The wheat blast research team of Professor Tofazzal Islam of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University has won the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Prize in recent completion of the Transformers Roadshow Research Idea Competition. The team received USD 3,000.00 and return tickets to participate in the Science, Technology, and Innovation conference of IsDB to be held in Cambridge early next year.
Prof. Islam’s IsDB prize winning project title was “Development of novel blast resistant wheat variety by using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing”. Other members of the research team include Assistant Professor Dr. Dipali Rani Gupta and a Ph D student Sanjoy Kumar Paul. The primary objective of the project is to protect wheat crop from a recently introduced devastating blast fungus by using modern CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technique for ensuring food security in blast polluted regions in Asia and South America.
Wheat blast is a fearsome fungal disease which first spotted in Bangladesh in February 2016 and devastated 15,000 hectares of wheat in 8 districts of Bangladesh bordering India. In a rapid response, Prof. Islam and his UK friend Prof. Sophien Kamoun led 31 researchers from 4 continents and determined the genetic identity and the origin of this wheat killer as a South American lineage of Magnaporthe oryzae (Islam et al. 2016, see at https://bmcbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12915-016-0309-7). They used two completely revolutionary approaches to determine the origin of Bangladeshi wheat blast by 6 weeks through field pathogenomics and open data sharing (http://www.wheatblast.org/).
Wheat blast was first emerged in the Parana state of Brazil in 1985 and then gradually spread to 3 million hectares of wheat cultivated area Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay. It’s first introduction and spread to Asia poses a serious threat to the food security of South Asia as there is not enough resistant sources for breeding resistance against wheat blast and fungicides application was found unreliable. The CRISPR/Cas9 is a revolutionary technique for genome editing which has already been used in disease resistance in plants (Wang et. al 2016, PLOS One, 11, e01540271; Scheben and Edwards 2017, Science 355,1122). In collaboration with Prof. Nicolas Talbot, Prof. Sophien Kamoun from The Sainsbury Laboratory and Dr. Emma of NIAB in UK, Prof. Islam have been working on the development of the non-transgenic homozygous S-genes mutants CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing for a durable blast resistance in wheat for Bangladesh.
They received good funding from the BBSRC (UK) (ow.ly/BkQz30lQ1nK) and Krishi Gobeshona Foundation (KGF) of Bangladesh for the development of new blast resistant wheat. They are practicing open data sharing and open science for engaging global scientific community to achieve their target within a shortest possible time. Prof. Islam can be contacted through e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, and also can be reached through the website of Department of Biotechnology of BSMRAU at www.btlbsmrau.org