The Biotechnology Research Theme builds on ILRI's collaborative advantage in the field of biosciences to engage with a wide range of partners to develop new products and tools specifically aimed to mitigate threats to the assets of the poor that other suppliers are unlikely to consider. The products of such research may also frequently improve livestock productivity. In selecting this focus ILRI recognizes that securing assets, and the related goals of achieving food and nutritional security, are of particular concern to women and their children, and this therefore is likely to be an effective route to reducing family poverty. In the field of animal health, research seeks to develop appropriate diagnostics to help identify disease threats and develop specific vaccines. For genetics and genomics, this research theme includes identifying and using genetic adaptations such as disease resistance and developing appropriate marker technologies to facilitate delivery of genetic improvement into farmers’ herds/flocks.
Securing and building the assets of the poor is a cornerstone of poverty alleviation. Disease is a major factor threatening the livestock assets of the poor in low input systems and also limits productivity of, and contribution to income by, these assets. Livestock genetic resources have evolved in diverse environments and carry unique genes that define productive and adaptive capabilities. Use of locally adapted and disease resistant livestock, and development of appropriate interventions, such as diagnostics for disease surveillance, and vaccines and therapeutics for disease prevention and treatment are effective routes to help secure livestock assets of the poor.
Developing countries are facing a substantial challenge as they attempt to participate in the dynamic growth of the biotechnology field. They have difficulty in influencing the agenda in a field strongly driven by the private sector and developed countries. Demands are for training and for collaborative research to address problems specific to developing countries. Given their nature, these problems will be addressed only by internationally or regionally organized public research. To secure the assets of the poor in developing world countries, many of their research and development institutions want to take advantage of opportunities that advances in biotechnology offer. Some research issues that ILRI and partners will tackle using biotechnology will likely not even appear on the research agendas of most research institutes in the North. ILRI therefore has a responsibility to ensure that these issues are considered for public investment.