11th ISTT Prize Awardee – Dr. Mario Capecchi

Dr. Mario Capecchi
Dr. Mario Capecchi


Houston TX, USA. 26 October, 2016.

The International Society for Transgenic Technologies (ISTT, Inc.) is delighted to announce that the 11th ISTT Prize will be awarded to Dr. Mario Capecchi for his seminal work on homologous recombination in embryonic stem cells, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2007. The ISTT Prize is awarded to investigators who have made outstanding contributions to the field of transgenic technologies. The selection of the 11th ISTT Prize winner, Dr. Capecchi, was made by the ISTT Prize Committee [composed of the ISTT President (Jan Parker-Thornburg), ISTT Vice-president (Benoit Kanzler), and the CEO of genOway (Alexandre Fraichard) (the company that generously sponsors the award), and all previous ISTT prize awardees].

The committee unanimously agreed that Dr. Capecchi’s work was essential for the field of transgenesis, having opened up the field to the possibility of generating exact genetic mutations in the mouse genome. At the time when his discoveries were published, the ability to generate transgenic animals by pronuclear injection had recently been published, and was rapidly becoming an essential method to flesh out how genes would both be regulated, and would function. However, while standard transgenesis could answer many genetic questions, it was still limited, as the gene being interrogated was still intact. To truly make leaps forward, it was essential to specifically mutate that gene, either by removing it (to generate a gene knock-out) or to mutate it (to recapitulate a genetic mutation by knock-in). With the culture and injection of ES cells described by Dr. Martin Evans, it became apparent to Drs. Smithies and Capecchi (all three being co-recipients of the 2007 Nobel prize) that such cells could be used for the introduction of mutations into the genome. Homologous recombination of an exogenous DNA into the exact gene to be replaced can occur in very rare circumstances. In his 1986 Cell publication, Dr. Capecchi showed that 1 in 103 cells in culture would undergo the process using homologous recombination. The following year, Capecchi successfully knocked out the Hprt gene in mouse ES cells and Smithies independently demonstrated repair of the gene. Dr. Capecchi gave the process the name by which we know it today, “gene targeting”. A critical aspect of gene targeting (and one that is still essential today) was that both positive and negative selection processes could be used to identify those cells that had undergone homologous recombination, a process published in 1988 in Nature by Dr. Capecchi.

Dr. Capecchi was born in Verona, Italy in 1937, the only child of an Italian father (lost in WWII) and an American mother (detained in and later released from a Nazi concentration camp). He immigrated to the USA in 1946 with his mother to live in Pennsylvania. After graduation from the George School, he attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs Ohio, USA where he majored in chemistry and physics. He began his graduate work at MIT in physics and mathematics, but after becoming interested in molecular biology, moved to Harvard University to study with James Watson, and changed the course of his career. Dr. Capecchi was on the faculty at Harvard until 1973, when he moved his laboratory to the University of Utah. His seminal work describing gene targeting was performed at that institution. During his extremely productive career, some of the awards that Dr. Capecchi has been given include the Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences (1996), The Premio Phoenix-Anni Verdi for Genetic Research Award, Italy (2000), the 33rd Jiménez-Diaz Prize for Contributions to Medical Genetics, Spain (2001), the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research (2001), and the American Association of Cancer Research Lifetime Achievement Award (2015). He has been elected to the European Academy of Sciences (2002), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2009), the National Academy of Medicine (2015) and has been given honorary doctorate degrees from institutions in Italy, the UK, and Israel. Dr. Capecchi remains an active researcher, with seven research publications in 2015, and six current 2016 publications either printed, submitted, or in press.

We are most pleased that Dr. Capecchi has agreed to receive the ISTT Prize to be given at TT2017, thus joining the list of previously honored scientists, including Janet Rossant (2014), Allan Bradley (2013), Ralph Brinster (2011), Francis Stewart (2010), Brigid Hogan (2008), Charles Babinet (2007), Andras Nagy (2005), Qi Zhou (2004), Kenneth McCreath (2002) and Teruhiko Wakayama (2001). All ISTT Prize winners are given an honorary ISTT membership and a unique silver sculpture representing a mouse blastocyst created by the Hungarian artist Béla Rozsnyay. Dr. Capecchi will receive his prize at the 14th Transgenic Technology Meeting (TT2017) that will be held at the Snowbird Resort outside of Salt Lake City, Utah USA on 1-4 October, 2017.

Selected References from Dr. Capecchi’s lifetime achievements:

Folger, K. R., K. R. Thomas and M. R. Capecchi (1984). Analysis of homologous recombination in cultured mammalian cells. Cold Spring Harbor Symp. Quant. Biol. 49:123-138. PMID: 6099232.

Thomas, K. R., K. R. Folger and M. R. Capecchi (1986). High frequency targeting of genes to specific sites in the mammalian genome. Cell 44:419-428. PMID: 3002636.

