Thursday, November 17, 2005

Super sorghum

Biofortified sorghum project boosts African scientific capacity
November 16, 2005
Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International
JOHANNESBURG One of Africa's greatest challenges the twin problems of limited scientific infrastructure and human capacity is being addressed by the Africa Biofortified Sorghum (ABS) project, which is supported by the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative.
An essential goal of the ABS project is to build African scientific capacity through the training of African scientists. The first two scientists have begun research in the United States this week. Andile Grootboom and Luke Mehlo, two plant biotechnologists from South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), are being trained at Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., the world's leading agricultural seed technology company and subsidiary of DuPont in Des Moines, Iowa.
Africa has limited skills in science and technology and the ABS Project is designed to broaden skills in specifically in plant biotechnology.
"The expertise gained through the new technologies and cutting-edge research will benefit other African institutions and further enhance the quality of research in CSIR, a New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) Bioscience Center of Excellence," says Dr. Blessed Okole, strategic partnerships manager at CSIR Biosciences.
"As leader of the ABS project, I am proud that we have met the first important milestone. Not only have two African scientists begun research in the United States, we have lined up additional African scientists, to be trained both at the CSIR and Pioneer in the coming months," says Dr. Florence Wambugu, CEO of Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International.
Dr. Wambugu says "the start of the capacity building process is not only a crucial milestone of this project but also a confirmation that this is a project by Africans building Africa, for Africa with the help of friends in developed nations."
Over the course of the ABS project, scientists will spend time at both the CSIR and Pioneer. In the US, the scientists will mainly learn advanced scientific techniques, protocol and strategy designs for construction of plant transformation.
"We have designed a unique program to impart skills that will directly contribute to the ABS project with the goal of producing a new generation of nutritionally-enhanced sorghum with improved essential amino acid composition, protein and starch digestibility, iron and zinc availability, and elevated levels of select vitamins, including Vitamin E," says Dr. Paul Anderson, international end use senior manager, Pioneer, and the ABS project's principal investigator.
"We are delighted to work with African institutions in building capacity both for the ABS Project and the continent. This will ensure that Africa draws maximum benefit from the Intellectual Property donation, worth US$4.8 million, donated to the project by Pioneer," says Dr. Anderson
"It is an amazing opportunity to come to Pioneer and work alongside some of the world's best scientists," says Andile. "We are excited at being part of a project that will positively impact the lives of over 300 million poor people in Africa and the developing world."
Luke adds that they are looking forward to learning state-of-the-art research techniques. "This is high-level science with a precise goal of transforming the lives of people at the lowest level of society."
The African Biofortified Sorghum (ABS) Project is supported by the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, which focuses on harnessing the power of science and technology to dramatically improve health in the world's poorest countries, and is funded primarily by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The overall goal of ABS is to develop highly enhanced sorghum as a food source to help fight hunger, malnutrition and poverty. The ABS Project is designed to solve global challenges under the direction of a strategic consortium of public and private organizations led by Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International and its strategic partners the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South Africa, and DuPont through its subsidiary Pioneer Hi-Bred International. For additional information, please visit .

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