PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University has signed a licensing agreement with Merial Limited., a world-leading animal health company, to commercialize DNA technology that will benefit beef and dairy cattle producers in the selection, breeding and management of their herds. The technology was originally developed by Zhihua Jiang, assistant professor of animal sciences.
“We are pleased to take this discovery to the next level in the commercial development by partnering with Merial,” said Keith Jones, executive director of the WSU Research Foundation. “This research has the potential to have a major impact on beef and dairy cattle breeding and production methods.”
Jiang’s group at WSU has identified genetic markers in five genes that are significantly associated with marbling and subcutaneous fat in beef cattle, and in one gene with significant effects on fertility and longevity in dairy cattle. Marbling is the flecks of fat in muscle that translates into flavor, tenderness and juiciness. Greater marbling in beef translates into higher grades and higher returns for producers. Recently, Jiang further found that these DNA markers for marbling also could be used for improving the amount of unsaturated fat in meat, the healthy fat in beef.
Declines in reproductive efficiency have been a worldwide problem challenging the dairy industry for several decades. Dairy producers have been losing money because they have been forced to spend a lot on getting their cows pregnant and culling cows that were not getting pregnant, thus not calving and producing milk. The technology developed by Jiang’s group should aid genetic selection and help producers efficiently tailor production to get desirable traits.
“The IGENITY Livestock Production Business Unit is extremely pleased to collaborate with Dr. Jiang and the scientists at Washington State University in the development of genomic technologies to benefit cattle producers in the state of Washington and beyond,” said Stewart Bauck, DVM, MS, executive director of strategic marketing for IGENITY, a DNA testing service of Merial.
“The technologies that they are developing could have immediate benefit for producers in the selection of and management of beef and dairy cattle for improved breeding and production. “Effective utilization of these tools can deliver in excess of $100 million in annual improvements, for example, in beef production to U.S. cattlemen,” Bauck said.
Jiang’s research was funded by WSU’s Agricultural Research Center. The university has applied for U.S. and international patent protection.
The WSU Research Foundation is a non-profit Washington corporation whose mission is to facilitate the efficient transfer of technology, proprietary information, and inventions from WSU to the private sector thus benefiting university, the inventors and society. For more information, please see www.wsurf.org.
Merial is a world-leading, innovation-driven animal health company, providing a comprehensive range of products to enhance the health, well-being and performance of a wide range of animals.
Merial employs approximately 5,000 people and operates in more than 150 countries worldwide. Its 2006 sales were nearly $2.2 billion. Merial Limited is a joint venture between Merck & Co., Inc. and sanofi-aventis. For more information, please see www.merial.com.
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