A Yearbook of Biotech - 1994-1995
The following report offers a look at the
incredible variety of biotechnology-related projects that are going on
around the world today. Included are items selected from "Biotech
Notes" and the "NBIAP News Report," published by the U.S. Department
of Agriculture, as well as articles selected from various
U.S. government gopher sites. Most of the articles list contacts for
Multimedia Project for Egyptian High Schools
Professor Abolghasem Shahbazi, an engineer at North Carolina A & T
State University, is spearheading a 2-year, $200,000 project to bring
multimedia, computerized education to high schools in Egypt.
CD-ROMs and computer software will focus on four areas - biology,
chemistry, physics, and geography. The biology-oriented modules will
include such topics a microbial cell division, chemical bonds, and
For more information, please contact Dr. Shahbazi at:
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Design,
NC A&T State University
Greensboro, NC 27420-1928.
Tel: (910) 334-7787.
A Genetic Tree Grows in Oregon?
Yes! Five industries have joined together with the Biofuels Feedstock
Development Program of the DOE and Oregon State University to advance
methods for genetically engineering trees for use in intensively
managed tree plantations. The immediate focus of the Cooperative,
called the TGERC (Tree Genetic Engineering Research Cooperative), will
be on hybrid cottonwoods for use in pulp and paper. The industrial
members are Alberta-Pacific, Boise-Cascade, James River, Potlatch, and
Union Camp. The scientific emphasis during the initial five years will
be on developing the two "enabling" technologies for genetic
engineering: improving gene transfer systems and engineering sterility
for gene containment.
Contact Dr. Steve Strauss for more information.
Fax: (503) 737-1393.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Study of Public Perceptions Proposed
Three British researchers have proposed a research project that will
examine the relationship between biotechnology and the European
public. It is entitled "An International Study of Policy, Media
Coverage, and Public Perceptions, 1980-1996." The project is
scheduled to start in mid-1995 and take 30 to 36 months to complete.
Part of the study will be applied to a survey that will be conducted
in 1996 throughout 16 European countries. Attitudes in the United
States and Japan may be analyzed in a parallel survey.
For more details, please call Jon Miller, Director, The International
Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy, at (312) 549-0606;
Fax: (312) 549-5199.
First Announcement - Potato Symposium
"The Fourth International Symposium on the Molecular Biology of the
Potato" will take place July 17-21, 1995 in Wageningen, The
Netherlands. The program includes a session on the applications of
transgenic potatoes as well as genome analysis and mapping, gene
regulation, development and reproduction, and disease and pest
For more details, please write to:
P.O. Box 88, 6700 AB Wageningen
A Chardonnay grapevine has been genetically engineered to resist a
lethal virus and is ready for field testing, according to the French
company Moet and Chandon. In the past, researchers have only been
successful in modifying grape rootstocks. Moet says it will be about
10 years before the grapevine reaches the commercialization stage.
French scientists worked with the Chardonnay cultivar to make it
resistant to Grapevine Fanleaf Virus, which causes a malformation of
the plant and a yellow discoloration. Nematodes spread the virus.
Farmers used to spray the vines to kill the virus, but the chemical
was found to be toxic and leaked into groundwater. Now, the only
effective procedure is to uproot the plants, fumigate the soil, and
wait one year before replanting. The new plants take five to seven
years to produce grapes.
Moet plans to begin field testing next year following approval from
the French government. It is estimated that about 10 percent of all
U.S. vineyards are affected by the same virus. According to Genetic
Engineering News, Moet plans to work on some kind of licensing
agreement with U.S. growers.
Major European Research Project Launched
Scientists at 117 laboratories in Europe have embarked upon a research
program they hope will propel plant biotechnology into the 21st
century. Coordinated by leading plant scientists from most European
countries in association with a consortium at the John Innes Centre,
Norwich, UK, and the Max Planck Institute, Koln, Germany, the program
is intended to help industry produce improved plants for agriculture.
The program includes a major training component to help less well
The areas of research include plant and microbial biochemical
genetics, with an emphasis on new options for producing
environmentally friendly agriculture and horticulture.
For details, please write to
A. Beadle, Coordinating Officer
John Innes Centre
Norwich Research Park
Colney, NR4 7UJ, UK.
Gunning for Barley
Barley is big business in the United States, with sales exceeding $800
million a year, except for those years when yellow dwarf virus or
several other diseases ravage a harvest and production plummets. Now,
researchers believe they may have found a way to prevent losses and at
the same time provide an alternative to the use of chemical sprays.
Using a high-velocity gene gun, University of California scientists
Peggy G. Lemaux and Yuechun Wan have succeeded in inserting genes into
barley that will potentially yield virus-resistant plants. One aspect
of their method that may have led to success is the fact that they
split the embryo before delivering the gene. The engineered tissues
yielded more than 500 genetically engineered barley plants.
The next phase of the research involves greenhouse testing by
collaborators Steven Wyatt at Washington State University and Richard
Lister at Purdue University, followed by outdoor field tests in
California, Illinois, and Idaho. The researchers will be watching the
engineered barley to see if it resists the yellow dwarf virus outdoors
under natural growing conditions.
Both Lemaux and Wan work out of the USDA/ARS Plant Gene
Expression Center in Albany, California.
To learn more about the project, please call (510) 642-1589.
Nabbing Poachers With DNA
The BC Institute of Technology in British Columbia, Canada, reports
fingerprinting to match meat organs and other parts of poached
animals to dead carcasses left behind. The test is similar to the one
used to identify criminals and confirm paternity. The test could help
reduce poaching of valuable wild animals. Reported by the Vancouver
Sun, January 26, 1994.
