Professor George Lomonossoff

John Innes Centre Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant For Groundbreaking Research in Global Health and Development

The John Innes Centre announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Professor George Lomonossoff will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Plant Immunisation – a technology for crop virus control”

Professor George Lomonossoff

Professor George Lomonossoff

“We’re looking for a new way of ‘Immunizing’ plants against viruses that can cause devastating crop losses” said Professor Lomonossoff. “We hope to show that we can deploy a technique we have developed that rapidly produces proteins in plants to react quickly to the emergence of new plant virus diseases”

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide who are taking innovative approaches to some of the world’s toughest and persistent global health and development challenges.  GCE  invests in the early stages of bold ideas that have real potential to solve the problems people in the developing world face every day.  Prof. Lomonossoff’s project is one of over 80 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Investments in innovative global health research are already paying off,” said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We continue to be impressed by the novelty and innovative spirit of Grand Challenges Explorations projects and are enthusiastic about this exciting research. These investments hold real potential to yield new solutions to improve the health of millions of people in the developing world, and ensure that everyone has the chance to live a healthy productive life.”

To receive funding, Prof. Lomonossoff and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a creative idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and communications. Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 10, will be accepted through November 7, 2012.

Innoculating plants

Prof. Lomonossoff’s project involves the development of a novel system for rapidly protecting plants against viral disease using transient expression of the viral coat protein.  Previous research has shown expression of virus coat protein can protect a plant from with the virus from which it was derived. The project will use plant symbiotic bacteria to deliver constructs expressing the coat protein of a number of viruses to susceptible crop plants. This will be followed by an assessment of whether expression of the coat protein can provide protection against viral infection. If this can be achieved, it will provide a highly responsive means of combatting new plant viral infections and will make an important contribution to increasing the efficiency of world agriculture.

The project will make use of an expression technology recently developed in Prof. Lomonossoff’s laboratory for which he received the award of “Innovator of the Year 2012” from the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC), UK.  The research will be undertaken in the Department of Biological Chemistry at the John Innes Centre, which is strategically funded by BBSRC.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Launched in 2008, over 700 people in 45 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants.  The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization.  The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required.  Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.

About the John Innes Centre:

The John Innes Centre, http://www.jic.ac.uk, is a world-leading research centre based on the Norwich Research Park http://www.norwichresearchpark.com. The JIC’s mission is to generate knowledge of plants and microbes through innovative research, to train scientists for the future, and to apply its knowledge to benefit agriculture, human health and well-being, and the environment. JIC delivers world class bioscience outcomes leading to wealth and job creation, and generating high returns for the UK economy. JIC  is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and received a total of £27.5M investment in 2011-12.

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