Supplier's News

Benchmark expands R&D team in reproductive technologies

The company established a Reproductive Technologies R&D team to bring breakthroughs in sterility and gene editing to the market in the coming years.

The Reproductive Technologies team and collaborators, from left to right: Stefan Eggertsson (Benchmark), Irfan Ahmad Bhat (University of Iceland), Milena Dubiel (University of Iceland), Ólafur Kristjánsson (Benchmark), Nahal Eskafi, Eduardo Rodriguez (Benchmark), Zhiqiang Zeng (Benchmark), Diego Crespo (Benchmark), Ross Houston (Benchmark), and Emma Walker (IP Pragmatics)
August 7, 2023

Benchmark has bolstered its research and development team with several new recruits in recent months. The new Reproductive Technologies R&D team has been established to ensure the company remains at the forefront of innovation, in particular, bringing breakthroughs in sterility and gene editing to the market in the coming years. Milestones in these technologies are expected to highly impact the salmon industry's productivity, animal welfare, and sustainability.

Benchmark is a genetics supplier to the global salmon market, supplying more than 30 countries, and has pioneered the application of reproductive technologies, including cryopreservation, all-female triploid populations, and year-round land-based ova production. The new R&D team will focus on the next generation of such technologies, including sterility without triploidy and commercial-scale applications of gene editing. These will lead to future salmon products with enhanced performance and health, such as genetic resistance to diseases and preventing precocious maturation in farmed production.

Diego Crespo is the most recent recruit to the team, joining from the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen, Norway (IMR). He brings over 15 years of experience in fish reproduction and biotechnology, including CRISPR gene editing targeting sterility. Crespo will maintain strong links with IMR in joint projects, supporting a major collaboration between the two organizations in this field. This includes a recently funded collaborative project from the Norwegian Research Council, Accelerated genetic improvement of key traits in farmed Atlantic salmon via transplantation of in vitro propagated germline stem cells.

Zhiqiang Zeng and Stefan Eggertsson joined the team earlier in the year. Zeng brings over 20 years of experience in developmental biology, transgenics, and gene editing. Eggertsson is a recent master's graduate with expertise in molecular biology and gene editing in model organisms. The team will be centered around state-of-the-art research facilities in Reykjavík, Iceland, under the leadership of Eduardo Rodriguez, and benefiting from the year-round Atlantic salmon reproduction from the commercial breeding program.

“We see breakthroughs in reproductive technologies and their integration with commercial-scale breeding programs as a major frontier in innovation for applied aquaculture genetics,” said Ross Houston, Benchmark's director of genetics and innovation. “With our strategic expansion in R&D in this area, we are consolidating our position as a leading company in this area globally, poised to bring these breakthroughs to customers to benefit industry sustainability, animal health and welfare. We achieve this through strategic collaboration with world-leading research groups and targeted internal programs of close-to-market research and commercial-scale product development.”