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New biobanking partnership safeguards the genetic diversity of America’s species

By October 3, 2023May 20th, 2024No Comments
Preble's meadow jumping mouse caught in a sherman trap (Zapus hudsonius preblei) | Revive & Restore

An endangered Preble’s meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius preblei) captured during a population survey. Before the mouse was released, a small skin sample was collected for genome sequencing and biobanking as part of our new initiative to protect U.S. endangered species | Kika Tuff, Revive & Restore

San Francisco, CA – The nonprofit Revive & Restore announces a groundbreaking new initiative to biobank U.S. endangered species, in partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. This multi-institution collaboration is the first systematic biobanking pipeline for U.S. threatened and endangered species. The initiative will protect genetic diversity for current and future recovery efforts.

“This is about creating a legacy of America’s natural history before it is lost and provides an important resource to enhance species recovery efforts now and in the future,” said Ryan Phelan, Executive Director of Revive & Restore. 

In light of the biodiversity crisis and escalating extinction risks, new solutions are urgently needed to preserve genetic diversity for America’s endangered species. Biobanking describes the intentional and indefinite preservation of living cells, tissues, and gametes. Biobanking both protects unrecoverable genetic diversity in wildlife species and expands capacity for genetic rescue strategies both today and into the future. Currently, only 14% of the 1,700+ U.S. species listed as threatened or endangered have living tissue cryopreserved. 

“Biobanking gives us the chance to save irreplaceable genetic diversity,” explains Seth Willey, Deputy Assistant Regional Director at the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region. “If done right, it creates a marker-in-time and gives future recovery biologists options, like genetic rescue, that are only possible if we act now.”

Revive & Restore, a non-profit organization dedicated to using biotechnology to conserve and restore endangered species and ecosystems, leads the new initiative, which includes partnerships with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, ViaGen Pets & Equine, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has selected its first 24 U.S. endangered mammals for biobanking, including the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus), and Sonoran Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis).

Endangered Preble’s meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius preblei) released back to its home. Credit: Kika Tuff / Revive & Restore

Endangered Preble’s meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius preblei) released back to its home. Credit: Kika Tuff / Revive & Restore

This multi-institution collaboration, which includes public-private partnerships, has established a scalable biobanking pipeline for U.S. endangered species. The pipeline includes tissue collection, the creation of living cell lines, and a national repository for cryopreservation. Cell lines provide the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service opportunities to manage existing populations using genomic information and expand the potential for genetic rescue using advanced reproductive technologies. Samples will be collected from animals in the wild and captive breeding programs.

“We want to provide the greatest possible set of options for ensuring the continued survival of the native wildlife of the United States,” says Oliver Ryder, Ph.D., Kleberg Endowed Director of Conservation Genetics at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. “This creates a mandate for expanded efforts in biobanking living cells.”

“We are excited to be part of such a historic initiative that will provide the necessary resources for cutting edge conservation work going on today and in the future. The samples preserved during this endeavor will provide an invaluable genetic road map to enable the preservation of these endangered species,” says Dr. Shawn Walker, Vice President of Science and Technology at ViaGen Pets & Equine.

As part of the initiative, Revive & Restore has also developed resources for field biologists looking to biobank the species they work with, including peer-reviewed sample collection protocols, visual aids, and a collection of published resources from other institutions specializing in biobanking and cryopreservation. These resources can be found at the dedicated project webpage.

This unique collaboration is a major step forward to protecting US endangered species and creating a legacy of America’s biodiversity.

About Revive & Restore

Revive & Restore is the leading wildlife conservation organization integrating biotechnologies into standard conservation practice. The Sausalito, California nonprofit was formed in 2012 with the idea that 21st century biotechnology can and should be used to enhance genetic diversity, build disease resistance, and facilitate adaptation. Its mission is to enhance biodiversity through the genetic rescue of endangered and extinct species. 

About ViaGen Pets & Equine

ViaGen Pets and Equine is the worldwide leader in cloning the animals we love. For over 20 years, we have been committed to the health and well-being of every animal we work with. Our team includes leading scientists, and we believe that moving the promising and exciting area of animal genetic research forward will benefit all animals. 

About San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance 

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is a nonprofit international conservation leader, committed to inspiring a passion for nature and working toward a world where all life thrives. The Alliance empowers people from around the globe to support their mission to conserve wildlife through innovation and partnerships. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance supports cutting-edge conservation and brings the stories of their work back to the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park—giving millions of guests, in person and virtually, the opportunity to experience conservation in action.

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