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NSF Unveils $85.8M Worth of Awards for Its Plant Genome Research Program

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The National Science Foundation today disclosed 26 new awards totaling $85.8 million for its Plant Genome Research Program that will go to researchers in 45 US and international institutions.
The awards, which span between two and five years and range between $400,000 and $7.9 million, support research and tool development aimed at helping researchers better understand plant genome structure and function.
The awards are also aimed at helping researchers better understand gene function and interactions between genomes and the environment in “economically vital” crops such as corn, rice, and cotton.
First-time award recipients include Auburn University, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, SUNY Stony Brook, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the University of Toledo, and the University of Virginia.
Among the projects the awards will pay for include: 
  • A study by researchers at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, that uses poplar to develop population genetics tools to identify genes involved in phenotypic variation in bud set, “a critical adaptive trait for cold tolerance and growth rate.” This project is supported in part by the NSF Office of Polar Programs and includes collaborations with scientists in Canada and Sweden;
  • A project led by Michigan State University that uses a combination of computation and functional genomics resources to “learn more about low-temperature regulatory networks and factors involved with” freezing tolerance in tomato and potato;
  • A study at Washington State University that uses biochemical genomics to “reveal components of biosynthesis pathways” necessary to produce novel fatty acids in oilseeds. Plants are natural producers of non-saturated fatty acids; and
  • A project led by Alabama A&M University that aims to identify regulatory gene networks responsible for changes in gene expression in response to nematode infection in cotton plants. 
The Plant Genome Research Program is also helping to develop tools that can enable researchers to better understand the structure and function of economically important plants.
Example of these projects include: 
  • A multidisciplinary team of investigators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison developing technology using cameras, robotics, and computational tools to enable high-throughput analysis of traits in mutant or naturally varying plant populations; and
  • A project led by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute that uses Arabidopsis and rice genomic resources to produce a plant protein interactome. Such a map will provide scientists with testable predictions of how genes and the proteins they encode interact to carry out complex functions within a plant cell. 
A comprehensive list of awards and recipients can be found here.

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