Wong, E. A. and M. R. Capecchi (1986). Analysis of homologous recombination in cultured mammalian cells in a transient expression and a stable transformation assay. Somat. Cell Mol. Genet. 12:63-72. PMID: 3003931.

Thomas, K. R., and M. R. Capecchi (1986). Introduction of homologous DNA sequences into mammalian cells induces mutations in the cognate gene. Nature 324:34-38. PMID: 3785372.

Thomas, K. R. and M. R. Capecchi (1986). Targeting of genes to specific sites in the mammalian genome. Cold Spring Harbor Symp. Quant. Biol. 51:1101-1113. PMID: 3472755.

Wong, E. A. and M. R. Capecchi (1987). Homologous recombination between coinjected DNA sequences peaks in early to mid-S phase. Mol. Cell. Biol. 7:2294-2295. PMID: 3600663.

Thomas, K. R. and M. R. Capecchi (1987). Site-directed mutagenesis by gene targeting in mouse embryo-derived stem cells. Cell 51:503-512. PMID: 2822260.

Mansour, S. L., K. R. Thomas and M. R. Capecchi (1988). Disruption of the proto-oncogene int-2 in mouse embryo-derived stem cells: A general strategy for targeting mutations to nonselectable genes. Nature 336:348-352. PMID: 3194019.

Capecchi, M. R. (1989). Altering the genome by homologous recombination. Science 244:1288-1292. PMID: 2660260.

Thomas, K. R., C. Deng and M. R. Capecchi (1992). High-fidelity gene targeting in embryonic stem cells by using sequence replacement vectors. Mol. Cell. Biol. 12:2919-2923. PMID: 1620105.

Deng, C. and M. R. Capecchi (1992). Reexamination of gene targeting frequency as a function of the extent of homology between the targeting vector and the target locus. Mol. Cell. Biol. 12:3365-3371. PMID: 1321331.

Capecchi, M. R. (1995). A personal view of gene targeting. In Accomplishments in Cancer Research 1994. (J. G. Fortner and J. E. Rhoads, Ed.) Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, pp. 67-78.

Capecchi, M. R. (2000). How close are we to implementing gene targeting in animals other than the mouse? Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 97:956-957. PMID: 10655465.

Capecchi, M.R. (2001). Generating mice with targeted mutations. Nature Med. 7:1086-1090. PMID: 11590420.

Austin, C.P., J.F. Battey, A. Bradley, M. Bucan, M.R. Capecchi, F.S. Collins, W.F. Dove, G. Duyk, S. Dymecki, J.T. Eppig, F.B. Grieder, N. Heintz, G. Hicks, T.R. Insel, A. Joyner, B.H. Koller, K.C. Lloyd, T. Magnuson, M.W. Moore, A. Nagy, J.D. Pollock, A.D. Roses, A.T. Sands, B. Seed, W.C. Skarnes, J. Snoddy, P. Soriano, D.J. Stewart, F. Stewart, B. Stillman, H. Varmus, L. Varticovski, I.M. Verma, T.F. Vogt, H. von Melchner, J. Witkowski, R.P. Woychik, W. Wurst, G.D. Yancopoulos, S.G. Young and B. Zambrowicz (2004). The knockout mouse project. Nat Genet.36(9): 921-4. PMID: 15340423.

Wu, S., G. Ying, Q. Wu, and M.R. Capecchi (2007). Towards simpler and faster genome-wide mutagenesis in mice. Nat Genet. Jul;39(7):922-30. PMID: 17572674.

Li, S., Lan, H., Men, H., Wu, Y., Li, N., Capecchi, M.R., Bryda, E.C., and S. Wu (2016). Derivation of Transgene-Free Rat Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Approximating the Quality of Embryonic Stem Cells. Stem Cells Transl Med. Sep 13. [Epub ahead of print]

Du, X., Feng, T.,Yu, D., Wu, Y., Zou, H., Ma, S., Feng, C., Huang, Y., Ouyang, H., Hu, X., Pan, D., Li, N., Capecchi, M., and S. Wu(2015). Barriers for the Derivation of Germline Competent Porcine Pluripotent Stem Cells. Stem Cell and Development (submitted).

