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SWINE-GEN Report Summary

Project ID: 696335

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SWINE-GEN (Genetic markers assisted selection for improvement of swine breeding productivity.)

Reporting period: 2015-10-01 to 2016-01-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The ultimate objective we seek in the SWINE-GEN project is to implement in farms a unique and proprietary technology for improving swine breeding productivity. The core component of our technology is a genetic biochip specifically designed for the analysis in blood samples of those genetic markers (362 markers) that affect swine prolificacy (litter size at birth). These 362 markers have been identified by previous R&D projects of the company and currently we hold this exclusive knowhow (protected by industrial secret). This exclusive knowhow will make us stand out in the market over our competitors, because through our technology it will be possible to select the most fertile animals to mate, upon the most accurate information of genetic markers linked to reproductive traits in pigs. In this way, it will be possible to increase the number of piglets per litter in swine breeding. According to our previous studies the number of piglets will be increased from an average of 9-10 piglets/litter to 11-12 piglets/litter. Moreover, as the selection will be based on genetic markers, it will be possible to stimulate a higher % of inheritance of selected genes from parents to their offspring. Therefore, the solution we propose will allow the improvement of swine breeding productivity generation after generation, having a huge impact on the productivity of the pork industry.

Thanks to more than €2.9 M invested by the company, the technology (a DNA biochip) has been already designed and developed as a prototype and currently it is capable to interrogate a set of 362 genetic biomarkers linked to reproduction efficiency in pigs. In the SWINE-GEN project we aim at validating this biochip with a population of more than 100.000 animals and verifying the % of gene inheritability in 3 generations. Based on these results, we will definitively design a marker assisted selection (MAS) program to maximize the reproductive efficiency in pigs by 20% (from 20 piglets/sow per year to 24 piglets/sow per year). Upon the completion of the SWINE-GEN project, we will end up in a solution that we will offer to our clients in the pig farming sector as a selection service for them to increase the productivity of their breeding programs.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

1) Technical feasibility study

The key of the SWINE-GENE technology is a DNA genetic biochip specifically designed for the analysis in blood samples of those genetic markers (362 markers) that affect swine prolificacy (litter size at birth). The DNA biochip (miniaturized recipe in which can be performed thousands of simultaneous biochemical reactions) that we have optimized to interrogate specifically the 362 genetic markers we have identified as the ones linked to prolificacy in pigs. Specifically, these genetic markers are Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) found in chromosomes 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12 as chromosomes that contain the genes linked to uterine size, ovulation ratio and production of reproductive hormones. These 362 genetic markers will be interrogated by the biochip in microliter blood samples extracted from the animals. The Biochip is capable to interrogate these markers with total specificity, thanks to a secret combination of reagents that hybridize specifically the selected SNPs. The secret knowledge over the biochip content (reagents), the 362 genetic markers (SNPs), and how they interact and affect prolificacy. The biochip technology is already developed as a prototype and validated by a pilot study with 1.500 DNA samples of the 6 more common commercial porcine breeds.

Additionally, the second component of our technology is a bioinformatics platform including bioinformatics software that includes a complete library of genetic markers (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms, SNPs) of pig genome and that is capable to analyse the results obtained by the biochip dealing with the presence/absence, concentrations and interaction of the genetic markers found in blood samples. The software is capable to rationalize and interpret the complex analysis results, delivering a simplified interpretation of the analysis in the form of % of prolificacy.

