Two from UC Davis among 15 HHMI/GBMF plant biology fellows

Two plant scientists from UC Davis, Simon Chan from the Department of Plant Biology and Jorge Dubcovsky from the Department of Plant Sciences are among 15 across the nation named as Howard Hughes Medical Institute/Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation Investigators this morning.

(Yes, we have two departments of plant biology. Actually four counting Plant Pathology and Agriculture and Range Science…that’s how we roll at UC Davis.)

The organizations will pay their salaries and benefits and support their research for the next five years, freeing them of the need to apply for new grants.

Chan works with the lab plant Arabidopsis or mustard cress, and is studying new ways to breed cloned plants. His work could shortcut generations of breeding needed to produce new plant varieties.

Dubcovsky works with wheat — indeed, he is the only one of the fifteen who works with a plant other than Arabidopsis, according to Science magazine. Among other things, he hopes to develop new tools for wheat genomics, so that researchers can look up genes and mutations with a simple web search.

The investment by the HHMI and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation will have a huge impact on plant sciences at a time of rising demand for food production, Dubcovsky says.

“I think as a society, we have underinvested in agricultural research, and we are lagging behind in our increases in productivity. Increases in food prices have a very serious impact on those that have limited resources. Investments in agricultural research can help us meet this demand faster,” he said.

HHMI-GBMF press release

Video: Simon Chan talks about his plant breeding research

(Photos by Steve Yeater, AP for HHMI)

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