Dolly @ 20

Although she didn’t hit the limelight until February 1997 with a publication in Nature, Dolly-the-most-famous-sheep-in-the-world was born 20 years ago, on 5 July 1996 in The Roslin Institute in Edinburgh. Being the first mammal cloned from adult cells by a team led by Ian Wilmut, Dolly changed the way we look at the up-to-then-supposed irreversibility of development and paved the way for many other forms of reprogramming. Despite suffering from several illnesses early in life, including the well-known arthritis, Dolly was eventually humanely put down on 14 February 2003 when she was found to suffer from a viral form of lung cancer. Dolly’s remains are still on view in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Concerns about a potential effect of cloning on premature or accelerated ageing have recently been addressed in a study from the University of Nottingham which shows that 13 cloned sheep, four of which clones from Dolly herself, aged normally.
To celebrate Dolly’s 20th birthday The Roslin Institute is organizing a series of scientific and public events to examine and celebrate her legacy. Public events include a debate in the ‘Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas’ as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, a public lecture and discussion featuring Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, Professor Angelika Schnieke and Noble Prize laureate Professor Shinya Yamanaka in the Surgeon’s Hall Museum in Edinburgh, and a public lecture by Sir Ian at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA. A number of Dolly-related exhibits will also feature at The Roslin Institute Open Day on the 8 October. There will also be a scientific symposium on 2 September in The Roslin Institute Auditorium that will cover the latest advances in research fields that are linked to Dolly: animal biotechnology, stem cell pluripotency and regenerative medicine. Although the main auditorium is now full, it is still possible to register for a seat in adjacent rooms where the talks will be live-streamed.

Submitted by Peter Hohenstein

Dolly as a lamb with her Scottish Blackface surrogate mother.
Dolly as a lamb with her Scottish Blackface surrogate mother.
Dolly with Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, who led the research which produced her.
Dolly with Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, who led the research which produced her.



13th FELASA Congress, 13-16 June, 2016 – Brussels, Belgium
Respectfully submitted by Boris Jerchow:

Together with Board members Benoît Kanzler and Branko Zevnik, I had the chance to take part in the 2016 edition of the triennial conference of the Federation of European Laboratory Science Associations (FELASA), which took place in Brussels, Belgium, between June 13 and 16. With the kind support of our members Sandra Buhl and Kristin Evans we represented ISTT with a booth. The meeting mainly covered topics important for those involved in laboratory animal science. The conference was divided into six streams:
• Governance, including reports on the transposition of 2010 EU Directive aimed at harmonizing animal welfare standards throughout Europe that has a lot of impact on our work but is still in a phase in which the new regulations are being implemented in daily routines. The stream also addressed active information of the public and ways to conduct an ethical review process. Aurora Brønstad, who also presented at TT2016 in Prague, spoke on the important topic of harm-benefit analysis of animal experiments [1, 2].
• Joint programs across Europe, including education and training, competence management, and 3Rs programs, to name just a few.
• Safety issues with a strong focus on health monitoring of aquatic, amphibian, and rodent species. Moreover, this stream included topics such as occupational health and safety and best working practices but also best practices for husbandry and care, quality of feed, water, and enrichment.

• Common diseases of humans and animals. This stream addressed disease and disease models for metabolic disease, cancer, and also infectious disease including zoonoses. It also included presentations on BLS3 facilities and research with non-human primates.
• Animal well-being emphasized the importance of using the broad understanding of what is going on inside an animal to assess and improve its well-being. The stream contained presentations and discussions about behavioral and neural science, as well as severity assessment, prospectively and also during the time when while animals are being used experimentally by employing clinical signs to recognize pain, suffering distress or lasting harm. I found the latter notably important for our community as we are the ones generating and using genetically altered (GA) animals that may well present with a condition affecting their well-being that should be taken into account before starting the experiment and closely followed during their lifetime. GA animals should also be monitored for unforeseen effects that may compromise their well-being and measures to alleviate pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm should be taken

whenever possible.
• Animal models and animal experiments. For this session I had been asked to convene a session with the title “Genetic modification – technologies and pitfalls”. Together with Ann van Soom, Tom Vanden Berghe and Lluis Montoliu, we informed the audience about the latest technologies in the field, the relevance of the non-coding genome, the threat of passenger mutations, and epigenetic effects. Other sessions in this stream discussed experimental design and reporting, how to process, share, and review acquired as well as existing data, imaging techniques, and various experimental paradigms.
In general there was a strong focus on animal welfare, especially on refinement of procedures, which was present over all streams and sessions. Much of the conference was under the influence of the still ongoing implementation of the regulations of the EU Directive on animal experimentation. Due to the importance of European scientific activities in the world, the pressure on scientific publishers to adopt higher animal welfare and reporting standards, and tight cooperation with countries outside the EU, namely the United States, these regulations will impact on animal experimentation worldwide. The same is true for health standards where FELASA guidelines have already become a gold standard. Although FELASA Conferences draw an audience quite distinct from our TT Meetings, there is a small but important overlap in interest. I am convinced that the ISTT should keep on striving to foster a vivid exchange with FELASA and the laboratory animal science community.

1. Bronstad, A., et al., Current concepts of Harm-Benefit Analysis of Animal Experiments – Report from the AALAS-FELASA Working Group on Harm-Benefit Analysis – Part 1. Lab Anim, 2016. 50(1 Suppl): p. 1-20.
2. Laber, K., et al., Recommendations for Addressing Harm-Benefit Analysis and Implementation in Ethical Evaluation – Report from the AALAS-FELASA Working Group on Harm-Benefit Analysis – Part 2. Lab Anim, 2016. 50(1 Suppl): p. 21-42.