First the Tomato, Now the Banana
DNA Plant Technology Corp. (DNAP) of Cinnaminson, New Jersey, has
announced that it entered into an agreement with ZENECA Group PLCof
Great Britain to develop genetically engineered slower ripening
bananas. Like Calgene's
tomato, the gene that produces the hormone responsible for ripening
will be suppressed to allow the fruit to be left on the plant longer,
improving flavor and nutritional value. Delayed ripening will also
allow the shipping of varieties other than the dominant but fairly
bland Cavendish, such as a variety that tastes of vanilla and a red
banana that is crisper and starchier.
DNAP will contribute its patented gene suppression technology to the
joint venture, while ZENECA will contribute its research into
ethylene, the plant hormone that controls ripening. Each company will
develop and market its own banana varieties. The new bananas could be
commercially available in 3 to 5 years.
Scientists at Plantech Research Institute of Yokohama, Japan, have
taken a first step in the development of insect-resistant rice by
introducing a truncated delta-endotoxin gene cryIA (b) of Bacillus
thuringiensis into a japonica rice.
The transgenic rice plants efficiently expressed the Bt gene, and when
R2 generation plants were exposed to two major rice insect pests,
striped stemborer and leaffolder, bioassays revealed that the plants
expressing the Bt gene protein are more resistant to the pests than
(Rice Biotechnology Quarterly, April 1994)
Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology
At the Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology (CARB) in
Rockville, MD, jointly established by NIST, the University of
Maryland, and Montgomery County, MD, researchers study protein
structure/function relationships. They are focusing on the measurement
of protein structure by X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic
resonance spectroscopy, as well as the manipulation of structure by
molecular biological techniques, including site-directed mutagenesis.
Protein modeling, molecular dynamics, and computational chemistry are
used to understand protein structure and to predict the effects of
specific structural modifications on the properties of proteins and
enzymes. A variety of physical chemistry methods are used to measure
and analyze structural changes, activities, and thermodynamic behavior
of proteins under investigation. CARB maintains state-of-the-art
facilities for protein crystallography, NMR spectroscopy, molecular
biology, and physical biochemistry. Its computer facilities include a
variety of computational and high-resolution graphics workstations as
well as access to the NIST Cyber 205 supercomputer.
Contact: Roberto J. Poljak, E-mail: email@example.com
Gary L. Gilliland, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Biological Diversity of the Guianas Program
The Smithsonian Institution's Biological Diversity of the Guianas
(BDG) program is still going strong in 1995. It was created in 1983
to study and document the flora and fauna of the Guianas (i.e.,
Guyana, Surinam, and French Guiana). Activities include collecting
and identifying specimens to be housed at the Centre for the Study of
Biological Diversity, on the campus of the University of Guyana,
Georgetown, Guyana, with duplicates being deposited at other
institutions; training students and staff of the university; and
producing checklists, flora treatments, inventories, and vegetation
Recent publications include the "Checklist of the Plants of the
Guianas" (in cooperation with the ORSTOM Herbarium, Cayenne, French
Guiana). A checklist of the plants and animals of Kaieteur Falls
National Park in Guyana is in preparation.
For more information about the BDG program, please contact:
V. A. Funk, Director
Biological Diversity of the Guianas Program
Department of Botany, MRC 166
National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D.C. 20560
The Biodiversity Support Program, a USAID-funded consortium of World
Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, and World Resources Institute,
has just published "Conserving Biological Diversity in Bulgaria: The
National Biological Diversity Conservation Strategy." The book
summarizes current scientific information about the threats facing
Bulgaria's biodiversity at the genetic, species, and community levels,
and provides the basis for integrated conservation planning and
project development. Copies can be ordered free of charge from
Program, c/o World Wildlife Fund
1250 24th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037
Tel.: (202) 861-8337
Fax: (202) 861-8324
Deep Sea Biotechnology
The International Marine Biodiversity Development Corporation (IMBDC)
is working with the public and private sector, the Russian Academy of
Sciences, and international organizations to start a ten-year program
to collect, maintain, reproduce, show, and distribute biological
specimens from the deep ocean using a 124-metre research vessel and
two manned submersibles capable of diving 6,000 metres. We also plan
to collect geological samples and ecological data, compiling GIS maps
and machine-accessible data bases about this unique environment.
We are in the process of compiling a data base of expertise in this
area that we can call on once the program gets underway. If you or
your group has an interest in this subject and would like to
participate, could you kindly send us a profile and highlight your
specific areas of expertise and interest. If you want more information
about the program, we would be pleased to send it to you by e-mail.
Adelard A. "Ed" Cayer, President
International Marine Biodiversity Development Corporation (IMBDC)
5 Lyngby Avenue
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia B3A 3T5 Canada
Fax: (902) 461-0799
Tel: (902) 465-2743 or 1 (800) 565-8773.
In General. . . .
If your students are interested in biotechnology throughout the world,
you may wish to subscribe to "Biotechnology and Development Monitor."
The Monitor is produced in cooperation with the African Center for
Technology Studies, the Research and Information System for the
non-aligned and other developing countries (India), and the Instituto
Interamericano de Cooperacion para la Agricultura (Costa Rica). Its
focus is on applications of biotechnology in developing countries and
economic and social issues. It includes editorials, articles on
policies, problems, research, new technology developments, and book
reviews. The editor is:
Professor Gerd Junne
Dept. of International Relations and Public International Law
University of Amsterdam
Oudezijds Achterburgwal 237
1012 DL Amsterdam, The Netherlands
It is a free, quarterly publication.
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