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Scottish scientists working in aquaculture research will be in closer collaboration in the New Year.
Published:  18 December, 2012

From 7 January, 2013, the genetics services operation of internationally renowned company Landcatch will be based at the Stirling University Innovation Park after considering options across Scotland.

The five-strong genetics team, led by genetics director Dr Alan Tinch, which had been working from the Ceteris E-Centre in Alloa since 2002, will now be closer to research colleagues at the University of Stirling Institute of Aquaculture and other universities and institutes in the central belt with whom Landcatch has already worked on joint projects.

The company helped establish a database to analyse genetic and genomic information in 2006. It has since been developed to implement new genomic methods such as marker–assisted selection for Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis virus (IPN) resistance.

Landcatch identified markers for IPN resistance in partnership with the Stirling Institute of Aquaculture and the Roslin Institute. These bodies, as well as University of Glasgow, is extending this work to sea lice resistance using a cutting-edge genomic selection tool – the SNP Chip – a glass slide used to analyse variations in DNA sequences, or Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs), which act as biological markers and help scientists locate a range of genes associated with disease.

The Stirling move is another development for Landcatch, which has its headquarters in Ormsary in Argyll, and whose efforts to push the boundaries of genetic science have been taken to another level by linking to a state-of-the-art research centre in France.

Landcatch, the UK’s premier aquaculture breeding company, selling young stock and eggs worldwide, is part of the global Hendrix Genetics multi-species food production organisation which has a mission to help the world meet its food needs through innovative and sustainable genetic techniques.

The Hendrix Genetics Genomics Laboratory is a leading research and development centre in Ploufragan, Brittany, and the central location for all molecular DNA work across the company’s operations in 24 countries.

Neil Manchester, Landcatch’s general manager, said both moves will help accelerate scientific advances: “Relocating to Stirling brings us nearer to research colleagues in the industry which can only help future collaborations and innovative thinking as we strive to produce healthier fish.

“Our link to the lab in France also represents progress. The samples we collect and the services we offer and supply to people around the world on the genotyping side are now supported by the centre of excellence in the Hendrix lab.

“Instead of us doing this work as a small company, we are now using the expertise of a global enterprise to achieve our aims.”

The 165-square-metre genomics lab receives blood and tissue samples from breeding chickens, pigs, turkeys and several fish species. After DNA is extracted and stored in a biobank it is subjected to in-house analysis and genotyping by Hendrix Genetics scientists who use the samples to develop breeding programmes producing healthier animals which are more productive and less susceptible to disease.

The lab has capacity to handle 1,536 samples for DNA extraction a week and currently 75,000 extractions are carried out annually.

Gerard Albers, director of the research and technology centre, said: “This is a valuable asset to the breeding programmes of Hendrix Genetics and truly a one of its kind in this industry. What’s more, it is widening the opportunity for future developments in all our divisions.”

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