Benoit Kanzler, Sandra Buhl and Boris Jerchow
Pens and futbol at the ISTT Booth

ISTT at the 55th annual CALAS meeting

On June 11-14, 2016, the ISTT hosted a booth at the 55th CALAS annual symposium that was held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. CALAS, the Canadian Association for Laboratory Animal Science, is a national association dedicated to providing high quality training and educational resources to animal care professionals across Canada. CALAS has almost 1,000 members and supports a diverse group of animal care attendants, animal health technicians, and veterinarians. It provides training and certification programs recommended by the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC). The theme of this year symposium attended by 400 participants was: “The dirt on germs: the good, the bad, the unknown”.

Marina Gertsenstein attended the meeting, both to represent the ISTT at the booth and to organize a workshop on Current Technologies in Mouse Genome Manipulations at The Centre for Phenogenomics (TCP). At the booth, ISTT information flyers describing the benefits of the membership and pens with ISTT logo were handed out. Several attendees expressed interest in becoming the members of ISTT.

The highlight of the scientific session was the talk of Dr. Kevin C. Kain, Canada Research Chair in Molecular Parasitology. In his keynote address he described his research on host-parasite interactions responsible for major global health threats such as malaria and HIV and first-hand experience with the clinical problems. This leading researcher is developing effective therapeutic interventions using animal models to determine the molecular basis for clinical outcomes of life-threatening infections and to translate this knowledge into novel therapeutic interventions.

Meeting Report respectfully submitted by Marina Gertsenstein

CALAS logoISTT @CALAS2016CALAS meeting info

Will the novel CRISPR/Cas9 technology for the generation of genetically modified animals increase the number of animals used and lead to a shift in the species used? Statement of the ISTT’s 3Rs Committee

The CRISPR/Cas9 technology emerged only recently. Still it is already obvious, that it makes the generation of genetically modified organisms more efficient than with conventional techniques. Moreover, species that were recalcitrant to those manipulations in the past are now amenable to genome editing.

What we initially saw in the rodent, especially the mouse research community, was a rush into the technique, where many scientists wanted to employ the new technology (me too). While there were a number of reports on off-target effects, it is now clear that off-target genome alterations are rarely found in an in vivo situation (Seruggia et al., 2015; Shen et al., 2014). Moreover modified nucleases are meanwhile available with no detectable off-target effects (Kleinstiver et al. 2016).

In the most widely used model organism in biomedical research, the mouse, the number of animals needed to generate a genetically modified line remains approximately the same with CRISPR/Cas9 as compared to conventional techniques. However, the ease at which new mutations are generated with the new system might lead to increased numbers of novel lines being produced (Williams et al., 2016). Moreover, numbers are also increasing for other species, especially zebrafish and rats (Auer and Del Bene, 2014; Hwang et al., 2013; Wang et al., 2015). As with all novel genetically modified lines, after their generation CRISPR/Cas9 generated animals need to be bred for experiments and are kept on the shelf for considerable time. Thereby, the increase in the number of lines generated will translate into larger numbers of additional animals bred.

At this time, conventional techniques still have their justification in the lab since precise modification of DNA via homologous recombination, especially with large constructs, is not as robust as necessary via CRISPR/Cas9. However, one has to take into account that this is a very recent technology, whilst work to improve the generation of genetically modified mice via homologous recombination in embryonic stem cells has been ongoing for more than 25 years. We therefore may see extensive improvements over the coming years once we gain a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms. With improvements in targeting efficiencies there could be opportunities for further reductions in the number of mice used for the generation of the animal model to be studied: In many cases mutations are still introduced into ES cells that are used for the generation of live mice. Even though culture conditions have been improved over the years, cell clones show a fairly high degree of aneuploidy so that multiple clones have to be injected to generate chimeric offspring that transmit the mutation to their progeny. Due to the non-chimeric nature of CRISPR/Cas9, mutated individuals will in most cases transmit. Therefore an improved ratio of mutant to wildtype offspring could directly reduce the number of animals produced. However, the degree of mosaicism could counteract this reduction. CRISPR/Cas9 technology has the potential that several mutations can be introduced on different alleles at the same time, even homozygously, once the mosaicism issue is solved. Alternatively, complex mutations can be generated by adding additional mutations in pronuclear stage embryos of mutant backgrounds. With a sufficient increase in efficiency, this promise does appear realistic (Williams et al., 2016). This would mean that instead of producing a plethora of unwanted mice with unwanted genotypes in the process of breeding compound mutants, one could proceed right to the desired combination of mutated alleles.

