Consortium for Integrated Translational Biology (CITB)

School of Natural Resources
Department of Agronomy and Horticulture
Nebraska Center for Plant Science Innovation (PSI)
Center for Advanced Land Management (CALMIT)
Department of Biological Systems Engineering

Areas of Focus: Phenotyping, Genotyping, Trait Selection

Goal and Objectives

Initiatives and subsequent developed Centers serve as drivers for research and economic development by fostering collaboration among faculty across departments and colleges. This is exemplified in the activities within the Center for Plant Science Innovation (PSI). Wherein the faculty within the Center have participated in grantsmanship resulting in millions of dollars in funding which has been translated to high impact scholarly outputs and technology development. In regards to the latter the PSI has placed a strong emphasis on lab-to-field translational research activities with real world applications towards sustainable and improved agriculture production that impact farmers and consumers in Nebraska and globally. However, for UNL to fully capitalize on its investments in Centers, Initiatives and Departments it is imperative that synergies among these entities be identified and mechanisms put in place to foster and incentivize transdisciplinary research across these units. A prime example of transdisciplinary research potential lies in a strength within PSI, enhancing oil content and quality of oilseed crops. This area of emphasis has opportunities for research interactions with the GUT Function Initiative, the Nebraska Gateway for Nutrigenomics, and UNMC to investigate impact of these novel lipids on a range of aspects of human and animal health. Moreover, these lipid modifications have value in feed and industrial applications wherein collaborative opportunities exist with the Food Processing Center, Red Meat Initiative, Industrial Agriculture Products Center and Tractor Engine Testing Laboratory. Another area of strength within PSI is stress tolerance. Recent investments in faculty hires and throughput phenotyping capacity will clearly add to this area of expertise, but to fully capitalize on these investments will require strong linkages with CALMIT, Computational Biology Initiative, faculty within SNR, BSE among others. The ability to create these linkages offers potential for development of predictive algorithms to aid in plant germplasm selection efficiency. These examples illustrate how a coordinated interactive unification structure that fosters linkages among Centers, Initiatives and Departments will build synergistic research activities in the life sciences across campus. This in turn will build upon UNL’s national and international stature. However, for this vision to become reality strategic investments in research infrastructure and incentives to promote collaborative research programs will be required. Background Introduction of genetic variation in plants through conventional breeding methods alone or complemented by mutational or biotechnology tools is the foundation for genetic gains in yield, protection of yield and quality traits realized across plants species used for food, feed, industrial applications, and landscape resources. Genomics technologies have greatly facilitated our ability to characterize the molecular state of plant species. However, our ability to comprehensively connect genotype to phenotype is severely lagging, thus the exploitation potential of the vast repository of datasets obtained from “omics” technologies is greatly reduced. The University of Nebraska is positioned well to close 2 this gap in phenotype data acquisition technologies, which in turn holds great promise for the development of superior predictive models for linking genotype to phenotype in plants. To this end we are proposing the establishment of a Consortium for Integrated Translational Biology (C-ITB). We envision the C-ITB to evolve into a dynamic hub that provides an environment conducive for transdisciplinary research activities merging UNL’s expertise in the areas of plant breeding, genetics, metabolic engineering, physiology, stress biology, computational modeling, along with optical and hyperspectral imagery capture and analyses. Importantly, the establishment of the C-ITB will be critical in strengthening our ability to translate technologies from the laboratory to the field. This in turn will aid our technology and marketing arm of the University, NU Tech Ventures, for field-level demonstration of an innovation significantly enhances the attractiveness of the technology by allowing it enter the product pipeline in a later phase of market development.

C-IBT mission statement

Create a transdisciplinary environment to address the genotype to phenotype gap through the development of integrative predictive models for the selection of valuable traits that address yield, protection of yield, and quality traits across plant species used for food, feed, industrial applications and landscape resources. This focus will be directed towards facilitating translation of innovations to the field.

Download the full proposal.