, health and welfare of our animals.

Please read more in our Gene Editing Position Statement.

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