Associate Professor Tomer Ventura pioneered the application of single gene silencing to induce fully functional sex change in crustaceans. This has wide application for practicing Monosex Population Culture (all-male or all-female), which has tremendous value for the entire aquaculture industry. This is the first application of gene silencing in aquaculture.
Associate Professor Ventura’s molecular expertise is vital in translating novel basic scientific results into applicable biotechnologies. He is leading a group dedicated to better understand the molecular mechanism underlying crustacean masculinity and metamorphosis and is participating in an attempt to understand the genetic cause for vertebrae deformitiesand flesh colour variation in salmon.
Patents and Awards
- Vice Chancellor and President’s Award for Excellence in Research, University of the Sunshine Coast 2014.
- Best Early Career Research Presentation Award, University Research Week, University of the Sunshine Coast 2013.
- A travel grant to the 12th Congress of the International Society of Invertebrate Reproduction and Development, Prague, Czech Republic 2010.
- Sagi, A., Aflalo E.D. and Ventura T., 2010 Sex selection and management of prawns and systems and uses thereof (provisional PCT priority: 29 July 2010).
- Sagi, A. and Ventura T., 2008. RNA silencing of insulin-like gene in prawn and uses thereof. PCT/IL2009/000127 (priority: 4 February 2008).
Professional Social Media
Potential Projects (SRP/Honours/HDR)
- Cell-based meat from aquatic species
The urgent need for alternative food sources with reduced impact on our planet and more ethical management of livestock has recently seen the rise of a new way of producing meat using biotechnology. Part of the emerging field of Cellular Agriculture, cell-based meat, also referred to as cultured or cultivated meat, aims to produce muscle and fat tissues in bioreactors, providing healthy, nourishing meat starting from cells, rather than animals. The research at USC is currently focussed on aquatic species of high commercial value, with attempts to decipher the best methods for cell culture, producing viable cell lines, and using an integrated molecular and bioinformatics-assisted approach to modify the cells for optimal proliferation and differentiation profiles. Prospective students will have the opportunity to add value to and make industry connections within this exciting new field at the cutting edge of food, science, and sustainability.
- Spiny Lobster Biotechnology
The Australian spiny lobster aquaculture was provided a government boost of $5 million AUD over the next 5 years to launch a world-first commercial scale production of spiny lobsters from egg to product. Two companies joined ten researchers that lead this venture. Associate Professor Ventura oversees the molecular genetics aspects of this project in collaboration with lead researchers in UTas and the company in Townsville. The project offers diverse opportunities to explore value-adding biotechnologies using cutting-edge molecular biotechnology tools in the space of lobster sexual development/nutrition/health. The students will gain training in molecular biology, biotechnology and bioinfortmatics analysis.
- Digital lobster
As part of the effort to value-add the spiny lobster aquaculture industry in Australia, the research led by Associate Professor Ventura generated the most comprehensive database ever to be generated in crustaceans. Skillful computer sciences students will have the opportunity to develop tools to visualize the data and enable quick access to relevant information. The student will be co-supervised by a computer science academic and will benefit from access to this database.
- RNAi mechanism
Associate Professor Ventura pioneered the use of gene silencing (RNAi) in aquaculture for commercial benefit and holds a patent for this technology, now commercially available globally. This project provides a unique opportunity to better understand how gene silencing works and develop new ways to enhance it as a promising candidate for non genetically modifying therapy. The project involves bioinformatics analysis, gene silencing, quantitative PCRs, cell culture assays and recombinant protein production.
- Neuromodulation of pest insects as an eco-friendly pest management
USC-based research led by Associate Professor Ventura was initiated in crayfishes. This project identified key factors that modulate the crayfish development. Research now focuses on the development of pest management tools based on these findings. The project involves work with insects throughout their life cycle, as well as bioinformatics analysis and molecular biology techniques.
|Project name||Funding body|
|Signaling mechanisms in the crustacean molting gland||
National Science Foundation (NSF, USA)
|ARC Research Hub for Sustainable Onshore Lobster Aquaculture||
Australian Research Council (ARC)
|Analysis of the rock lobster transparent metamorphic clock enables redefining the molecular mechanism underlying crustacean metamorphosis||Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project DP160103320|
|Growth and reproduction enhancement in the tiger prawn Penaeus monodon||Contract with the largest tiger prawn farm in Madagascar|
|Understanding skeletal deformities in salmonids, effects of farm setting and genetic background on prevalence||Fisheries Research and Development Corporation|
|Understanding masculinity, the crustacean way||Australian Research Council (ARC) - Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA)|
|Multigenic succession through metamorphosis: uncover the molecular mechanism||University of the Sunshine Coast - University Research Grant|
|Generating monosex populations through gene silencing in the redclaw yabby Cherax quadricarinatus||University of the Sunshine Coast - University Research Grant|
|Assessment of Eye Regeneration in Crustaceans||Lions Eye Institute|
- aquaculture biotechnology
- comparative endocrinology
- sexual determination and differentiation
- development and metamorphosis
- Invertebrate Biology and Ecology
- Molecular Biology
- Molecular Biotechnology
Dr Tomer Ventura's area of expertise includes Functional Genomics and Biotechnology applied in Aquaculture of decapod crustaceans (crabs, crayfishes, prawns and lobster).