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BGI, Oregon State University to Study Crop Pathogen

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – BGI and Oregon State University today launched a collaborative genome sequencing and analysis project that will eventually engage a global consortium of researchers to study strains of a plant pathogen that can be highly damaging to crops and forests.

BGI said today that it will partner with Oregon State to conduct de novo genome sequencing and transcriptome analysis of nine Phytopthora plant pathogens, the genus that caused the Irish potato famine, as the kick-off for a larger collaboration with other international partners that will eventually sequence 150 genomes and 300 transcriptomes.

Around 120 species of Phytopthora have been discovered so far, and many others are suspected to exist. The plant diseases caused by this genus of pathogens are hard to control with chemicals and lead to tens of billions of dollars in lost crops in the US each year, so the research focus will be on developing cultivars that are resistant to those diseases, BGI and Oregon State said.

Researchers at Oregon State will provide BGI with the genomic DNA and RNA samples for sequencing and bioinformatics analysis, which will include de novo assembly, gene calling, and functional annotation of called genes.

“Given BGI’s expertise in genomic sequencing, transcriptomics, and bioinformatics, and its extensive experience researching numerous key plant genomes, we expect our relationship to lead to significant research findings that should help protect a variety of plant species, especially agricultural crops, from the damaging effects of Phytophthora pathogens," Brett Tyler, who will soon be director of the Oregon State's Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing, said in a statement.

The deal, whose terms were not disclosed, kicks off a larger collaborative project between BGI and the Phytophthora Genus Sequencing Consortium to perform de novo sequencing and transcriptome analysis of all known species of the Phytophthora genus of destructive plant pathogens.

The Phytophtora Genus Sequencing Consortium includes multiple academic, government, and non-profit institutes that are each represented by one or more principal investigators. These partners include scientists at BGI; Oregon State; the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service; the University of British Columbia; the University of California, Riverside; Pennsylvania State University; the James Hutton Institute; Wageningen University; North Carolina State University; Nanjing Agricultural University; and the UK's Forest Research Agency.

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