Symposium Abstract #7 – Mick Watson
Posted by Richard Holland.
This is the seventh of the abstracts for talks being given at the 1st Eagle Genomics Symposium, "Provisioning Bioinformatics for the Next Decade – are we prepared?". Here we will hear from Mick Watson, Director at ARK Genomics. Mick will talk on the subject of "Meeting the global challenge of food security: bioinformatics in the animal health and welfare sector."
Here is Mick's abstract:
"Research in the livestock and veterinary health sector is arguably more important than research into human health, yet receives a fraction of the funding from both government and the private sector. We need to feed the World, and at the same time mitigate the effects of increased livestock production on the environment. Sir John Beddington estimates that the global demand for food will increase by 50% by 2030; an FAO report estimates global production of meat will double by 2050. The livestock sector employs an estimated 1.3 billion people, creates livelihoods for one billion of the World's poor and provides approximately one-third of humanity's protein intake. Growing populations and incomes, along with changing food preferences, are rapidly increasing demand for livestock products. How are we going to meet this demand? Science can contribute by producing better vaccines and drugs, and by driving genetic improvement programmes. However, the profit margins of animal health companies are dwarfed by those in human health, therefore there is an increased burden on academic funding sources. Even so, government investment in the sector is less than in human health. All of this comes in the context that veterinary health researchers deal with multiple hosts and multiple pathogens. The genomes of the World's farmed species are in a mixed state, and many are now benefitting from the revolution in next-generation sequencing. However, those technologies bring their own challenges. As in many areas of science, there is a large, growing demand for high quality bioinformatics support and research. Datasets are getting bigger and biologists are now incapable of interpreting them without expert help. Sourcing the necessary resources and skills to deliver the predicted growth in animal production, against the background of large cuts to University funding and an economic recession, is a huge challenge which will require a mixed model of funding, large scale collaboration and an increased reliance on an open-source software model."
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