The International Centre of Microbial Resources (CIRM), yeast collection in Grignon. © INRA, MAITRE Christophe

Genetic and biological resources

Updated on 08/19/2016
Published on 06/13/2013

INRA has accumulated a significant amount of genetic resources - plant, microbial and animal – to fuel the Institute’s research. It is committed to building biological resource centres (BRCs), and plays an active role in preserving biological diversity.

The holder of large collections of genetic resources, particularly for major crop plants, INRA teamed up with other research bodies, higher education institutes and related ministries to found BRCs throughout the 2000s.

Built up over a period of more than 50 years in the name of science, INRA’s shared resources cover a large range of cultivated species and their wild relatives. The collections are representative of the history of agriculture as well as the Institute’s research, illustrating the different values attributed to biodiversity, in terms of research and selection, but also agricultural heritage and history.

As a public research body, INRA is committed to preserving biological diversity and genetic resources within the framework of national policies as well as international agreements. Its activities are in line with French national strategies for biodiversity piloted by the French Ministry of Ecology, and with national policies governing genetic resources as outlined by the Ministry of Agriculture. INRA’s research on the characterisation and management of genetic resources fall within the scope of national strategy carried out by the ministry of Research. It is conducted in concert with all research bodies concerned, members of the FRB, or Foundation for Research in Biological Diversity. FRB has created a portal for the information systems of French resources - RGScope – within the national framework EcoScope.

Streamlining the management of biological resources

After a very significant inventory stage, INRA has worked hard to boost the efficiency of its resource systems, with a view to streamlining the management of biological resources within relevant research units.

Where plants are concerned, priority was given to collections of model species (Arabidopsis thaliana and Medicago truncatula) as well as to that of several major crop plants for which INRA coordinates research projects, including for the most part resource networks at national, European, and even international level: grains, vines, Malus, Prunus, citrus plants, Solanaceae and legumes. Recently, INRA partnered with Cirad, IRD,  Montpellier Supagro and the Languedoc Roussillon region to support the creation of a national centre for genetic plant resources in Montpellier.

When it comes to animals, INRA has been instrumental in the development of a national cryobank since 1999, and coordinates the network of BRCs for domestic animals (CRB-Anim), a French national infrastructure that is part of the Stimulus Initiative Project for 2012.

For microorganisms, INRA has organised its collections in five thematic sites within CIRM, the international centre for microbial resources: yeasts in Grignon; filamentous fungi in Marseille; food bacteria in Rennes; human or animal pathogenic bacteria in Tours; and plant-associated bacteria in Angers. This biological resource centre is certified by IBiSA and has been part of the Biobanks project, funded for the past ten years by the Stimulus Initiative Project.

Two centres specialise in genomic resources: CNRGV, the national Centre for plant genomic resources in Toulouse, and CRB Gadie, the national Centre for genomic resources for domestic animals and animals of economic interest, in Jouy-en-Josas. Both are IBiSA-certified (multi-organisational scientific interest group) and received recognition as national platforms by the national Commission of INRA common tools (CNOC) several years ago.

What is a biological resource centre?

Biological resource centres (BRCs) came about as the result of global research carried out by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). They are specialised centres that collect, validate, study, secure and distribute living organisms (seeds, grafts, etc.) and the parts of them that can be replicated (DNA banks, plasmids, etc.), under stringent quality-control and traceability conditions. The centres are responsible for the databases associated with the collections, and play a crucial role in international research, particularly in biotechnologies.