Figueroa and Co-Investigators Hirsch and Myers Awarded 2016 MPGI Seed Grant

April 26, 2016

Figueroa and Co-Investigators Hirsch and Myers Awarded 2016 MPGI Seed Grant

Plant Pathology Assistant Professor Melania Figueroa and co-investigators Cory Hirsch, Plant Pathology Assistant Professor, and Chad Myers, Computer Science and Engineering Associate Professor, were awarded the Microbial and Plant Genome Institute (MPGI) 2016 Seed Grant for their project proposal entitled “Identification of gene networks to understand stem rust susceptibility in wheat.”

MPGI, a joint venture between CFANS and CBS, awarded this proposal, a $50,000 seed grant, to explore a new area of stem rust disease research and increase understanding of how susceptibility is dictated when plants are infected by the stem rust pathogen. While the University of Minnesota is already a world leader in the area of rust biology and pathology, this project encompasses a novel and creative approach to combating global rust pathogens and protecting the world’s wheat supply.

Figueroa MPGI Seed Grant Stem RustComplementing rust research aimed at identifying and deploying genetic plant disease resistance, Figueroa aims to first understand what makes a wheat plant susceptible and to then improve disease resistance by rewiring plant responses to rust pathogens.This project brings new collaborations to rust research, leveraging diverse expertise in plant immunity, bioinformatics, and computational biology. The overall goal of this research is to provide alternative methods for crop improvement which would bring durability of disease resistance to the field.  

This proposal will provide the foundation to expand the research scope of Professor Figueroa and strengthen existing national and international collaborative efforts with Dr. John Vogel at JGI, Dr. Elison Blancaflor at the Noble Foundation, and Drs. Peter Dodds and Mick Ayliffe at CSIRO in Australia . Furthermore, the project will create opportunities to initiate new projects in collaboration with scientists at the USDA-ARS Cereal Disease Laboratory (Adjunct Professors Shahryar Kianian and Matthew Rouse).

“I am very grateful to the MPGI for supporting my scientific endeavors in food security. There are potential transformative outcomes that this project may bring to cereal genomics and agriculture and these wouldn’t be possible without their support,” says Figueroa.  

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