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The lead institution for the project is the Carnegie Institution of Washington (“Carnegie”) with Dr. Wolf B. Frommer, Director of Carnegie’s Plant Biology Department, the lead PI. The project includes four sub-grantees: Iowa State University, University of Florida, Kansas State University and the International Rice Research Institution (IRRI). Dr. Bing Yang and Dr. Frank White had originally discovered a rice gene that is critical for pathogen virulence and host susceptibility. Carnegie researchers on Frommer’s team identified how pathogens, rice bacterial blight in particular, attack plants by hijacking their sugar-transport systems. Together this laid the groundwork for the current project which involves adapting some novel, non-GMO technology, which was previously developed by Dr. Yang to the rice bacterial blight disease process by blocking the access of pathogens to host-plant resources. Partnered with leading experts on rice bacterial blight in Africa and Asia, Dr. Casiana Vera Cruz and Dr. Ricardo Oliva at the International Rice Research Institution and bioinformatics expert Dr. Sanzhen Liu at Kansas State University, the project will provide enhanced understanding of the disease and apply the resistance strategies into existing rice breeding initiatives.

Leaf blight disease