French Biotech and Cambridge to improve Food Security with UK Grant

28/04/2016 - 2 minutes

Meiogenix and the University of Cambridge will get fresh money to investigate how epigenomics impacts crop diversity – and how it can be engineered for better yields of wheat.

meiogenix_spix_crop_diversity_epigeneticsBased in Paris, Meiogenix is developing breeding technologies – which already caught the eye of Bayer Crop Science.

One of its platforms is SpiX, which increases the amount of meiotic recombination – including in more conserved genes (‘cold regions’).

Meiogenix will now collaborate with the University of Cambridge, where a group lead by Ian Henderson has studied these cold regions in a model plant (A. thaliana).

The research has shown that meiotic recombination is partly controlled by epigenetics.

cold_regions_epigenetics_crop_diversity_meiogenix
Fig 1: Recombination hot spots in the genome are influenced by epigenetic factors like acetylation and phosphorylation.

If these control mechanisms could be engineered, it would unlock a new tool to increase crop diversity and improve plant breeding – a major challenge as classical breeding has reached its limits.

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The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBRSC) has awarded a grant to the combination of SpiX with epigenetics, and expects that this could bring a better strain of wheat – the most important food crop.

bbsrc_bioeconomy_crop_diversity_meiogenix
Research focus of BBRSC. (Source: BBRSC)

BBSRC is a leading funder for non-medical biosciences, investing in projects like synthetic biology and CRISPR crops

Crop research does seem big right now, with new spin-offs and millions of investment pouring in.


 

Figure 1 credit: Petes (2001) Meiotic recombination hot spots and cold spots. Nature Reviews Genetics (doi: 10.1038/35072078)
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