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Biobanking Partnership Safeguards the Genetic Diversity of Endangered Species

Program offers the first systematic biobanking pipeline for US threatened and endangered species

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Revive & Restore

Biotechnology can be used to enhance genetic diversity, build disease resistance, and facilitate adaptation in species. Yet, biotechnology tools remain underutilized in wildlife conservation. Revive & Restore is the leading...

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The nonprofit Revive & Restore announces a groundbreaking new initiative to biobank US endangered species, in partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. This multi-institution collaboration is the first systematic biobanking pipeline for US 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. 

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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 percent of the 1,700+ US 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. “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).

This multi-institution collaboration, which includes public-private partnerships, has established a scalable biobanking pipeline for US 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, PhD, 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.

- This press release was originally published on the Revive & Restore website