Australia’s Largest ‘Living Biobank’ Developed to Safeguard Wildlife Species via Cryopreservation

A groundbreaking initiative by the University of Melbourne and Museums Victoria aims to safeguard the future of Australia's unique species.

Australia's Largest 'Living Biobank' Developed to Safeguard Wildlife Biodiversity via Cryopreservation
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Australia is embarking on an unprecedented conservation effort with the development of a ‘living biobank’ by the University of Melbourne and Museums Victoria Research Institute. This initiative, a first for an Australian museum, will begin with the collection of live cells from the country’s distinctive wildlife. These cells, including skin, sperm, and egg cells, will be cryogenically preserved to maintain the genetic material of species at risk of extinction, such as the Smoky Mouse, Grassland Earless Dragons, and the Fat-tailed Dunnart.

The project, which has received an Australian Research Council Linkage grant, aims to provide cells for critical research, leveraging advances in reproductive technologies and cloning to reintroduce genetic diversity into endangered populations. Project Lead Professor Andrew Pask emphasized the urgent need for this “technological revolution” as an insurance policy against the loss of genetic biodiversity, highlighting the accelerated extinction risk posed by climate change and adverse weather events.

Dr. Joanna Sumner, Senior Manager of Genetic Resources at Museums Victoria Research Institute, highlighted the transformative potential of the project, aiming to shift museums’ roles from documenting to actively preserving genetic variation. The living biobank is expected to significantly impact the conservation of Australia’s irreplaceable wildlife, with plans to cryopreserve cells from up to 100 species over three years.

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This collaborative effort, supported by significant donations and grants, underscores Australia’s commitment to protecting its unique biodiversity, offering hope for the future of endangered species and setting a global precedent in wildlife conservation.