Benchmark's Reproductive Technologies team and vollaborators. From left: Stefan Eggertsson (Benchmark), Irfan Ahmad Bhat and Milena Dubiel (both University of Iceland), Ólafur Kristjánsson, Nahal Eskafi, Eduardo Rodriguez, Zhiqiang Zeng, Diego Crespo and Ross Houston (all Benchmark), and Emma Walker (IP Pragmatics).

Benchmark adds gene editing expert to growing R&D team


Aquaculture biotechnology company Benchmark, a leading global supplier of salmon ova, has announced another recruit to its recently established Reproductive Technologies research and development team focused on sterility and gene editing.

Dr Diego Crespo joined on 1 August from the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen, Norway (IMR). He has more than 15 years of experience of fish reproduction and biotechnology, including CRISPR gene editing targeting sterility.

Crespo will maintain his strong links with IMR in joint projects, supporting a major collaboration between the two organisations 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”.

Non-triploid sterility

Benchmark has pioneered the application of reproductive technologies, including cryopreservation, all-female triploid populations (where fish have a third set of chromosomes that renders them infertile) , and year-round land-based ova production. Its new R&D team will focus on the next generation of such technologies, including sterility without triploidy, and commercial-scale applications of gene editing.

The company says these technologies will lead to future salmon products with enhanced performance and health, such as genetic resistance to diseases and preventing precocious maturation in farmed production.

Dr Zhiqiang Zeng and Stefan Eggertsson joined the R&D team earlier in the year. Zeng has over 20 years of experience in developmental biology, transgenics, and gene editing. Eggertsson is a recent Masters graduate with expertise in molecular biology and gene editing in model organisms. The team will be centred around Benchmark’s research facilities in Reykjavík, Iceland, under the leadership of Dr Eduardo Rodriguez, and benefiting from the year-round Atlantic salmon reproduction from the commercial breeding program.

A major frontier

“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 Dr Ross Houston, Benchmark’s director of genetics and innovation and a former professor at Edinburgh University’s Roslin Institute.

“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.”