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The 2Blades Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), and the University of California, Berkeley announced this week that they will collaborate on a program to advance gene editing tools to help fight plant disease, focusing on wheat.
FFAR has awarded $900,000 to UC Berkeley with matching funding from UC Berkeley’s Innovative Genomics Institute, and with matching funding and in-kind support from The 2Blades Foundation, for a total investment of $3.2 million.
Outputs of the program will be advanced through The 2Blades Foundation’s wheat rusts consortium to ensure delivery of rust-resistant wheat. 2Blades, a non-profit organization, delivers genetic crop disease solutions to improve global food security.
“This is an important extension of 2Blades’ work on the development of durable rust resistances in wheat,” said 2Blades Chair Roger Freedman. “It builds on a long history of collaboration with UC Berkeley on the genetic control of crop disease. The current program will target the development of genome editing approaches to increase the efficiency and specificity with which we can build disease resistance, and it will also support computational and synthetic biology approaches to the development of new resistances,” he said.
The most effective, long-lasting, and environmentally sound way to defend against plant disease in wheat and other crops is through “stacking” multiple resistance genes. The use of genetic resistance is particularly important in developing countries where food security is most at risk, and where chemicals used to fight the pathogens are too often unaffordable or unavailable.
Wheat provides roughly 20 percent of calories and protein for human nutrition worldwide and is the third largest crop grown in the United States. The world wheat harvest is threatened by the recent emergence of new virulent forms of the fungal pathogen Puccinia graminis, which can cause pandemic disease with the rapid and complete destruction of infected crops.
The 2Blades Foundation, based in Evanston, Illinois, is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to the discovery, advancement, and delivery of durable disease resistance in crops. 2Blades establishes and manages development programs addressing significant unsolved crop disease problems, working in collaboration with leading research institutions around the world and at the 2Blades Group in The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich, UK. 2Blades manages a portfolio of specific traits and enabling technologies that it implements in its own programs and out-licenses for broad use.