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NEW LAUNCHES

MBP launched to improve breeding efficiency in developing countries by harnessing biotechnology
Friday, 26 February, 2010, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, Mumbai
Biotechnology study is made easier. With India's environment and forest minister Jairam Ramesh declaring a delay in introducing Bt Brinjal for conducting further research, Molecular Breeding Platform (MBP) will come handy for the researches studying biotechnology.

The Molecular Breeding Platform (MBP), a one-stop shop for information, analytical tools and related services to design and efficiently conduct molecular-assisted breeding experiments, aims to increase breeding efficiency in developing countries.

The MBP initiative was officially launched at the Marriott Convention Center in Hyderabad, India on 17 February. The four-day MBP launch programme was jointly initiated by the Generation Challenge Programme (GCP) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). The MBP will have three components, the molecular breeding portal and helpdesk, information system and services component.

“It will be critically important for the users and developers in this initiative to work closely together,” noted Dr Jean-Marcel Ribaut, GCP director. He also acknowledged ICRISAT as an important partner in this public initiative, which would not have been possible without the Gates Foundation’s financial support and commitment.

Dr Dave Bergvinson, Programme Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said that the five-year $12 million project would revolutionise crop breeding and provide a level playing field allowing developing countries to take advantage of advanced plant breeding technology to meet the looming challenge in food security. He said that the flood-tolerant Swarna-Sub-1, a marker assisted rice hybrid has been successfully tested and adopted by the Bisauri Regional Progressive farmers Association in Uttar Pradesh under the supervision of Banaras Hindu University. Molecular breeding can succeed in the public sector, especially by partnering with the private sector, particularly with small- and medium-scale enterprises.

In his opening remarks, ICRISAT director general Dr William Dar called for research through multi-partner platforms to help feed the burgeoning population of about 9.1 billion by 2050. He stressed the need for global agricultural production to grow by 70% by this time. Dr Dar said that development of molecular genetics and associated technologies offers hope, especially marker-assisted breeding. ICRISAT’s collaborative research led to a pearl millet hybrid resistant to downy mildew, and also played a major role in unravelling the sorghum genome.

In the MBP, ICRISAT will identify, deploy and support tools for management of genotypic characterisation. It will also be concerned with establishing middleware infrastructure for networking database and applications, and implementing a configurable workflow system for molecular breeding.

Graham McLaren, GCP’s leader on Bioinformatics and crop information systems, and who will coordinate the platform, observes, “Great discoveries in molecular biology and information technology are having an important impact on plant breeding in large private companies because they can invest in infrastructure and capacity.” He added, “This project will tap into the economies of scale afforded by collective access to make these technologies available to breeders at large, particularly in developing countries.” The first MBP customers will be 14 ongoing plant breeding projects in Africa and Asia.

The MBP launch will be followed by a two-step launch programme for a GCP Indo–Chinese research initiative to improve wheat yields. The first launch was in New Delhi on February 22–23 , and the second would be in Beijing on February 25–27, 2010.
 
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