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NSF Boosts Plant Genome Research Budget for 2002

NEW YORK, Nov. 2 - The National Science Foundation has awarded $71 million in grants toward plant genome research this year, a significant boost for academic efforts into decoding the structural and functional genetics of plants.

The figure represents a big jump from last year, which saw about $48 million in awards, and fiscal year 1999, when grants totaled $61.8 million.

The NSF's National Plant Genome Research Program was launched in 1998 in order to support research in plant genetics for applications in agriculture, environmental management, energy, and health. Total grant commitments under the program since the founding year now top $215 million. 

This year, a total of 24 grant awards that ranged from about $156,000 to $7.4 million, according to the foundation. Projects include whole-genome analysis of pathogen-host recognition in rice, the functional genomics of barley, studies of grass-genome diversity, and mapping the tomato genome for use as a model organism for functional genomics.

Most of the grants are to multi-institution academic collaborations focusing on commercial crops like rice, corn, and sorghum ( see sidebar ).

Big winners include Cornell University, of Ithaca, NY, which will be the lead institute on a $1.4 million and a $6.5 million grant. The school was also named in three other grants. The University of California at Davis was named in four of the 24 grants.

The single largest grant, for $7.4 million, was awarded to a five-university consortium for a floral genome project that will explore the functional genomics and genetic architecture of a set of model flowers and track the genetic control of flower function, from bud development to seed production.

Two of the grants are for bioinformatics systems to organize and process the flow of genomic information generated by this project. 

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