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NSF EPSCoR Awards New Track-2 Projects to Help Understand Connections Between Genes and Organisms' Characteristics

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has made eight awards totaling $41.7 million for projects aimed at building capacity to research a national priority area: understanding the relationship in organisms between genetic material, or genotype, and physical characteristics due to gene expression and environmental influences, or phenotype.

The genotype-to-phenotype relationship has significant societal and economic implications across scientific fields and areas of industry, including but not limited to medicine, agriculture, biotechnology and ecology. An enhanced understanding of this relationship holds the potential for improved food crop yields, better prediction of human disease risk and new drug therapies. Through these investments, NSF aims to provide the scientific community with new tools and resources for future discoveries.

The awards are made through NSF EPSCoR as part of its Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-2 investment strategy. RII Track-2 is intended to build national research strength by initiating research collaborations across institutions in two or more EPSCoR jurisdictions. The four-year awards involve 21 institutions in 16 eligible jurisdictions.

Unl Epsco R Track 2

The University of Nebraska Lincoln's project focuses on ensuring global food security by
improving crop resilience. Principal investigator Harkamal Walia checks the progress of a rice plant growing in the Lemna Tech High Throughput Phenotyping facility at the Greenhouse Innovation Center on the Nebraska Innovation Campus. The magenta glow is caused by custom LED grow lights. The facility is an automated system which moves the plants via conveyer belts and automatically waters them and then records their growth daily using various cameras and instruments.

Credit: University Communication / University of Nebraska-Lincoln

"Over the past several decades, scientists and engineers have made massive strides in decoding, amassing and storing genomic data," said Denise Barnes, Head of NSF's Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Program. "But understanding how genomics influence phenotype remains one of the more profound challenges in science. These awards lay the groundwork for closing some of the biggest gaps in biological knowledge and developing interdisciplinary teams needed to address the challenges."

The project titles, principal investigators and lead institutions are listed below.

Using Natural Variation to Educate, Innovate, and Lead (UNVEIL): A collaborative research network to advance genome-to-phenome connections in the wild: Zac Cheviron, University of Montana

Comparative genomics and phenomics approach to discover genes underlying heat stress resilience in cereals: Harkamal Walia, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Genome to fitness: An analysis of the stress response in Peromyscus

: Hippokratis Kiaris, University of South Carolina at Columbia

Advanced biomanufacturing: Catalyzing improved host development and high-quality medicines through genome to phenome predictions: Sarah Harcum, Clemson University

Using biophysical protein models to map genetic variation to phenotypes: Frederick Ytreberg, University of Idaho

Building Genome-to-Phenome Infrastructure for Regulating Methane in Deep and Extreme Environments (BuG ReMeDEE): Rajesh Sani, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

Genomic logic underlying adaptive morphological divergence: Riccardo Papa, University of Puerto Rico -- Rio Piedras

G2P in VOM: An experimental and analytical framework for genome to phenome connections in viruses of microbes: Eric Wommack, University of Delaware

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