We expect to see an increase in the number of species that will undergo complex targeted genetic manipulation. Still, a significant increase in laboratory animal numbers is not expected. The research infrastructure has been developed and is still being developed for large scale mouse breeding. The breeding of rats takes up much more space and only a few centers have the infrastructure for larger animals. The applicability of the technology to non- human primates means they are also more often nowadays used for transgenic animal research, especially in countries where such research is not strictly regulated. This is another issue of public concern and will require an ethical evaluation process beyond the scope of the 3R approach. CRISPR/Cas9 technology is widely used to genetically manipulate zebrafish. An increase in zebrafish numbers similar to what is foreseen in the mouse can be expected. On the other hand there will be projects where the zebrafish is now amenable to the introduction of complex targeted genetic manipulation and can therefore replace the mouse as a model – a clear refinement in accordance with the 3Rs.

In summary, the ISTT’s 3Rs Committee acknowledges that the advent of the CRISPR/Cas9 technology has the potential to significantly increase the number of animals used and range of species genetically modified. However the committee believes that existing limits on space and other associated resources will inhibit the realization of this at the current time. In the long run, after the technology has been developed further and improved, the Committee is hopeful that opportunities for reducing the number of animals that are bred but not used will be realized.

Boris Jerchow, Chair
On behalf of the ISTT’s 3Rs Committee Berlin in March 2016

Auer, T.O., and Del Bene, F. (2014). CRISPR/Cas9 and TALEN-mediated knock-in approaches in zebrafish. Methods 69, 142-150.
Hwang, W.Y., Fu, Y., Reyon, D., Maeder, M.L., Tsai, S.Q., Sander, J.D., Peterson, R.T., Yeh, J.R., and Joung, J.K. (2013). Efficient genome editing in zebrafish using a CRISPR-Cas system. Nat Biotechnol 31, 227-229.

Kleinstiver, B.P., Pattanayak, V., Prew, M.S., Tsai, S.Q., Nguyen, N.T., Zheng, Z., and Joung, J.K. (2016). High-fidelity CRISPR–Cas9 nucleases with no detectable genome-wide off- target effects. Nature, 529, 490-495.
Seruggia, D., Fernandez, A., Cantero, M., Pelczar, P., and Montoliu, L. (2015). Functional validation of mouse tyrosinase non-coding regulatory DNA elements by CRISPR-Cas9- mediated mutagenesis. Nucleic acids research 43, 4855-4867.

Shen, B., Zhang, W., Zhang, J., Zhou, J., Wang, J., Chen, L., Wang, L., Hodgkins, A., Iyer, V., Huang, X., et al. (2014). Efficient genome modification by CRISPR-Cas9 nickase with minimal off-target effects. Nature methods 11, 399-402.

Wang, L., Shao, Y., Guan, Y., Li, L., Wu, L., Chen, F., Liu, M., Chen, H., Ma, Y., Ma, X., et al. (2015). Large genomic fragment deletion and functional gene cassette knock-in via Cas9 protein mediated genome editing in one-cell rodent embryos. Scientific reports 5, 17517. Williams, A., Henao-Mejia, J., and Flavell, R.A. (2016). Editing the Mouse Genome Using the CRISPR-Cas9 System. Cold Spring Harbor protocols 2016, pdb top087536

Genetic Engineering of Human Embryos- for discussion

Commentary by Ernst-Martin Füchtbauer

The new and accelerating technical development of the CRISPR/Cas9 system opens up for the possibility of targeted genetic modifications in germline competent human embryos. This is an avenue, which until very recently has been regarded as absolutely off limits. To cross the border between genetic modifications of somatic cells and germline cells was simply not conceivable, at least in most Western countries. Indeed, the border has not yet been crossed, but we are getting closer.

In two recent papers Chinese scientists used triploid human embryos as a ‘model’ to either treat ß-thalassemia [1] or to recapitulate a spontaneous mutation in the CCR5 gene [2], which results in resistance against HIV infections. Both targets are clearly chosen due to their potential for future therapeutic application.

Shortly after the first of the two papers was published, the Board of Directors of the ISTT posted a statement [3], which among other arguments contains the following sentence:

Uses of genetic engineering in human embryos should be limited to disease mitigation for those diseases where no other option is available; we reject the idea of “designer babies”.

This raises the question whether there are at all diseases where there are no other options (now or in the future). Hereditary diseases are rarely transmitted by homozygous parents, which makes preimplantation diagnostics (PID) an obvious safer and ethically far less disputed alternative. The example, ß-thalassemia reaches in very limited populations, like the Maldives, a frequency that puts about 1% of couples at risk to be double homozygous. But still, is not a CRISPR/Cas9 based hematopoietic stem cell therapy the obvious and much easier developed therapy?

However, the case of targeting CCR5 is fundamentally different. As no one can claim that being wild type for CCR5 is a disease, this is a clear designer approach. Given that we know relatively little about the function of CCR5, one might wonder how we can be sure that it is beneficial to mutate it in a world of ever changing microbial threats. It seems that developing a CCR5 blocking drug or somatic mutations of CCR5 in HIV patients is the obvious way forward.

