”The Sino-Danish Porcine Genome Project” was a successful cooperation between Aarhus Uni-versity, KU LIFE (former The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Copenhagen), The Danish Bacon & Meat Council and Beijing Genomics Institute, China sequencing the porcine genome. Getting close to the goal of 100% sequencing and having developed procedures, knowhow, networks and State of the Art equipment within genetic technologies the partners agreed to further exploit this in a new project “Pigs and Health”.

In 2006 a consortium consisting of Danish Pig Production, Aarhus University, KU LIFE, LEO Parma, The Technical University of Denmark and Göttingen Ellegaard Minipigs was invited to apply for funding of the “Pigs and Health” project from the recently established Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation. The project got a grant of 3.3 million Euro over four years corresponding to 50% of the total budget. 

Main objectives of “Pigs and Health” 

  1. Development and commercialisation of transgenic pigs as models of human diseases. 
  2. Development of genetically based tests for the identification of individuals with a specific ge-netic configuration of benefit to the production of pork meat.

Foundation of PixieGene A/S

In order to accomplish the first of the above objectives PixieGene A/S was established and made a partner of the project thereby acquiring the first right of refusal to the inventions emerging from it.

Perspectives of pigs in laboratory Animal Science

The mini pig is an increasingly well established laboratory animal in the scientific and pharma-ceutical fields and the numbers used are constantly increasing. The most frequently used labora-tory mammals are still the rodents and within this area genetically modified mice have shown a triumphal progress during the last decade. 

The pig is in many respects much closer to man than mouse is and this indicates that a transgenic mini pig is an extremely interesting novelty to many researchers - particularly in the pharmaceutical business. 

Disease models in “Pigs and Health”

At the University of Aarhus genetic modification of mature somatic cells (fibroblasts) is performed. Furthermore, a new and improved method of cloning has been developed and patented. Combining these techniques make the generation of genetically modified pigs possible. Already in 2007 a litter of 7 transgenic pigs carrying an Alzheimer gene was born. This event was awarded the most important Danish scientific break through of the year which was very encouraging to both scientists of Aarhus University and PixieGene. The Alzheimer pig is now being phenotypically characterized. 

Atherosclerotic pigs have also been generated. The University of Aarhus is working on three transgenic pig models of atherosclerosis based on over-expression and knock out of target genes. The first successful line was a PCSK9 model which´is under phenotypic characterization. The second was an ApoE knock out model which was born in January 2011. PixieGene believes the models will provide a new paradigm in atherosclerosis research. They will open up improved testing of drugs targeting a range of settings from treatment or prevention of atherosclerosis to the assessment of drugs for use in settings related to metabolic syndrome or diabetes.