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NSF awards $2.9M to UW–Madison and ISU to advance next generation of crop genetic engineering

Genetic engineering systems are critical tools to advance crop genomics research and related crop improvement efforts in the United States and worldwide. These tools have been limited, however, by the high complexity and low efficiency of current crop transformation processes.

To help overcome these limitations, the National Science Foundation has awarded $2.9 million to University of Wisconsin–Madison and Iowa State University scientists to develop the next generation of crop transformation tools and the crop geneticists who’ll put them to work.

Heidi Kaeppler, the principal investigator on the grant, is a UW–Madison associate professor of agronomy as well as the faculty lead for transformation and gene editing technology research and development at the Wisconsin Crop Innovation Center. The project leader at ISU is Kan Wang, a professor of agronomy and the Global Professor in Biotechnology at Iowa State.

The two previously worked on a project before. In 2000, they received a $4.3 million NSF grant to establish a public maize transformation service pipeline, with Wang as the lead scientist. Now, they are working together again to help push public crop transformation one step further.

The goals of the new four-year NSF-funded project will be to develop more efficient genetic engineering systems that can be used to improve corn, soybeans and other crops. The researchers will seek to create enhanced, open-source crop engineering tools and biological materials necessary to enable public crop genome research.

The award will also support an international workshop led by Kaeppler and Wang to train crop genomics scientists in specific transformation principles and techniques, as well as the science behind the technologies.

More details are available in this ISU news release about the new grant.