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University-Industry Research Cooperation Societally Applied Scientific Linkage and Collaboration

University-Industry Cooperative Research Committees

178th Committee on Plant Molecular Design

Aims and Goals

Groundwork preparations for model plant genome data have been completed, and it has been shown that the data is useful for everything from promoting scientific research to industrial development. In response to success with these model plants, research to decipher genomes using representative plant types, including practical crops, has been carried out through international collaboration. Among this research, this committee demonstrated Japan’s initiative internationally with collaborative international genome research into plants in the Solanaceae and Cucurbitaceae families during the committee’s first term, and the committee additionally supported the promotion of industrial uses for the results of that research. As a result, we were able to create research infrastructure that attracted worldwide attention—we sequenced genome data using a model tomato cultivar from the Solanaceae family and developed tools to use the data—and Japan has come to be recognized as a global center in this field. Meanwhile, the development and adoption of next-generation DNA sequencers has proceeded rapidly in recent years, changing research to decipher genomes rapidly. With this change, the range of plants whose genomes are being deciphered has diversified from the initial model plants and crops to plants for energy, plants for plant factories, and microscopic algae varieties. Deciphering of the genomes of these various plant resources is currently being carried out worldwide, producing huge amounts of genome sequence data daily. Industry in Japan and around the world is showing increased hope for the creation of new plant industries that use this sort of genome sequencing data.

An age in which plant genomes are deciphered rapidly and in large amounts has arrived, and research employing that data in resource plant molecular design has been launched rapidly. Not only will Japan be left behind by other advanced nations if we are unable to demonstrate initiative on this resource plant molecular design research, it is also possible that this inability would greatly hinder the development of the plant industry in Japan. Japan needs to create systems to support this plant molecular design research as quickly as possible and prepare the groundwork that will enable Japanese researchers to demonstrate initiative.

With that in mind, this committee was established to support the efforts of Japanese researchers involved in research on technologies that make good use of the genome data of resource plants and to match the results produced by that research with industry needs.


Research Themes

Investigative research related to technologies to rapidly process genome data
Now that the adoption of next-generation sequencers has enabled large amounts of genome data to be deciphered, we will investigate and conduct research into how the deciphering of the genome data of resource plants is being carried out in countries around the world and how to process this data.
Investigative research into integrated omics data technologies
We will investigate and conduct research into how the integration of model plant omics data is proceeding in other countries and how it is being used in resource plant molecular design.
Investigative research into technologies to rapidly develop DNA markers
We will investigate and conduct research into the current status and the future of rapid genetic marker development carried out with resource plants using genome sequencing data.
Investigative research into high throughput genetic transformation technologies
Genetic transformation technologies are an issue when the basic results obtained from model plants are used in resource plants. We will investigate and conduct research into the status of the development of genetic transformation technologies for resource plants and into methods of resolving issues.
Investigative research into metabolic engineering technologies
Advances in various kinds of analytical devices have yielded rapid progress on research related to plants’ metabolic pathways, enabling the alteration of plant metabolisms. We will investigate and conduct research into the current status and future possibilities for metabolic engineering technologies to improve resource plants.

Committee Chairperson

Hiroshi Ezura
Professor
University of Tsukuba

Duration

December 2015 to November 2020 (Third term, Five years)


Membership Composition   (As of Apr.2017)

Academia: 34
Industry: 29
Total membership: 63


Committee Achievements and Special Activities

We have brought academia and industry together to sequence the genome data of resource plants other than Arabidopsis and rice, such as Solanaceae and Cucurbitaceae members (whose genome data sequencing has begun through international consortia), and to develop tools to use that data so that we can use the results of these efforts to build systems through which Japan can lead the world. As a result, Solanaceae, particularly tomatoes, have been selected as a National Bio-Resource Project by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and the groundwork has also been laid for promoting academia-industry cooperation through the creation of an international liaison center at the University of Tsukuba. Examples of tangible academia-industry cooperation through joint research that has been conducted using this groundwork include the Bio-oriented Technology Research Advancement Institution project of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Plant Factory project of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Meanwhile, the results of these activities have been published in special issues of various scientific publications, such as the Plant Biotechnology. Additionally, these efforts have been rated highly in other countries, and Japan has succeeded in attracting an international conference, the joint Solanaceae genome conference and Cucurbitaceae genome workshop (SOL & ICuGI 2011), in 2011.



Committee Web Site

http://plantmdc.gene.tsukuba.ac.jp/