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Iowa State plant scientists tweak their biopharmaceutical corn research project

AMES, Iowa -- A biopharmaceutical corn created at Iowa State University is getting a makeover. Researchers are developing the corn into a variety that keeps the therapeutic protein, but eliminates the pollen. And they're using traditional breeding to do it.

ISU researchers have had promising results using the biopharmaceutical corn to treat bacterial diarrhea in pigs.

Now they are shifting their focus. They are developing a male sterile corn that carries the transgene. Because male sterile corn plants do not produce pollen, the new biopharmaceutical variety could be grown in corn-producing states without risk of pollinating traditional corn varieties.

"Pollen movement is the issue," said Kendall Lamkey, interim chair of agronomy and Pioneer Distinguished Chair in Maize Breeding. "And that's the most controllable part of the corn production system."

Lamkey, who also directs the Raymond F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding, leads the breeding portion of the research. Kan Wang, the principal researcher, who successfully transformed the corn, is professor of agronomy and director of the Center for Plant Transformation. Both centers are part of Iowa State's Plant Sciences Institute, which initiated the research. The ongoing project is supported by the institute and the College of Agriculture.

Lamkey and Wang say it will take about five growing seasons to make all the breeding crosses needed. The first season took place last winter in the Plant Sciences Institute's Roy J. Carver Co-Laboratory biosafe greenhouse. The biopharmaceutical corn was crossed with the non-transgenic, male-fertile corn line to produce a transgenic F1 hybrid.

Seeds from that cross are being used this summer in a field trial on remote land owned by Iowa State.

The breeding process in the field trial will not shed transgenic pollen. The transgenic crop will be detasseled. It will be surrounded by rows of non-transgenic corn, which will pollinate
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Contact: Teddi Barron
tbarron@iastate.edu
515-294-4778
Iowa State University
23-Jun-2006


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