7) ICRISAT and BGI seal research partnership on modern sequencing technologies for molecular crop breeding (24 April 2012)

Shenzhen, China and Hyderabad, India, April 24, 2012 – BGI, the world’s largest genomics organization, and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) based in India has jointly announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a long-term collaboration on applied genomics research and molecular breeding.
The partnership primarily aims to enhance precision of breeding programs for semi-arid tropic crops by using next-generation sequencing technologies towards crop improvement for sustainable food production particularly in the drylands of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

The MoU was signed by Dr William D. Dar, Director General of ICRISAT and Dr Gengyun Zhang, Vice President of BGI. The two organizations agreed to enhance their collaboration in agricultural research-for-development, especially in the genome sequencing and analysis of ICRISAT mandate crops namely, chickpea, finger millet, groundnut, pearl millet, pigeonpea and sorghum, as well as in capacity building and other agreed activities.

While ICRISAT’s mandate crops are highly nutritious and drought-tolerant, their productivity in marginal environments is very low. In the fight against poverty and hunger amid the threat of climate change, these crops are the best bets for smallholder farmers in marginal environments to survive and improve their livelihoods.

The collaboration between BGI and ICRISAT will be crucial in the development of improved varieties that can provide high yields, and at the same time meet the challenges of marginal environments and the threat of climate change and scarce natural resources in the drylands.

ICRISAT and BGI together with several organizations from the U.S. and Europe, has just completed the de novo genome sequencing of pigeonpea, known as the “poor people’s meat,” published in the journal Nature Biotechnology in November 2011.

 “The signing of this agreement with BGI is significant in accelerating our crop improvement efforts towards improving the livelihood of poor people in the semi-arid tropics of the world,” said Dr Dar. “This is not a start, rather a strengthening of our ongoing fruitful and rewarding research partnership with BGI.

Highlighting the significance of the MoU, Dr. Zhang said, “Genetically improved crops are the key output of breeding research. The rapid advance of genomics will accelerate the improvement of the crops with high yield, high quality and resistance to pests and diseases. With the whole genomic information of the crops, I believe we can seek much better solutions to solve the food security challenges and environmental problems in the future.”

Dr. Rajeev Varshney, Director of ICRISAT’s Centre of Excellence in Genomics and lead scientist and coordinator of the global research partnership on pigeonpea genome sequencing, stressed that “With the advances in sequencing and genotyping technologies and our collaboration with BGI, we should be able to not just decode the genome of a crop species but also speed up screening for ‘good genes’ within a crop and dramatically reduce the cost of developing new improved varieties that will benefit smallholder farmers.”

Dr. Hongsheng Liang, Director of BGI-Asia Pacific, said, “We really appreciate this opportunity to collaborate with ICRISAT again. With our dedication in genomics research and bioinformatics application, I expect that we could make more breakthroughs in ‘Omics’-related area as well as boost the further development of agriculture in India and other Asia-Pacific countries.”

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid-Tropics (ICRISAT) is a non-profit, non-political organization that conducts agricultural research for development in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa with a wide array of partners throughout the world. Covering 6.5 million square kilometers of land in 55 countries, the semi-arid tropics have over 2 billion people, and 644 million of these are the poorest of the poor. ICRISAT and its partners help empower these poor people to overcome poverty, hunger and a degraded environment through better agriculture. ICRISAT is headquartered in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India, with two regional hubs and four country offices in sub-Saharan Africa. It belongs to the Consortium of Centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
For more information about ICRISAT, please visit www.icrisat.org.  

About BGI
BGI was founded in Beijing, China, in 1999 with the mission to become a premier scientific partner for the global research community. The goal of BGI is to make leading-edge genomic science highly accessible, which it achieves through its investment in infrastructure, leveraging the best available technology, economies of scale, and expert bioinformatics resources. BGI, and its affiliates, BGI Americas, headquartered in Cambridge, MA, and BGI Europe, headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, have established partnerships and collaborations with leading academic and government research institutions as well as global biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, supporting a variety of disease, agricultural, environmental, and related applications.

BGI has a proven track record of excellence, delivering results with high efficiency and accuracy for innovative, high-profile research: research that has generated over 170 publications in top-tier journals such as Nature and Science. BGI’s many accomplishments include: sequencing one percent of the human genome for the International Human Genome Project, contributing 10 percent to the International Human HapMap Project, carrying out research to combat SARS and German deadly E. coli, playing a key role in the Sino-British Chicken Genome Project, and completing the sequence of the rice genome, the silkworm genome, the first Asian diploid genome, the potato genome, and, more recently, have sequenced the human Gut Metagenome, and a significant proportion of the genomes for the 1000 Genomes Project.

For more information about BGI, please visit www.genomics.cn

Media contacts:

Bicheng Yang, Ph.D
Public Communication Officer

Dr. Rajeev Varshney,
Director of ICRISAT’s Centre of Excellence in Genomics

(L to R) Dr. Rajeev Varshney, Director of Centre of Excellence in Genomics-ICRISAT; Dr. Gengyun Zhang, Vice President of BGI; Dr. William D. Dar, Director General of ICRISAT; and Mr. Dawen Xu, BGI Regional Director, during the signing of the MoU on applied genomics research and molecular breeding.


For media enquiries, contact: Showkat Nabi Rather, Senior Media Officer, +91 40 3071 3187, R(dot)Showkat(at)cgiar(dot)org.
or Cristina P Bejosano, Head, Science Writing and Media Relations, Tel: +91 40 30713236, C(dot)Bejosano(at)cgiar(dot)org
© by ICRISAT. All rights reserved.