The non-profit organization Revive & Restore has unveiled an innovative new project, in collaboration with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, aimed at establishing a biobanking program for endangered species in the United States. This groundbreaking multi-institution partnership represents the inaugural comprehensive biobanking system designed for threatened and endangered species in the country. The primary goal of this initiative is to safeguard the genetic diversity critical for ongoing and future conservation and 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.
Given the ongoing biodiversity crisis and the increasing threat of extinction, there is an urgent demand for innovative approaches to safeguard the genetic diversity of endangered species in the United States. Biobanking, which involves the deliberate and long-term storage of living cells, tissues, and reproductive materials, plays a crucial role in preserving genetic diversity that cannot be recovered otherwise.
Biobanking not only safeguards the irreplaceable genetic diversity of wildlife species but also enhances our capacity for genetic rescue strategies in both the present and the future. Currently, only 14% of the over 1,700 threatened or endangered species in the United States have their living tissues 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 committed to the application of biotechnology in the preservation and restore endangered species and ecosystems, leads the new initiative. This endeavor is undertaken in collaboration with key partners, namely the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, ViaGen Pets & Equine, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.
The inaugural selection of 24 U.S. endangered mammals for biobanking by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service includes species such as the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus), and Sonoran Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis).
A collaborative effort involving multiple institutions, including partnerships between the public and private sectors, has successfully developed a scalable biobanking system for endangered species in the United States. This system encompasses various stages, such as collecting tissues, the creation of living cell lines, and establishing a national repository for cryopreservation.
These cell lines offer the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service the chance to enhance population management through genomic data and broaden the scope of genetic rescue using advanced reproductive techniques. Samples will be gathered from both wild animals and those involved in 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 a component of the program, Revive & Restore has also developed resources for field biologists engaged in biobanking the species they study. These resources comprise peer-reviewed guidelines for sample collection, visual aids, and a compilation of published materials from other institutions that specialize in biobanking and cryopreservation. You can access these valuable resources on the project’s dedicated webpage.
This unprecedented partnership represents a significant stride toward safeguarding endangered species in the United States and establishing a lasting testament to America’s rich biodiversity.