Research co-led by the Faculty of Science could lead to healthier fish and significant savings for the Canadian aquaculture industry.
Dr. Matt Rise, professor, Department of Ocean Sciences, and a team of collaborators from University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) and industry partner EWOS/Cargill, have received $4.5 million in funding to develop new therapeutic diets for farmed Atlantic salmon.
The project is one of six national research collaborations awarded through Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program. Dr. Rise is co-lead of the scientific team along with Dr. Richard Taylor, senior research scientist at Cargill Innovation Center, a major international supplier of animal and fish feed; and Dr. Mark Fast, Elanco Research Chair in Fish Health, Atlantic Veterinary College, UPEI.
“Our functional genomics research will identify molecular mechanisms involved in salmon responses to co-infections,” noted Dr. Rise. “This will lead to the development of better feeds for improved treatments to combat co-infections.”
When an outbreak occurs, farmed fish can become infected with pathogens ranging from sea lice to bacteria and viruses which can, in turn, have a devastating impact for aquaculture farmers.
“This project utilizes our collective infrastructure and expertise in aquaculture genomics, nutrition and immunology to address a key problem faced by the industry.”
Relatively little research has been conducted on co-infections in salmon because it requires specialized know-how and a complex infrastructure of test facilities. The research team will be using genomics tools to identify biomarker genes specific to co-infections. The team will be able to tell the probable effect that different feed-based treatments will have on fish that are co-infected with pathogens. They’ll then be able to use that information to develop therapeutic diets that minimize or prevent these co-infections, or even treat the fish.
The project builds on the team’s earlier research focusing on individual pathogens in farmed Atlantic salmon.
If proven successful, Dr. Rise says the research could have a big impact on the aquaculture industry in Atlantic Canada and beyond.
“This project utilizes our collective infrastructure and expertise in aquaculture genomics, nutrition and immunology to address a key problem faced by the industry,” he said.
“It will also provide state-of-the-art training for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows and give them the opportunity to collaborate closely with our industry partner.”
Project funding for Integrated Pathogen Management of Co-Infection in Atlantic Salmon is provided by the Government of Canada via Genome Canada at $1.5 million; EWOS/Cargill at $2.2 million; Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland & Labrador at $500,000; Mitacs at $90,000; UPEI at $101,000; and Memorial University at $51,000.
The project is managed by Genome Atlantic.