This aim of IMAGE is to enhance the use of genetic collections and to upgrade animal gene bank management. IMAGE will better exploit DNA information and develop methodologies, biotechnologies, and bioinformatics for rationalising animal genetic resources. It will demonstrate the benefits brought by gene banks to the development of sustainable livestock systems by: enhancing the usefulness of genetic collections to allow the livestock sector to respond to environment and market changes; using latest DNA technology and reproductive physiology for collecting, storing and distributing biological resources; Minimising genetic accidents such as abnormalities or genetic variability tipping points; Developing synergies between ex-situ and in-situ conservation to maximise resources for the future.
To this end, the project will involve stakeholders, SME, and academic partners to achieve the following objectives. At the scientific level, the project will: Assess the diversity available in genetic collections; Search for adaptive traits through landscape genetics in local populations; Contribute to elucidate local populations’ and major genes’ history; Identify detrimental variants that can contribute to inbreeding depression; Predict cryobank samples’ reproductive performance; Facilitate the use of collections for genome-assisted breeding. At the technological level, it will develop: Procedures for harmonising gene bank operations and rationalising collections; Conservation and reproductive biotechnologies; A central information system to connect available data on germplasm and genomic collections. At the applied level, it will develop methods and tools for stakeholders to: Restore genetic diversity in livestock populations; Create or reconstruct breeds fitting new environmental constraints and consumer demands; Facilitate cryobanking for local breeds; Define and track breed-based product brands; Implement access and benefit sharing regulations.