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Rice genome map completed; better cereal crops indicated

The Torrey Mesa Research Institute (TMRI), the genomics research center of Syngenta, has announced it has completed the Rice Genome Map in collaboration with Myriad Genetics Inc. This is the first project of its kind in a crop plant to be completed.

In addition to finding the DNA sequence of virtually every gene, TMRI has undertaken an analysis of gene expression and of rice proteins. Because rice is a model for other cereals, the knowledge from this genome map will lead to opportunities for enhanced food crops.

As well as the DNA sequence, the information now discovered includes the regulatory DNA sequences controlling gene activity and the location of most of the genes. A more detailed analysis of gene activity and function and the resulting proteins is under way.

“We are very proud that our institute has pioneered this research and that our innovative approach has been successful,” said Steve Briggs, president of TMRI. “Identifying not only the genes, but their functions and how they work, will provide researchers with crucial new knowledge to improve food crops.”

Commercial application

Syngenta plans to use the rice genomics information for new and innovative commercial applications in the agribusiness industry. It will also be made available to the academic scientific community through collaboration agreements. Researchers and plant breeders will be able to apply the science for advanced crop breeding methods. This knowledge will also lead to the production of crops enhanced through modern biotechnology.

In the developing world, where rice is a vital crop, Syngenta will work with local research institutes to explore how this information can best be used to find crop improvements to benefit subsistence farmers. It is our policy to provide such information and technology for use in products for subsistence farmers, without royalties or technology fees. Syngenta supported the first large public release of rice genome sequence information, having released over 100,000 sequences from its program with the Clemson University Genome Institute (CUGI) onto the CUGI Web site.

Because of the similarity between different cereal crop plants, the information derived from rice will contribute to the study of other important cereals such as wheat, corn, and barley, and lead to their future improvement.

Clemson collaboration

David Evans, head of research and technology at Syngenta, explained, “Understanding cereal genetic structure and associated proteins will enable plant breeders to produce crops that are more nutritious, more productive and easier to process. We will also research new ways to protect crops from diseases or pests and discover new uses for crop plants. This offers exciting new opportunities to improve agricultural yields and quality.”

In addition to the work with Myriad Genetics, this breakthrough is the result of a collaboration with the Clemson University Genomics Institute.

The Torrey Mesa Research Institute was formerly known as the Novartis Agricultural Discovery Institute, Inc. (NADII). It is the genomics research center of Syngenta, the world's leading agribusiness. Syngenta ranks first in crop protection, and third in the high-value commercial seeds market. Pro forma sales in 1999 were approximately U.S. $7 billion.

Syngenta employs more than 20 000 people in over 50 countries. The company is committed to sustainable agriculture through innovative research and technology. Formed in November 2000 by the merger of Novartis Agribusiness and Zeneca Agrochemicals, Syngenta is listed on the Swiss stock exchange, in London, New York, Stockholm.

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