|Category||Food & Environment|
|Keywords||Molecular genetic chip, smuggling, wildlife, veterinary forensics|
|Current development stage||General list: TRL2 Technology Concept Formulated|
|Collaboration Opportunity||Sponsored Research with an Option to License Research Results|
One of the most immediate threats to the future of wildlife around the world is the illegal trade and consumption of “bushmeat.” Across the globe, organized criminal networks are engaging in the harvesting, processing, smuggling and trade of wildlife and wildlife products. In 2018-2019 UK border patrol intercepted 1,149kg of bushmeat of chimpanzees, elephants, giraffes and other threatened species (link). The trade of animals (alive or dead) harbors risks not only to the wildlife but also to human health, through the transmission of zoonotic diseases such as the Ebola virus. Much of the illegal bushmeat is sold to Europe via shipping ports and airports, and many times there is no way to differentiate between wildlife meat and regular food grade meat (cow, sheep, etc.).
We would like to develop a molecular genetic chip with markers for efficient identification of the wildlife – the type, source and origin of illegally transported meat and other foodstuffs. This chip would be used both by rangers in developing countries and in ports within developed countries to prevent these illegal meats from reaching the edible market. In addition, we will screen the samples for zoonotic pathogens to prevent outbreaks.
We aim to establish a multiplex SNP assay to identify the species, geographic location, sex and individual animal and screen for zoonotic diseases. For the designed multiplex SNP assay to be efficient in identifying species targeted for bushmeat, we will incorporate into the design process both published genomes together with any new additional sequenced and assembled genomes. Bioinformatics analysis of all genomes will be conducted to detect SNPs between species, populations and individuals. In addition, primers representing zoonotic pathogens will be added to the SNP multiplex assay for zoonotic disease detection. These will be identified by bioinformatics analysis of the pathogen genomes.
Prof. Gila Kahila Bar-Gal is a world-renowned expert in wildlife forensics and in the past has trained and established a wildlife forensics units. The combination of the data obtained using the multiplex SNP assay will provide: (1) answers for forensic investigations concerning wildlife crime, (2) veterinary and human public health information concerning the prevalence of zoonotic pathogens, (3) biorepository and metadata of wild animal samples to promote wildlife conservation management programs through tracking of targeted populations, numbers of animals removed, sex ratios and possible diseases.
The innovation will enable rangers or custom officers to run the SNP array on site in a short period of time. As of today there are few apparatuses that can be modified to run the assay and produce the results on site without sending it to a forensic centered lab.