BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 31, 2003 - Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) director Dr. Bruno Sobral today announced funding support for a project in which researchers will discover ways to increase the productivity and health benefits of fruit crops. Investigators will use wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca) as a model to determine which genes produce economically important traits, such as disease resistance.

By profiling wild strawberry, researchers will be able to identify useful compounds in plants, as well as the genes that produce them. Using this knowledge, scientists may one day be able to help farmers within the U.S. create more valuable crops. In addition, research efforts in the area of agricultural production will allow scientists to begin improving the dietary value of certain foods and identifying compounds that may have medicinal properties. This technology will have a major impact on the widespread problems of malnutrition and disease that plague the global community.

Virginia Tech has made major investments in genomics and bioinformatics technologies, including the development of VBI in July 2000. The horticulture department at Tech also has a long history of research aimed at developing stronger, more commercially valuable crops. Principle investigator Vladimir Shulaev of VBI will work with Richard Veilleux, Joel Shuman, and Jerxy Nowak of Virginia Tech’s horticulture department, as well as Allan Dickerman, also of VBI. This research will be funded by the ASPIRES program, VBI, and the Department of Horticulture.

VBI, a Commonwealth of Virginia shared resource, serves as a flagship bioinformatics research institute wedding cutting-edge biological research with state-of-the-art computer science. By integrating experimental and computational laboratories, VBI provides a unique research platform to all stakeholders on a cost-recovery basis.

More information about the Virginia Tech horticulture department is available at: http://www.hort.vt.edu/

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Published by Public Relations, January 30, 2003