Biotechnology and plant systems biology

author: Maja Ravnikar, National Institute of Biology
produced by: S.TV.A.d.o.o.
published: Sept. 23, 2011,   recorded: September 2011,   views: 4600

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Research of the program Biotechnology and plant systems biology helps to understand and solve the problems regarding food safety, detection and regulation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and new diseases, such as fire blight and the disease caused by Flavescence dorée phytoplasma. In addition, some important discoveries have been made during the research of devastating pathogens such as Clostridium spp. Developed sensitive diagnostic methods allow us to track individual molecules in plant samples, seeds, food and drinking water, and different pathogenic microorganisms in the environment. Our expert knowledge is integrated into the widespread international activities and serves to the Ministry of Agriculture, forestry and food, environment and spatial planning, defense and health for addressing genetically modified organisms, existing and emerging plant diseases. Our studies have revealed new defense mechanisms in plants under attack by viruses, bacteria, and Colorado potato beetle. A holistic view of plant disease development is accessed by the methods of systems biology. Thousands of genes and hundreds of proteins are monitored at the transcriptome and proteome level, followed by data analysis and accurate interpretation. In order to better understand the complex network of cell, bacteria or whole plant molecular processes, we are applying bioinformatics tools, biostatistics analysis, data mining, visualization soft wares and mathematical modeling. The synthetic biology approaches for constructing new plants, viruses or viral proteins allow us to confirm new findings. By the electron microscopy we are opening the door into the exciting “nano world” of living beings. The results of the research team are published in the most prestigious journals, such as Nature Biotechnology and Nature structural & molecular biology. We are participating in the education process by teaching and publishing textbooks, some of them being translated in other languages. Members of the research team write popular articles and broadcast to bring science closer to the people. Our international cooperation is reflected in participation in four ongoing European projects. We also closely cooperate with research institutions and companies, responsible for development in Slovenia. Our research results are used for the improvement of drug production in cooperation with companies Lek Sandoz, Krka and in a newly established Competence research centre lead by company Acies Bio. Our methods have also been involved in the stem cell and cancer treatment research.

Biosensor research and research on viruses as therapeutics is carried out in the Centre of Excellency COBIK together with successful high-tech companies such as Bia Separations and Instrumentation technologies. In the previous year we have started our first spin-out company BioSistemika which develops and trades in our research results.

Our most successful scientists have been awarded in 2010 by the American Society for Microbiology, Slovenian Microbiological Society, National Institute of Biology and Prešeren award for students.

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