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UGA named recipient of $5.6 million grant from NSF for corn improvement

Corn is by far the most important cereal grain grown in the United States, and a project at the University of Georgia that could one day lead to the development of artificial corn chromosomes has just been awarded a five-year grant by the National Science Foundation for $5.6 million.

Artificial chromosomes could provide breakthroughs in corn production. For instance, genes protecting crops against drought or insects could be "built" into new cultivars, making it possible to grow the grain on lands where weather or other conditions make it impossible.

"This is a significant grant for an important and growing program at the University of Georgia," said President Michael F. Adams. "The size of the award makes it clear that the National Science Foundation values the work taking place here."

The principal investigator of the new grant said the grant will strengthen an already expanding program here.

"As far as I know, we are the only group funded at this level working on developing artificial chromosomes in corn," said Kelly Dawe, an associate professor in the UGA department of plant biology. "It just points out the strength in our entire group here working on cereal genomics."

Another co-investigator on the grant is Wayne Parrott, a professor in the department of crop and soil science at UGA's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Other collaborators on the grant include James Birchler of the University of Missouri; Jiming Jiang of the University of Wisconsin; and Gernot Presting of the University of Hawaii.

One of the crucial areas of the research will revolve around centromeres, large repetitive DNA regions that, among other things, control the movement of chromosomes during cell division. Artificial chromosomes offer the potential to introduce many genes at once without the complications that go with inserting genes over many generations. While some labs, inclu
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Contact: Kelly Dawe
kelly@plantbio.uga.edu
706-542-1658
University of Georgia
19-Jul-2004


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