It is my feeling that many colleagues, some of whom I greatly admire, are beginning to accept experiments with the obvious goal to modify the human germline ‘if it is the only cure for severe diseases’. However, I have not heard one convincing example of such disease that is not in principle “treatable” or “avoidable”. Finally we should keep in mind that the Hardy-Weinberg equation ridicules all eugenic attempts to clean the population from ‘disease’ alleles.

I am increasingly concerned because the discussion in our community has, within a few months, taken an almost purely technical turn about off target risks and efficiency. We neglect many decades of thorough philosophical and ethical literature on the issue. There is more at stake than the possible treatment of a few rare diseases.

These questions are too important to just wait and see. We as ISTT members are so close to the topic that we need to have an honest and open discussion about our opinions. This blog could be a starting point and I invite/encourage you to add to this discussion.

[1] Liang, P. et al. Protein Cell (2015) http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13238-015-0153-5

[2] Kang, X. et al. J. Assist. Reprod. Genet. (2016) http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10815-016-0710-8

[3] http://www.montonerin.es/isttlegacy/isttblog/?p=1581

TARC X Meeting Report

20150809_084915 20150817_103359 20130810_163007Tahoe City, California, USA

August 9 – 13, 2015

“What if . . . we had cows that did not have horns? We do! This is a naturally-occurring mutation, and these are called “polled” (or, hornless) cows. This is a great benefit to the cattle industry, as this reduces the amount of trauma that cows can cause each other. Unfortunately, there are only a few types of cows that contain the mutation causing the polled phenotype. Other cows must have their horns removed to safely interact with each other in groups and their handlers. You can see that this type of “surgery” could also cause animal welfare issues.

But, what if we could transfer the naturally-occurring mutation from one type of cow to another? This can be accomplished by breeding the mutation into non-polled cattle. Keeping in mind that the time for gestation in cattle is 9 months, and then the time to sexual maturity could be another one to one and a half years, the time needed to do the number of crosses to generate this mutation in a new strain of cattle could be significant—one breeder’s lifetime. But (again, another “but”), what if we could introduce this mutation in a single generation by genetic engineering and leave no footprint behind—just this ONE MUTATION. It is now possible to do this using the CRISPR/Cas9 system; one could introduce the mutation and carefully characterize the animals that result to insure that there are no additional changes in the genome—no footprints. You could argue that this would be incredibly beneficial for animal welfare issues and for the benefit of those who care for these animals.”

This is the type of discussion that can result, based on the research presented at the Tenth Transgenic Animal Research Conference (TARC X) [http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/confreg/?confid=732] just completed in Lake Tahoe, California, USA. The discussions and talks centered around transgenic animals other than mice, including cows, sheep, goats and pigs, as well as avians (chickens), rabbits, and even mosquitoes! An especially valuable addition to the signature 10th Conference was the inclusion of reviews of different aspects of the technology given at the start of each session.

In the first session, Dr. Jim Murray (UC Davis, USA) reviewed how genetically engineered livestock have been developed for agriculture since the first TARC meeting in 1997. This was closely followed by a talk from Maeve Ballantyne (Roslin Institute, Scotland) about their efforts to engineer resilience to African swine fever into pigs. This disease is rapidly spreading from Africa throughout Eastern Europe. Thus, this type of genetic engineering could be critical for maintaining the health of swine herds. The following talk by Jayne Raper (CUNY, USA), was a natural extension in this session, discussing how genes encoding resistance to trypanosomiasis in non-human primates could be moved into sheep and cattle. The expectation is that such genes are critical for maintaining the health of these herds throughout Africa.

The second session was devoted to new technologies for genome engineering. It started with an excellent review from Bruce Whitelaw (Roslin Institute, Scotland). His review showed how the initial slow progress in generating precisely mutated animals has become much more rapid with the introduction of genome editing. The promise of this technology was soon demonstrated by Mark Tizard (CSIRO, Australia), who described efforts to edit the genome of poultry, and by Bhanu Teluga (University of Maryland, USA), who described his highly efficient CRISPR/Cas targeted genome editing in pigs.

After an afternoon break for hiking, shopping, boating and general fun in Lake Tahoe, there was a late afternoon poster session with submissions from throughout the world. After dinner, the evening session began with a talk from Pablo Ross (UC Davis). Pablo reviewed how pluripotent stem cells have been used to generate targeted livestock, and tantalized the audience with a promise of an upcoming publication describing a new media for growth of pluripotent stem cells from large animals, hopefully capable of generating chimeras and germline transmission. This was closely followed by talks from Franklin West (Univ. of Georgia, USA) and Jorge Piedrahita (NCSU, USA) about the use of stem cells in both pigs and chickens.

