CRISPR/Cas9 technology is revolutionizing life sciences, including plant breeding. Due to high efficiency and simple design, CRISPR/Cas9 has brought genome engineering (GE) in reach of small and medium enterprises in this area. Plant breeders can now use gene editing for increasing the genetic diversity in their germplasm or introducing novel traits in their species.
Over the last years, the VIB Department of Plant Systems Biology has pioneered with CRISPR/Cas9-based genome engineering. Successful examples were obtained in the model species Arabidopsis thaliana and Medicago truncatula; fruit crops such as tomato, monocot crops such as maize, and woody perennials such as poplar.
The Crop Genome Engineering Facility (CGEF) aims to act as a bridge between this expertise at the VIB Department of Plant Systems Biology and enterprises looking for know-how and advice in this rapidly moving field. While companies often have species-specific knowledge on plant tissue culture and regeneration, successful creation of gene-edited plants also relies on knowledge of plant genes and genomes, access to the latest CRISPR technology, and plant transformation.
The CGEF can help by:
- Providing access to world-class bioinformatics and plant genome annotation experts (http://www.psb.ugent.be/applied-bioinformatics-biostatistics)
- Selecting traits, pathways and genes, and designing appropriate GE strategies
- Offering advice on best-practices in GE
- Providing the latest CRISPR technology developments, implemented for use in plants by a dedicated Plant Genome Editing research group (http://www.psb.ugent.be/plant-genome-editing)
- Close collaboration with the PSB maize transformation platform (http://www.psb.ugent.be/chromatin-and-growth/287-maize-transformation) used to improve (monocot) plant transformation, which has become the new limiting step in plant genome engineering
- Acting as an academic partner in R&D projects, next to providing fee-for-service work for both academics and industry