Gene editing to innovate Norwegian breeding Industries (GENEinnovate)

The Norwegian Research Council has allocated 9 mill NOK to fund the gene editing project GENEinnovate.The main goal of the project is to develop innovative solutions in the animal and plant breeding industry using gene editing technology.

GENEinnovate has its base in the Norwegian animal and plant breeding cluster Heidner Biocluster. Heidner is Norway’s leading bio-industry cluster for innovations within sustainable food production. The Project will be led by Norsvin (Norwegian pig breeding cooperative). Other project partners are; GenoGraminorAquaGenNorwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) and the Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board. The purpose of GENEinnovate is to establish a research community with expertise in gene editing technologies for livestock, fish and plants in Norway. ” Gene editing is one of the new technologies that will be of major importance for international food production in the future” says Eli Grindflek, Research and Development Manager at Norsvin. “We are not ready to use technology today, but we want to build knowledge nationally, be able to use the technology for research purposes and be ready to use the tools when applicable. Developments in this area are taking place very fast worldwide ” says Grindflek.

Gene editing technologies and CRISPR are being implemented in agricultural production in many parts of the world. The new technology is a powerful research tool, and small changes in the gene of an organism can be of major importance to food production and health. Gene editing technologies are currently not being used in Norwegian breeding companies.

GENEinnovate aims to develop innovative solutions through the following objectives:

  1. Establish a research environment with competence and understanding of core Gene editing technologies.
  2. Test a gene-editing proof-of-principle strategy of reduce boar-taint in pigs.
  3. Edit salmon cell lines to enhance red coloration and improve resistance to sea-lice infection.
  4. Use CRISPR/Cas9 to eliminate horns and improve cattle fertility.
  5. Improve potatoes resistance to late blight through the introduction of novel genes and mutations.
  6. Explore legal, ethical and societal aspects using Gene editing to advance breeding industry goals.

The GENEinnovate project has a total budget of NOK 18.4 million. In addition to the partners mentioned above, the project also involves collaboration with the research institute Sainsbury in England and the Institute of Marine Research.
– ” For Heidner Bicocluster, this project is very important. This is an example of how we build strong expertise environments that work with solutions to the major global challenges we are facing within sustainable food production. Such collaboration across companies leads to professional synergies and good cost utilization, “says Chairman of Heidner Biocluster, Olav Eik-Nes.

Potatoes with resistance to late blight

Graminor’s part in the project is to use CRISPR to improve late blight resistance in Norwegian potato varieties. This will be done in close cooperation with NMBU. Late blight (Phytophthora Infestans) is a fungus disease that leads to major crop losses in potato production. To combat the disease, annual amounts of pesticides are used that are both costly and harmful to the environment.