The second full day of the meeting was begun with a review by Chris Rogers (Exemplar Genetics, USA) on how genetically engineered livestock have been developed for biomedical models. Simon Bawden (SARI, AU) reported how Huntington’s disease has been recreated in sheep. This was followed by a talk from Lydia Garas (UC Davis, USA) about lysozyme transgenic goats whose milk can be used to prevent and treat intestinal diseases. After a short break, Mingjun Liu (China) described how the sheep FGF5 and MSTN genes have been altered using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing. The final talk of the morning was from Margareth Capurro (Univ. of Sao Paulo, Brazil), where she captivated the audience with her description of the methods used to gain acceptance for release of GE mosquitoes to reduce the incidence of dengue fever in one Brazilian village. Margareth finished her talk with a most memorable jingle used as a public service announcement!

The Tuesday afternoon session was composed of talks from Eddie Sullivan (SABBiotherapeutics, USA) about the generation of humanized antibodies produced in cows, and from Lissa Herron (Roslin Institute, Scotland) about the isolation of pharmaceutical proteins from avian egg whites. These talks were then followed by an enthusiastic review from Tim Doran (CSIRO, AU) where he surveyed the advances made in engineering of the avian genome. A number of conference attendees added to their notoriety by being listed in his “Hall of Fame”! The final talk on Tuesday, given by Marie-Cecile van de Lavoir (Crystal Biosciences, USA), described the generation of transgenic chickens carrying Cre-recombinase, which can be used to delete selectable markers in vivo.

The final day of the regular conference began with a review by Kevin Wells (Univ. of Missouri, USA) of the regulations governing genetic engineered animals and the food supply. He emphasized that, in the US, while there are regulations that apply, there have not been laws passed that oversee this area, and he called for the preparation of a “white paper” by the experts in the field to advise the US government. His talk was followed by a presentation of the “Glo-fish”@ experience with obtaining US approval given by Alan Blake (Yorktown Technologies, USA). William Muir (Purdue Univ., USA) then presented his statistical model (Hazard Assessment at Critical Control Points, or HAACP) that can assess environmental risk of GE animals based on net fitness of the organism, demonstrating its effectiveness in an experiment on a model organism. He then showed its application to the Aquabounty@ salmon currently awaiting approval, showing that the fear of an accidental release is irrelevant, as the GE salmon would quickly be eliminated from the population.

The next session had talks from Jun Wu (Salk Institute, USA) on the development of pluripotent stem cells, and their use in the pig to generate humanized organs for transplant; and from Hiro Nakauchi (Stanford Univ., USA) on exploiting an “organ niche” by injecting pluripotent stem cells from one organism (rat) into another, deficient organism (Pdx1-/- mouse) to generate a xenogenic pancreas. He is now testing this process in pigs as well.

Attendees were then given another welcome afternoon off to play in the surrounding area, where there is ample opportunity for boating, biking and hiking. This being the final day of the regular conference, everyone truly welcomed this last chance to enjoy the lake and surrounding mountains.

The final session of the meeting began (after another poster session and dinner) with a review given by Heiner Niemann (Hannover, Germany), where he spoke about the use of pigs as xeno-donors for human organs. He described three major hurdles to this scenario, including immune responses, physiological incompatibilities, and the risk of transmitting zoonotic organisms. His own work is an attempt to modify the immune response by humanizing several candidate genes.

The last talk of the meeting was from Alison Van Eenennaam (UC-Davis, USA) about how the technology has progressed but the acceptance of transgenic food animals has not over the past twenty years that TARC meetings have been held. She made an eloquent request that scientists take the time to explain and assure the public that genetic engineering technology can be safe and assist the world with developing a healthy, sustainable food supply. The scientific portion of the meeting then ended with the presentation of the poster award (sponsored by the Roslin Institute) to Dorothea Aumann (Munich, Germany) for her poster on “Analyzing gamma/delta T-cell function in chicken by reverse genetics”. The award presentation was followed by a discussion of how to advance the regulatory environment.

An optional Livestock Industry Day was held the following day, 14 August, 2015, where various company representatives could share their work, interact with attending scientists, and have another enjoyable day in Lake Tahoe. All in all, it was a very informative, interesting, and pleasurable meeting. Granlibakken Conference Center [http://www.granlibakken.com], The UC Davis Department of Animal Science [http://animalscience.ucdavis.edu], Drs. Jim Murray, Elizabeth Maga, Alison Van Eenennaam and Pablo Ross should be commended for their hard work in producing such a successful gathering. The next meeting will be held August 13-17, 2017—please plan on attending!



Respectfully submitted by:
Jan Parker-Thornburg, with editing from Walter Tsark and Jim Murray

Tenth Transgenic Animal Research Conference, Tahoe City, California (USA), 9 – 13 August, 2015


Plan to attend the 10th Transgenic Animal Research Conference (TARC X) in August of 2015. At this international meeting you will learn the latest developments in the field of non-murine transgenic animals. In celebration of the 10th conference in this series the program will contain nine review talks, to be published in a special issue of Transgenic Research. Once again the conference will be held at the beautiful Granlibakken Resort and Conference Center, high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains adjacent to beautiful Lake Tahoe. This meeting is co-sponsored by the ISTT.

