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The zoological biobank

£1m awarded to UK’s first zoological biobank, improving access to DNA from endangered species
Sumatran tiger

UK scientists will have improved access to DNA from endangered species thanks to the development of the UK’s first national zoological biobank.

Research and conservation

The CryoArks Biobank, led by Professor Mike Bruford of Cardiff University, is a major investment towards cryogenically preserving genetic materials for conservation and research.

As the UK’s first national zoological biobank, it will give researchers across the UK access to tissues, cells and DNA from endangered species and other wildlife, which can be used in their research and for conservation planning.

‘CryoArks is making a step-change in the way that genetic material is curated, and is making it available to more scientists. From July 2018, we’ll have access to more samples than ever, helping us to find ways to protect the future of our planet’s wildlife.’

Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences

‘an unparalleled opportunity

CryoArks will expand and link collections of preserved samples from laboratories, zoos, aquariums and museums from across the UK, including the Frozen Ark – based at The University of Nottingham’s School of Life Sciences – and EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria) biobanks.

Professor Mike Bruford, from Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences, said it will provide scientists with ‘an unparalleled opportunity to better manage and share this vast amount of genetic material.’

He added the biobank will also allow researchers and conservationists to access material ‘they never thought existed – including samples from wild populations and animals that are now extinct.’

CryoArks will provide cryopreservation infrastructure, databasing, a sampling initiative and public outreach in an unprecedented, coordinated effort to gather and curate the UK’s key non-human, non-model animal genetic material for conservation and research.

Solutions to ‘unprecedented challenges’

The £1 million grant from the BBSRC brings together Cardiff University, the Natural History Museum, National Museums Scotland, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park, University of Nottingham and University of Edinburgh.

The CryoArks Biobank will also partner with the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) Biobank.

‘The CryoArks Biobank marks a huge leap forward in zoological biobanking in the UK.

‘With the world facing unprecedented challenges for our wildlife, having access to this data will help us find solutions to protect our planet and its endangered species.’

Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences

The project team includes Dr Lisa Yon, a lecturer in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine at the University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science.

Dr Yon said the infrastructure and expertise to preserve genetic material from wildlife species will be a ‘crucial resource to support both conservation efforts and research activities’.

She added that it will ‘serve as a model which the team hopes will be used to extend this initiative to mainland Europe and ultimately worldwide.’

In addition to her role as part of the executive team managing the project, Dr Yon will coordinate the sampling initiative at zoological institutions, and her expertise will inform the development of best practice guidelines for biobank sampling and data analysis.

By bringing together such a strong team, CryoArks is aiming to transform the way genetic material is curated, backed up and made available to the increasing number of scientists who will not be able to access wild specimens as they become increasingly threatened.

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