Norwich ‘speed cloning’ scientist wins international accolade

PUBLISHED: 15:10 21 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:10 21 March 2019

Dr Sanu Arora from the John Innes Centre has won an international award for her work on

Dr Sanu Arora from the John Innes Centre has won an international award for her work on "speed cloning" in wheat.crops. Picture: John Innes Centre

John Innes Centre

A Norwich crop scientist has won an international award for her cutting-edge research aiming to make modern wheat more resistant to diseases.

Post-doctoral researcher Sanu Arora, from the John Innes Centre, is the winner of a Jeanie Borlaug Laube Women in Triticum (WIT) Early Career award.

The award provides professional development opportunities for women working with wheat, and Dr Arora is one of six winners for 2019 with the others hailing from India, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Mexico and Ukraine.

The review panel of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) praised Dr Arora’s “commitment toward wheat research on an international level” and her “potential to mentor future women scientists.”

Dr Arora is a researcher in Dr Brande Wulff’s group at the John Innes Centre, working on a method to rapidly clone genes associated with disease resistance in wheat plants.

The technique called AgRenSeq involves searching a genetic library of resistance genes discovered in wild relatives of modern crops, so their disease-fighting capabilities can be incorporated into the seeds planted by farmers – potentially reducing their reliance on pesticides.

READ MORE: Norwich crop scientists celebrate ‘speed-cloning’ breakthrough

Dr Arora said: “I am thankful to BGRI for recognising my work in speed cloning of resistance genes.

“I grew up in the Punjab, India, where the tremendous socio-economic impact of the Green Revolution was felt by people around me. In recent years the excessive use of pesticides and emergence of increasingly virulent pathogens now threaten the viability of the farming industry. Improving this has been my driving force in developing new techniques to improve crop resistance to pathogens.”

Dr Wulff said: “I am delighted to see Sanu recognised with a WIT Award. Her drive and intellect and unwavering engagement in the face of initial scepticism proved critical to the success of developing AgRenSeq. I hope she will continue to apply her energy and skill to solve new problems and bottlenecks in wheat breeding and research.”

Established in 2010, the early-career award is named after Jeanie Borlaug Laube, a high-profile mentor for scientists, and daughter of the Nobel Laureate Dr Norman E Borlaug who is considered to be one of the founders of the Green Revolution.

Dr Arora has been invited to a WIT training course in Mexico, and a BGRI technical workshop taking place in Norwich in June 2020.

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