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Singapore Pumps $25M into Food Sustainability Genomics

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Singapore has awarded SGD30 million ($24.7 million) to fund three projects that will use genomics to enhance food security by enabling the breeding of better fish and more disease-resistant fish and rice varieties.

Funded through the National Research Foundation (NRF), a department within the Prime Minister's Office, the grants will support research that uses genomics to develop Asian seabass and tilapia that grow faster, have better food conversion ratios, and are more disease-resistant, and to develop rice cultivars that also are better able to avoid diseases and grow faster.

The NRF funding, which provides up to SGD10 million per award over five years, was awarded through a Competitive Research Programme (CRP) effort called "Meeting Future Food Demands in Singapore."

One project at the Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory (TLL) will use molecular marker and genomic mapping data to study the reproductive development and disease resistance of Asian Seabass and Mozambique tilapia and to compare genetically selected strains against normal populations.

"It is important that research leads ultimately to economic and societal benefits, and through cutting edge methods of genomics, we hope to develop superior lines of food-fish," Laszlo Orban, a professor of reproductive genomics at TLL and principal investigator on the grant, said in a statement. "This is a new chapter of fish research in Singapore that is likely to extend our existing lead in marine aquaculture internationally."

The bioinformatics consulting company Eagle Genomics said today that it will assist TLL as a subcontractor by organizing the sequencing and assembly of the Asian seabass genome.

In another project, researchers at the National University of Singapore will perform genome-wide insertional mutagenesis to screen for factors in Japanese rice fish that are related to viral infections and will conduct small molecule screenings for antiviral agents. The aim is to identify and disrupt viral infection-related host factor to produce disease-resistant cells and fish.

Another National University of Singapore project will seek to develop better rice plants by studying the underlying causes of fungal infections, developing cultivars with improved root systems, and developing rice strains that have improved yields and reach the optimal stage of growth at the right time of year.

This project also will seek to identify genes that regulate root traits associated with efficient water and fertilizer use, develop molecular marker platforms that provide efficient screening services for breeders, and it will provide training for eight research scientists and PhD students.

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