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  • Collaboration in Wheat Disease Diagnostics Wins Innovator Prize
    Diane Saunders wins BBSRC Innovator Prize

Collaboration in Wheat Disease Diagnostics Wins Innovator Prize

Jun 28 2019 Read 560 Times

The 2019 BBSRC Innovator of the Year has been awarded to Dr Diane Saunders of the John Innes Centref (JIC) for international impact following her group’s work on developing genomics-based approaches for rapid point-of-care fungal disease diagnostics.

The group’s latest advancement known as MARPLE (Mobile and Real-time PLant disEase) Diagnostics, was the result of a collaboration with Dr. Dave Hodson of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) and Dr. Tadessa Daba at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR).

MARPLE can dentify wheat rust strains directly at field sites within just two days. Since its first trials in late 2018, the suitcase-sized lab is already being used by partners on the ground in Ethiopia, the largest wheat producer in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Saunders said, ‘I’m delighted to receive this award on behalf of the incredible team and international community we have supporting this project. I hope this continues to strengthen our work with CIMMYT and EIAR and ultimately improve crop protection for farmers”

Each year, rust diseases lead to loss of harvest that can be prevented by targeted control measures. “The earlier you can detect these strains, the faster you can respond and prevent losses,” said Dave Hodson, Rust Pathologist at CIMMYT. “This award is a fantastic achievement and marks the importance of this previously missing piece of the puzzle.”

Dr Saunders plans to use the award to train more Ethiopian researchers in her diagnostic platform at field stations across the wheat growing areas of the country. “This is real national and international collaboration that ultimately helps the resource poor farmer” said Dr Badada Girma, Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat researcher, EIAR.

Development of the MARPLE diagnostic kit was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and CGIAR Big Data Platform Inspire Challenge. Continued support is also provided by the BBSRC Excellence with Impact Award to JIC and the Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat Project led by Cornell University International Programs that is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Bill & Melinda & Gates Foundation.

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