A drawer full of frozen specimens in tubes

Museum's collection to contribute to UK’s first zoological biobank

The UK’s first national zoological biobank will be created as a result of a recent £1 million grant from the BBSRC’s Bioinformatics and Biological Resources Fund. 

  • £1-million awarded to UK’s first zoological biobank, the CryoArks Biobank.
  • UK scientists will have improved access to DNA from endangered species, thanks to the development of the UK’s first national zoological biobank.

This collection of zoological tissue will provide a central hub for researchers across the UK, to give them access to cells and DNA from endangered species and other wildlife, which can be used in their research and for conservation planning.

The CryoArks Biobank, led by Professor Mike Bruford of Cardiff University (Organisms and Environment Division, School of Biosciences, Cardiff University), is a major investment towards cryogenically preserving genetic materials for conversation and research. The Natural History Museum, National Museums Scotland, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Edinburgh Zoo, University of Nottingham and University of Edinburgh will also join forces to form the CryoArks biobank. The initiative will expand and link collections around the UK, including the Frozen Ark and EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria) biobanks.

Tim Littlewood, Head of Life Sciences at the Natural History Museum, says, 'Museums of the future will need more than just biological specimens preserved as pressed plants, pinned insects, skins and skeletons -  although those things are important.

'Natural history collections are essential for providing baseline data against which change can be measured. Strategic sampling and careful storage allows us to measure shifts in key data such as species number and biodiversity and also chart biological adaptations to climate and habitat change. Understanding change at the genomic level is now within our grasp and this initiative will prove invaluable in helping us learn how to protect the natural world.'

Starting in July 2018, CryoArks Biobank will provide cryopreservation infrastructure, databasing, a sampling initiative and public outreach in an unprecedented, coordinated effort to gather and curate genetic material for conservation and research. 

Professor Mike Bruford said, 'The CryoArks Biobank marks a huge leap forward in zoological biobanking in the UK. With the world facing unprecedented challenges for our wildlife and climate change, having access to this data will help us find solutions to protect our planet and its endangered species.

'Collections of tissue and DNA from laboratories, zoos, aquariums and museums will come together under a single structure, providing us with an unparalleled opportunity to better manage and share the vast amount of genetic material we have.

'It will allow researchers and conservationists to access material they never thought existed - including samples from wild populations and animals that are now extinct. CryoArks is making a step-change in the way that genetic material is curated, and is making it available to more scientists.'

Ends

Press contact

NHM Head of Media & PR Marion Bentley – m.bentley@nhm.ac.uk/ 020 7942 5077

Notes for editors  

Read a summary of the project on the Gateway to Research website

Institutional links

Cardiff University

Nottingham University

Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

National Museums Scotland

The University of Edinburgh

The Frozen Ark

European Association of Zoos and Aquaria

Contacts for journalists

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Email: press@nhm.ac.uk