New York University’s Center for Genomics & Systems Biology has received a $4.4 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in which NYU researchers will seek to identify genes on a genome-wide scale that underlie crop traits selected when farmers began cultivating rice 10,000 years ago.
Using new, genome-wide techniques in evolutionary genomics, we can identify regions of the rice genome that contain genes important for grain size, plant height, and other traits that are involved in plant yield, said NYUs Michael Purugganan, the Dorothy Schiff Professor of Genomics and the projects primary investigator.
NYU is the grants lead institution, with scientific collaborations coming from researchers at Purdue University, Washington University at St. Louis, and Cornell University.
Rice is the most important food cereal crop in the world, feeding more people in human history than any other food crop, Purugganan added. More than half the worlds population is dependent on rice as its primary food source.
The grant is one of 26 new awards totaling $85.8 million that NSF announced in mid-October to seed a research in a new field called Plant Systems Biology. The funding is part of its Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP), now in its 10th year.
These awards support research and tool development to further knowledge of genome structure and function through the analysis of genome wide interactions. They will also increase understanding of gene function and interactions between genomes and the environment in economically vital crop plants such as corn, rice, and cotton.
NYUs work on the grant will also include collaborations with the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP) in NYUs journalism department to help train journalism students in the new field of genomics and systems biology. Dan Fagin, an associate professor of journalism and the director of SHERP, is a senior collaborator of the project.
The PGRP, which was established in 1998 as part of the coordinated National Plant Genome Initiative by the Interagency Working Group on Plant Genomes of the National Science and Technology Council, has the long-term goal of advancing the understanding of the structure and function of genomes of plants of economic importance.