Rooms are limited, so plan to register early. The conference web site opened February 1, 2015 for registrations and submission of poster abstracts. The following list of speakers confirms again that this is conference not to be missed. Additionally, in conjunction with Recombinetics, Inc there will be a special one day program on August 13th for the livestock, poultry and aquaculture industries on the application of GE animals. A list of confirmed speakers and topics, as well as additional information, registration and poster submission forms may be found on the conference web site (http://conferences.ucdavis.edu/transgenic). We invite you to join us for this interesting and important conference and learn more about the genetic future of the livestock industry.

Confirmed Speakers:


  • Elizabeth Maga/Jim Murray (UC Davis) GE livestock for agriculture
  • Chris Rogers (Exemplar Genetics) GE livestock for biomedical models
  • Heiner Niemann (Hannover) Xenotransplantation
  • Tim Doran (CSIRO, Australia) GE Poultry
  • Pablo Ross (UC Davis) iPS/Stem cells
  • Jun Wu (Salk Institute) Organ complementation
  • Bruce Whitelaw (Edinburgh) Gene editing/gene targeting
  • Luciana Bertolini (Brazil) Production of pharmaceuticals
  • Kevin Wells (Missouri) Regulation of transgenic animals

Additional speakers and topics

  • Maeve Ballantyne (Roslin) African swine fever resistant pigs
  • Simon Bawden (Australia) Huntington’s disease sheep model
  • Jayne Raper (New York) Cattle resistant to trypanosomiasis
  • Lydia Garas (UC Davis) Effects of lysozyme milk on intestinal health
  • Jorge Piedrahita (NC State) SCID pigs
  • Margarthe Cupurra (Sao Paulo) GE mosquitos to control dengue fever
  • Lissa Herron (Roslin) Pharmaceuticals from eggs
  • Eddie Sullivan (SABBiotherapeutics) Targeting emerging infectious diseases through animal biotechnology
  • Hiro Nakauchi (Stanford) Interspecies blastocyst complementation

The new BIOTERIOS.COM web page

The new BIOTERIOS.COM web page
The new BIOTERIOS.COM web page

BIOTERIOS.COM, the reference web portal on animal experimentation and animal welfare in Spanish in Latin America, created and maintained by Juan Manuel Baamonde (Manager of the animal facility at CECs, Valdivia, Chile, and ISTT Member) since 2007, has launched a new web page, a new layout, to show its very interesting and useful contents with a renewed and modern format. Among the new features that have been added, Juan Manuel must be praised for having included a web page translator tool (found at the top-right corner of all pages) which makes now possible to automatically translate the contents of any web page within BIOTERIOS.COM into another language of choice, to be selected among English, German, French or Portughese, hence further expanding the benefits of this wonderful site to all non-Spanish-speaking colleagues that could not read nor benefit from BIOTERIOS.COM before.
The site includes articles, interviews, reports on recent meetings and plenty of information on animal experimentation and animal welfare issues. Really worth visiting and exploring! (and now in English too!).

ISTT members chosen for a Panel on Transgenics for the 63rd annual AALAS meeting

63rd AALAS National Meering, Minneapolis, MN, November 3-8, 2012
63rd AALAS National Meering, Minneapolis, MN, November 3-8, 2012

AALAS, or the American Association for Laboratory Animal Sciences is hosting their 63rd Annual Meeting this fall.

For ISTT members planning on attending the AALAS national meeting in Minneapolis MN (USA) in November 3-8, 2012, we would love for you to attend our panel discussion on communications between veterinarians and transgenic facility managers. ISTT members, Jan Parker-Thornberg (MD Anderson) and Aimee Stablewski (Roswell Park Cancer Institute) will be part of the panel discussion along with Rob Taft from the Jackson Laboratory and our veterinarians (Kate Naff, Linda Waterman and Sandra Buitrago, respectively).

AALAS has thousands of applications for presentations so we are fortunate that ours was accepted. This is an ISTT-supported activity. Please come and participate with us.

Melissa Larson (University of Kansas Medical Center), the ISTT member representative before AALAS, will be also taking charge of our ISTT booth this year. Thank you to Melissa, for this great help. If any ISTT member will be attending the meeting, and would like to help Melissa, please email us to volunteer at: aalas@transtechsociety.org

Information about the National AALAS meeting:

Each fall since 1950, the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) has held its annual National Meeting. During the five days of the meeting, members and nonmembers come together to enjoy the workshops, lectures, poster sessions, and exhibits. The program is designed to have topics relevant to the entire membership. Exhibitors have an opportunity to interact with AALAS members from the academic community, research institutions, government organizations, and commercial companies.

The AALAS National Meeting is the largest gathering in the world of professionals concerned with the production, care, and use of laboratory animals. Please see the AALAS meeting website for details on how to register

The International Society for Transgenic Technologies (ISTT) is an AALAS affiliate organization.

We hope to see you there!!