NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — Divergence has landed a $100,000 Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation to help it use RNAi to develop crops, including corn, resistant to a common parasite, the company said today.
According to Divergence, these crops would express double-stranded RNA in their root systems to specifically silence the expression of genes in invading parasitic nematodes.
The parasite, which belongs to the Pratylenchus family, causes “billions of dollars in damage" annually to numerous crops, including soybeans, corn, cotton, strawberries, and bananas, the company said.
The nematode also can cause disease in animals, including heartworm infections in dogs and cats and intestinal worms in livestock, the company added.
As GenomeWeb Daily News sister publication RNAi News reported in May, when the grant was awarded, the company plans to select, clone, and sequence P. scribneri gene targets that are likely to be essential in all lesion nematodes. It will then evaluate the potency of dsRNAs against these targets in a transgenic plant in which the RNAi molecules are only expressed in the roots.