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  • Eucalyptus tree genome to be sequenced

    22nd June 2006

    The Eucalyptus research community may in the near future benefit from a second eucalypt genome sequencing effort (the first effort is being undertaken by Japan). At the last business meeting of the International Eucalyptus Genome Consortium (see meeting report at www.ieugc.up.ac.za) the Consortium was invited to submit a proposal to the Joint Genome Institute (JGI), the sequencing powerhouse of the US Department of Energy, to generate a draft sequence of the genome of Eucalyptus grandis, one of the most widely planted Eucalyptus tree species.

    At the same meeting, Dr. Takashi Hibino of Oji Paper reported on the ongoing E. camaldulensis genome sequencing effort at KAZUSA DNA Research Institute in Japan. These are certainly exciting times for eucalypt researchers! The detailed genome sequencing proposal to be submitted by June 2006 is now being finalized by a group of scientists from several countries world-wide, led by ACGT contributor Dr. Zander Myburg from the University of Pretoria, the coordinator of the International Eucalyptus Genome Consortium.

    The formation of an international collaborative network around the Eucalyptus genome started some three years ago at an IUFRO Tree Biotechnology conference in Umea, Sweden in 2003. After a series of meetings in Australia and Japan in the last two years, DOE scientist, Dr. Jerry Tuskan, announced at the Tree Biotechnology conference held in Nov 2005 in Pretoria, South Africa, that JGI would consider a proposal for a Eucalyptus genome sequencing project in the context of the “Genomes to Energy” focus area of the recently launched Laboratory Science Program at JGI.

    The availability of a draft sequence of the Eucalyptus grandis genome will generate extraordinary opportunities for reaching a much higher level of understanding of the unique biology of forest trees and will have obvious implications for eucalypt-based production forestry as well as environmentally relevant issues such as carbon sequestration and water use efficiency of eucalypt plantations.

    ACGT contributors will take active roles in the genome sequencing initiative and generation of eucalypt genomics resources after the completion of the draft genome sequence. Dr. Fourie Joubert of the Pretoria Node of the National Bioinformatics Network (NBN) will contribute towards the generation of a bioinformatics resource for the eucalypt research community. Dr. Zander Myburg will contribute towards the high-density genetic mapping of the E. grandis genome.

  • ACGT visited by the Management team from the CGIAR Generation Challenge Program

    21st June 2006

    The Director of the CGIAR Generation Challenge Program (GCP), Jean-Marcel Ribaut, visited the ACGT on 30 and 31 June 2006, together with Carmen de Vicente who is responsible for capacity building activities in the GCP.

    The visit provided an opportunity for discussion about the future role of the ACGT partner institutions in the GCP, both from the perspective of capacity building and involvement in research activities. The visitors also had an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the interests and activities in the ACGT institutions, during the course of a number of meetings with senior management and researchers from the University of Pretoria, the CSIR and Wits University.

  • Safe Foods issues put under microscope

    19th June 2006

    General food safety management issues; mycotoxins as emerging risks; approaches to food safety communication and environmental issues regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – these were some of the issues discussed during a SAFE FOODS workshop, held near Pretoria recently. This CSIR-organised workshop preceded the project’s bi-annual meeting, held at the same venue. (more…)

  • UK/MRC delegation visits the ACGT at University of Pretoria

    17th June 2006

    Under the auspices of the Novel Drug Discovery Platform project, the MRC organized a visit to South Africa by scientists from Newcastle in England. The aim of the visit was to allow the UK researchers to meet with researchers in SA in order to explore opportunities for collaborative research in novel drug development from medicinal plants.

    The delegation visited various centres in South Africa, including visits to the CSIR and the University of Pretoria on 8 June 2006. Researchers from both sides were keen to learn about the latest research technologies and methodologies.

    Discussions at the University of Pretoria focused on the opportunities to assess the effects of potential anti-malarial drug leads. An additional common interest was identified as health promoting compounds in foodstuffs.

    The visit allowed researchers to identify possible opportunities for collaboration under the EU FP7 programme.

  • African scientists and postgraduates set to benefit from biotechnology partnership

    22nd December 2005

    African scientists and postgraduates working in biotechnology are set to benefit from a partnership between the African Centre for Gene Technology (ACGT), a South African network of excellence in modern biotechnology, and the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), announced in Pretoria this week.

  • Socio-economic impact of malaria and the status of malaria research in South Africa

    22nd October 2005

    Malaria is the world’s most important parasitic disease. Clearly a disease of poverty, commonly referred to as a “neglected disease”, it rates amongst one of the major health and development challenges facing many of the poorest countries in the world.

    At the end of 2004, 107 countries and territories had areas at risk of malaria transmission, with about 40% of the world’s population living in these areas. Up to 500 million clinical cases and 2 million deaths are reported annually, of which 57% occur in Africa, 30% in Asia and around 5% in the Americas.

    Although millions of patients are affected by parasitic diseases every year, their inability to pay for market-financed products has resulted in a lack of innovative products and only 10% of global R&D resources directed at such diseases, including malaria, that account for 90% of the global disease burden.

    The South African Malaria Initiative (SAMI) contracted Dr Lorraine Thiel to gather information about the scale of the malaria problem, the international funding streams and the local role players in malaria research. Two reports, funded by the Department of Science and Technology, were submitted to DST in October this year.

    These reports, from which the above extracts have been taken, are made available here as downloadable pdf files. They remain the property of the Department of Science and Technology.

    Report Section 1 – PDF file size 612 KB
    Gathering of Data on the Global Epidemiology of the Malaria Threat, Applied Interventions and Socio-economic Impact

    Report Section 2 – PDF file size 913 KB
    Gathering of Data on the Funding Mechanisms for Malaria Research and the Status of Malaria Research in South Africa

  • BioPad supports ACGT microarray facility

    21st October 2005

    The Biotechnology Partnership and Development (BioPAD) is supporting a microarray platform project at the ACGT Microarray Facility at the University of Pretoria. Established under the auspices of the Department of Science and Technology and its National Biotechnology Strategy, BioPAD activities are aimed at establishing a sustainable biotechnology industry in South Africa and helping to meet the regions biotechnology challenges. (more…)

  • Flagship programmes identified for the South African Malaria Initiative

    14th October 2005

    The Malaria Initiative for Africa (MIA) recently underwent a name change to SAMI – the South African Malaria Initiative. The initiative resulted from the deliberations of a core group of researchers from around the country who met at the University of Pretoria in January this year to discuss a collaborative initiative to promote the use of advanced biotechnologies in malaria drug discovery, diagnostics and epidemiology. (more…)

  • FABI to host Sudanese researcher as part of Generation Challenge Programme

    13th October 2005

    A researcher from the Agricultural Research and Technology Cooperation (ARTC) in Sudan, Dr Adam Mohamed Ali Hamid, was recently awarded a General Challenge Programme (GCP) travel grant to work at the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) housed at the University of Pretoria. (more…)

  • ACGT receives visit from French experts

    22nd June 2005

    The ACGT Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Unit at the University of Pretoria received a visit on 19 April from a French CNRS delegation who were exploring potential linkages between France and South Africa in the bionformatics field. The visit was organized in the context of NEPAD collaborative activities.

    Bioinformatics activities in Pretoria were highlighted and potential collaborations were discussed, particularly in the area of malaria bioinformatics.