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US National Science Foundation’s BREAD funds Craig Venter and ILRI to battle cattle pneumonia in Africa

Dinner with Bill Gates by jurvetson

Dinner with philanthropist Bill Gates at the home of genome-czar J Craig Venter in La Jolla, California, in 2008 (photo by jurvetson on Flickr). ‘Gates asked the most astute and detailed questions about microbiology’, JCVI reports, and said, ‘DNA is the most interesting software there is.’

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have awarded five grants in the second of a five-year Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development (BREAD) program.

Through the Gates-BREAD program, the NSF supports international research projects at the proof-of-concept stage, with funding provided to both US institutions and their international collaborators. All five of the new grants will fund projects using innovative approaches to advance basic research on key problems involving small farmer agriculture in the developing world.

As a news release from NSF this week reports: ‘One of the projects will develop vaccines against a costly livestock disease common in Africa.

Venter, ILRI, INRA develop new vaccine for African cattle disease CBPP
‘Scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and the National Institute for Agronomical Research (INRA) will join forces to use new synthetic biology technologies to create strains of Mycoplasma mycoides subspecies mycoides that can be developed as live vaccine candidates for the prevention of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, an economically very important livestock disease within Africa.

The NSF news release quotes John Wingfield, its assistant director for biological sciences, as saying: ‘The BREAD program continues to draw interest of scientists from around the world. More than 160 U.S. institutions in 45 states, partnering with more than 260 institutions in 76 countries, submitted proposals in fields as diverse as the genetic improvement of crops and animals, control of diseases and pests, the chemistry and biology of soils and water, and engineering. The program and the awards made in 2011 epitomize how novel, transformative basic research in the biological sciences can contribute to major benefits to human society globally.’

‘The awards involve 28 institutions in 6 states and international investigators from Angola, Benin, China, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Israel, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Peru, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Other new awards
UC Davis, CIAT and IITA work to improve banana and cassava crop production by the poor
‘The ability to produce doubled haploid plants containing only one set of parental chromosomes could revolutionize breeding in slow cycling crops. Scientists at the University of California, Davis, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) (Colombia) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) (Uganda) will exploit a recently developed, novel centromere engineering strategy to develop double haploids in banana and cassava.

Boyce Thompson and CIP document the virus populations hurting Africa’s food crops
‘Emerging and reemerging pathogens, including many viruses, continue to cause devastating losses of food production in Africa. Yet there is a widespread lack of basic information and understanding of the virus populations throughout Africa. A team of biologists and computational scientists at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research and the International Potato Center (CIP) (Peru) will use a systems approach and small RNA deep sequencing on geo-referenced sample surveys from throughout Africa to generate and link viral genome sequence information and their distribution patterns with disease symptoms, epidemic risk prediction, and proposed management strategies.

Cornell, USDA-ARS, IITA battle viruses of Africa’s staple food crops
‘Key to the success of any strategy to control insect vectors of plant and animal viruses is early and fast detection of vector species and avoidance of infection. A research team at Cornell University/USDA-ARS, University of Washington, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) (Nigeria) with collaborators at the USDA-ARS (Charleston, SC) and IITA (Cameroon) has identified a set of protein biomarkers that can identify vector competent populations of aphids, the most important vectors of plant viruses. They will exploit this discovery and determine whether biomarkers can identify vector competent populations of other homopteran insect vectors of plant viruses affecting staple food crops in sub-Saharan Africa. . . .’

Read the whole news release at the US National Science Foundation: NSF provides additional $5.9 million to support five new BREAD Program Projects, 9 Feb 2012.

A complete list of 2011 BREAD awards can be accessed on the Directorate for Biological Sciences website.

Read more about ILRI’s BREAD project on this ILRI News Blog: Biologists in Nairobi to take part in two new animal health projects announced this week by the US National Science and Gates foundations, 13 May 2010.

About the J. Craig Venter Institute
The J. Craig Venter Institute was formed in October 2006 through the merger of several affiliated and legacy organizations—The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) and The Center for the Advancement of Genomics (TCAG), The J. Craig Venter Science Foundation, The Joint Technology Center, and the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives (IBEA). Today all these organizations have become one large multidisciplinary genomic-focused organization. With more than 300 scientists and staff, more than 250,000 square feet of laboratory space, and locations in Rockville, Maryland and San Diego, California, the new JCVI is a world leader in genomic research.

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