Dr Bill Barendse is a CSIRO Senior Principal Research Scientist working to identify genetic markers that can be used to help improve livestock production and health. He obtained his BSc with Honours from the Zoology Department of the University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia and his PhD, also from the Zoology Department of the University of Western Australia.
He is a geneticist with 20 years experience in population, evolutionary and molecular genetics who works at the Queensland Bioscience Precinct in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. He currently leads CSIRO’s research into livestock genetic improvement.
Most of his work is with cattle, including:
- host-parasite relationships such as resistance to ticks
- meat quality such as marbling and tenderness
- carcass composition such as meat yield, percent fat and fat distribution.
His main interest is in genes that affect normal phenotypic (visible) variation, often called quantitative trait loci (QTL), because they are the basis for most evolutionary change. QTL are important to agriculture and medicine. Until recently, QTL have been difficult to study. The study these QTL involves the construction of gene maps; the comparison of gene maps of mammals; the analysis of genetic and DNA sequence data (bioinformatics) and the identification of how genes cause differences in the animal. He is specifically interested in identifying new gene markers for economically important traits of cattle and studying cattle breed evolution using cattle haplotype maps.
Bill Barendse led the research that resulted in the construction of a genetic linkage map of the bovine genome. This project involved 40 international laboratories contributing data to the central node at CSIRO. This map demonstrated, for the first time, the detailed lack of large-scale synteny between cattle and humans.
In 2006, the world’s first commercial DNA test for beef cattle feed efficiency (GeneSTAR® Feed Efficiency 4) was launched. The test incorporates a suite of four independently acting DNA markers for the crucial production trait of converting feed into saleable meat. The project, led by Bill Barendse, was completed in around 18 months and was the result of a collaborative effort between:
- the Cooperative Research Centre for Cattle and Beef Quality (Beef CRC)
- Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA)
- Genetic Solutions Pty Ltd (now Catapult Genetics).
He is the co-author of more than 100 research publications in refereed scientific journals and the inventor on four commercialised patents/patent applications.
Honours and awards
He was a seminal contributor to the bovine and ovine genomics research team that was awarded the CSIRO Chairman’s Medal in 2010. He also led the research team which was awarded the 2003 CSIRO Medal for Research Achievement for significant contributions to the discovery and industrial application of molecular genetic tests in cattle.