Editing genes to build more resilient corals

Project title: Accelerating coral reef conservation, restoration, and sustainable business development in developing nations through the use of ex situ coral spawning
Project lead: Nicole Fogarty
Countries involved: USA, Philippines
Supporting institutions: University of North Carolina Wilmington, University of the Philippines
Total budget: $1,458,095
Duration: 36 months

Having developed the technology to trigger mass coral spawning events in aquaria, the project team is working out how to edit the genomes of the eggs released during spawning in order to give them a better chance of survival. The team is using a series of micro-injections and genetic modifications featuring CRISPR, a gene editing technology that allows scientists to directly modify DNA. While coral gene editing with CRISPR is an established approach, the team seeks to now insert entirely novel genes, including those related to improved thermo-tolerance. If they are successful, this will represent a tremendous advance in our capacity to genetically engineer corals that can withstand the anticipated warmer temperatures to be experienced in the ocean.