Kui Li

Professor, Institute of Animal Science, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences

Summary of my work

Since leaving Cornell, I have continued my research in animal genetics. Over the past five years, my research group has identified a series of genes related to various genetic traits and diseases of swine. In addition, my group works on genetic engineering of swine.

Impacts in China

We have collaborated with a pig stud farm in Tongcheng County in Hubei Province, one of the national impoverished counties in central China, where an eminent Chinese indigenous pig breed called Tongcheng Pig exists. We have analyzed the genetic diversity within various Chinese indigenous and foreign breeds, and the results were published in a cover story of the Journal of Heredity. Based on these studies, we have developed a commercial crossbreed with Tongcheng Pigs and foreign breeds to improve pork production and quality. The new improved pig line, called “Eqing-1” has been pushed to the market using a trademark designation. As a result of the crossbreed popularization encouraged by the local government, local live pig production has reached about 1,000,000 pigs per year. Through this research we have dramatically promoted regional rural development.

As a powerful tool for livestock breeding, molecular genetic markers and related genes have been widely explored for more than two decades. Therefore, our team cloned and characterized about 115 swine genes; 20 of them associated with swine economic traits were confirmed by using our resource family. All the research was first done in pigs so that we obtained a number of patents listed in Selected Publications and Patents. Moreover, our results were cited about 12 times by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in a couple of documents. To study and improve pork quantity and quality traits, we have developed several types of genetically modified pigs over recent years. As expected, the pork was largely improved when modified genes were inserted into the pig genome. However, there is still much work needed to determine whether transgenic pork is safe and how to reduce the cost of production.