By: Estrella Z. Gallardo
A forumon genome editing, its applications on agriculture, and global trends was held on November 19, 2018 at DOST-PCAARRD.
The forum was hosted by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) in partnership with the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and CropLife Asia.
Four experts on gerome editing from local and international organizations facilitated the forum. They presented their research results on functional genomics and molecular breeding and discussed updates on global policy.
Dr. Leila C. America, Director of the Forestry and Environment Research Division (FERD) and Officer-in-Charge of DOST-PCAARRD, delivered the opening remarks on behalf of PCAARRD Acting Executive Director Dr. Reynaldo V. Ebora. She underscored the public perception on biotechnology and the importance of understanding the benefits of genome editing, particularly on agriculture and industry sectors.
The first topic, Gene Editing Technologies for Plant Functional Genomics Research and Molecular Breeding, was presented by Dr. Daisuke Miki of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He explained the fundamentals of gene editing in plants and discussed the methods of targeted induction of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). He also identified the challenges in gene editing particularly on ensuring precise with high efficiency editing.
Dr. Inez Hortense Slamet-Loedin of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), on the other hand, presented the genome editing applications in rice. She discussed the use of transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALEN) and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats CRISPR-associated protein 9 (CRISPR Cas9) as molecular scissors, to push forward the programs of IRRI on biofortification and breeding for better nutrition. She also cited the development of a high-zinc variant of rice in target countries like Bangladesh, Philippines, and Indonesia.
Meanwhile, Ms. Naomi Stevens of Bayer Crop Science Agricultural Affairs and Sustainability highlighted the relevance of plant breeding innovation in addressing both farmer and consumer problems. She stressed the importance of a consistent, science-based approach in regulating products of plant breeding innovation. She also discussed the great potentials of precision biotechnology in addressing climate change, pest and disease pressures, and food safety and security, among many other challenges.
The participants listen as Ms. Naomi Stevens of Bayer Crop Science Agricultural Affairs and Sustainability discuss the global policy updates on biotechnology. (Image Credit: Ervin V. Naval, Crops Research Division (CRD), DOST-PCAARRD).
The last topic, Philippines CRISPR Application in Selected Philippine Crops, was discussed by Dr. Maria Genaleen Q. Diaz of the Institute of Plant Breeding of UPLB. She featured the recently approved DOST-PCAARRD-funded project titled, Targeted Genome Editing using CRISPR-Cas9 Technology: Capacity Building and Proof-of-Concept in Rice, Corn, and Tomato, in her presentation.
According to Dr. Diaz, the project aims to improve the human capacity of UPLB research staff on CRISPR as well as to build infrastructures to facilitate functional genomics and molecular breeding activities. She also discussed the target traits for the three commodities that the project will also work on as a proof of concept: (1) rice – increased starch content; (2) corn – decreased amount of phytic acid; and (3) tomato – lycopene cyclase for enhanced anti-oxidant (orange to deep-red fruit).
PCAARRD Acting Deputy Executive Director for R&D Dr. Edwin C. Villar committed to continue supporting biotechnology research, in partnership with international and local agencies, and other like-minded institutions. “We commit to strengthening the knowledge base of the existing workforce and improving facilities for the conduct of biotechnology activities. We look forward to more projects on genomics to help advance the application of biotechnology in Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources sector,” he added.
Research partners from state colleges and universities, regulators from government agencies, students, and guests from the private sector attended the activity. (MegaManila Science Journalists Group)
PHOTO: (L-R) FERD Director Leila C. America, DOST-PCAARRD’s Officer-in-Charge at the time of visit; Dr. Antonio C. Laurena of UPLB; DOST-PCAARRD Acting Deputy Executive Director for R&D Edwin C. Villar; Dr. Maria Genaleen Q. Diaz of UPLB; Ms. Naomi Stevens of Bayer Crop Science Agricultural Affairs and Sustainability; Dr. Inez Hortense Slamet-Loedin of IRRI; and Dr. Daisuke Miki of the Chinese Academy of Sciences during the forum. (Image Credit: Ervin V. Naval, Crops Research Division (CRD), DOST-PCAARRD).