University of Leicester geneticist in major project to breed new varieties of wheat

Posted by ap507 at Dec 14, 2015 03:47 PM |
Project selected for funding based on scientific excellence aims to develop crop resilient to climate change

The University of Leicester has been included in one of three high-value, long-term research projects totalling £13.9M that have been awarded funding by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The grants, funded through BBSRC's Strategic Longer and Larger grants (sLoLas) scheme, give world-leading research teams five years of funding and resources to address major challenges.

Dr James Higgins from the Department of Genetics is part of a consortium of universities that has won a total of £3.6million to increase the efficiency of wheat breeding and to improve the breeder’s ability to generate high yielding varieties able to withstand climate change.

The consortium, led by Bristol and including academics from Cambridge, Birmingham, Leicester and the John Innes Centre as well as wheat breeders from RAGT and KWS, will use a range of advanced molecular and cytological techniques to dissect and re-engineer pathways leading to the generation of novel gene combinations. This will give breeders unprecedented access for selecting advantageous traits from natural variation.

Dr Higgins said: “We will achieve this through a programme of research that builds on recent understanding of how genetic crossovers are controlled, combined with cutting edge molecular cytogenetics, genomics and synthetic biology. The scale of the project will allow novel scientific insights as well as providing plant breeders with tools to generate resilient wheat varieties for the 21st Century.”

Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: "The BBSRC sLoLa scheme gives extra time and resources to world-leading UK scientists so they can address major scientific challenges. As well helping the UK and the world to meet these challenges and offer economic and social benefit, the projects will develop the world-leading research capacity.”


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, BBSRC invested over £509M in world-class bioscience in 2014-15. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see:

For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see:



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