OCT 03, 2019 1:30 PM PDT

Application of Genome Editing for Improving Banana with Disease Resistance

Presented at: CRISPR 2019
C.E. Credits: P.A.C.E. CE Florida CE
  • Principal Scientist and Deputy Director, East Africa Hub Country Representative, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
      Leena Tripathi is Plant Biotechnologist with over 20 years' experience in genetic improvement of important staple food crops for control of diseases and pests. After obtaining Ph.D. in Plant Molecular Biology and M.Sc. in Molecular Biology & Biotechnology, began career as a Research Scientist at University of North Carolina, Greensboro in 1999. Since then she has worked for over 19 years, at IITA. Currently, she is Principal Scientist and Deputy Regional Director of East Africa Hub of and Country Representative of IITA-Kenya. She is leading the transgenic and genome editing research at IITA. Her focus is on "Science to Practice" and linking scientific innovations to practical applications to solve food production in Africa. Her team has successfully established a robust genetic transformation platform at International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to develop improved varieties and to transfer these technologies to national agricultural research systems in sub-Saharan Africa. She pioneered the first ever application of CRISPR/Cas9 based genome editing technology to deactivate the endogenous banana streak virus, integrated in the host plantain, overcoming a major challenge in banana breeding and global dissemination of plantain hybrids. In addition, her team has developed several technologies, which are under product development. She has pioneered a new approach, which uses genetic engineering to produce banana varieties resistant to banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW) disease, which is threatening banana production and the livelihoods of smallholder growers in East and Central Africa. Her team has also established proof of concept demonstrating field-based resistance to pathogenic nematode in transgenic plantain. Her lab is also developing virus resistant banana and cassava using RNAi technology. All her research is in collaboration with advanced laboratories, national and regional partners. She has trained more than 30 postgraduate students and 300 short-term trainees including researchers and regulators in the field of plant transformation, molecular biology, molecular diagnostics and biosafety. The outcomes of research in her lab have been published in more than 80 articles and have been featured in more than 180 national and international news articles and documentary films.


    Banana (Musa spp.) is one of the major staple food crops grown in over 140 countries in the subtropics and tropics with annual global production of around 148 million metric, feeding about 500 million people. It is a valuable food security and cash crop as it can be cultivated in diverse environments and produces fruits throughout the year in favourable weather conditions. Its production is largely constrained by diseases and pests in addition to other factors like declining soil fertility, narrow genetic diversity in germplasm, and inadequate availability of clean planting material. There is need to develop banana varieties with multiple and durable resistance to combat biotic stresses. Modern breeding tools, including genome editing, can be applied for the improvement of banana bypassing the natural bottlenecks of traditional breeding. Intensive efforts using genetic modification have been made to develop improved banana varieties with resistance to biotic stresses. Genome editing, an emerging powerful tool, can be applied for developing durable resistance to diseases. CRISPR/Cas9-based genome editing has been lately established for banana, paving the way for functional genomics allowing identification of genes associated with disease resistant trait, which could be used for the improvement of banana. The genome editing research at IITA for improvement of banana will be presented during this seminar.

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