To demonstrate and validate the biochip prototype in an operational environment, the next step will be to perform a large scale validation study with a real swine population of ≥100.000 animals. It means, under a technical perspective, the SWINE-GEN project is a large scale demonstration study in a real industrial environment, meaning a validation of our technology with approx. 10o.000 DNA samples obtained from pig farms, to prove the technology in conditions for its industrial implementation. Our ultimate objective is to end up in a genetic test capable for quantification of the % prolificacy with an accuracy ≥95%. Therefore, the feasibility assessment aimed at ensuring that the large-scale validation study is performed under strict industrial standards. The activities performed encompasses: a) selecting the animals to include in the study by direct contact with end users, b) designing the gene heritability study for 3 herd generations.

a) Selecting animals to include in the biochip validation by direct contact with end users

The technical methodology that will be used for the validation study of the biochip will be the same already used for the pilot study of the biochip in pig DNA samples coming from the end users. The end users of the SWINE-GEN solution, meaning also our current and future clients, are mainly pig-famers and pig farmer´s cooperatives, within the Pork Production Market. In 2010 we became leaders worldwide offering an equivalent of the swine-gene project but for the improvement of poultry breeding productivity. One of our main clients related to poultry is interested in the swine-gene project, hence is currently collaborating with us by sending samples from their farms for the biochip validation, since this stakeholder´s farm population contains both animal types.

Breeds and swine sex, selected for the biochip validation study are chosen according to their popularity among the relevant markets and breeding operations. There are several breeds not included because their influences on market operations are not as significant. Because common geneti

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Demand for meat is increasing worldwide and the trend is to continue increasing as the global population continues growing. Looking back on the period from 1960 to today, the world's population has more than doubled from around 3 billion to 7 billion, while the volume of meat consumed annually has quadrupled from 70 million tons to just under 300 million tons and the trend is to continue increasing. The production meat must be increased by 60% by 2050 in order to meet the demands of the planet's population.

This fact represents a huge opportunity for the meat sector, but it represents a challenge as well because meat producers continuously strives to increase meat production efficiency over time. If we look specifically to the swine industry, both the opportunity and the challenges are even more notorious because pork is the most widely consumed meat in the world, accounting for almost 40%. In this sense, solutions that can contribute to increase meat production in a resource-efficient way, like SWINE-GEN, emerge as long-term and sustainable option to overcome these challenges faced by meat producers. The pork industry will be able to benefit from the future opportunities, only if specific measures are taken to ensure pork production is sufficient to meet consumer demands. This fact provides clear evidences of the business opportunity of the SWINE-GEN project that is specifically aimed at helping the pork industry to increase production in sustainable way.

The solution we propose in the SWINE-GEN project to improve the breeding productivity in pig farming is a unique technology for genetic selection of the most fertile sows (breeding female pigs) to mate with the most fertile hogs (breeding male pigs). Through our solution it will be possible to know before mating, which animals have a higher genetic prolificacy profile. Therefore, the chosen animals could be mated upon the genetic analysis of the prolificacy traits, or what is the same, it will be possible to implement a marker assisted selection (MAS) programme in pig breeding. Our service is the solution for the improvement of swine breeding productivity, as it will be the only tool in the marketplace that won´t use genome sequencing techniques. Our technology is based on a DNA biochip that will exclusive analyze those 362 biomarkers (instead of the 2.000-3.000 markers analyzed by our competitors) that we have identified as those genes that build up the complex genetic architecture of swine prolificacy. Thanks to this differential value, our technology offers clear advantages over the competitors: low costs (60€/test), assessment value (quantitative correlation of genes and % prolificacy with ≥95% accuracy), and high scalability (we will be able to perform 16.000 test/day as our technology allows analyzing 384 samples in milliseconds). These advantages of our technology are the ones that explain why we have become leader in poultry breeding productivity with more than €20M income in just 3 years of implementation of our technology in this segment.

The market of the SWINE-GEN solution is the so called “Animal Genetics Market”. The global Animal Genetics Market was estimated around €2.6 Billion in 2014 and it is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 8-9% up to €4.1 Billion in 2020. North America represented the largest regional market in 2014, followed by Europe and Asia. The SWINE-GEN solution will find a great market acceptance, as increasing animal productivity is a major driver of the Animal Genetics Market. Moreover, our solution will provide: a) an affordable and time efficient analysis and b) it won’t require skilled professional in pig farms because the analysis will be made at our facilities and the results will be delivered as a user-friendly report informing of % prolificacy for each animal.

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