Director’s Letter, May 2018 e-NEWS
By Bill F. McCutchen
Advances in genomics, automation, phenomics, and data management are allowing scientists to identify, modify, and express influential genes for health sciences, agriculture, and veterinary medicine; researchers all over the world are building an unprecedented view of gene content and genome organization. Yet we have much left to learn of the relationship between variation in organisms’ form and function and variation in genetic sequences. Making these connections between phenotype and genetics requires unprecedented investments that support both basic and applied research in the life sciences.
Genome-science technologies share several attributes that make a focused and applied strategic investment worthwhile. First, these technologies can be applied to any organism, so technological breakthroughs will have immediate and broad application. Second, they are cost-driven, allowing the application of these technologies to areas and at a scale that heretofore was out of reach; thus, investments in genomic technologies yield returns with increasing rewards. Technology is capable of providing comprehensive and detailed views of DNA, RNA, and protein and chemical compositions, improving the ability to describe, predict, and improve cellular structure and function.
With these tools in mind, the present challenge in the genome sciences is to align technologies in such a way as to accelerate the transformation of information into knowledge by organizing these efforts around well-defined basic and application-oriented issues. This Spring 2018 issue of our newsletter discusses one example — a genome-editing pipeline and a seed grant — of how this challenge may be addressed at the agency level.
Not only does our genome-editing pipeline support diverse research programs and a variety of basic and applied projects, but it also creates opportunities for collaborations between industry, government agencies, and universities, paving the way for discoveries that have maximal societal impact. As Norman Borlaug stated in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, “The first essential component of social justice is adequate food for all mankind.” The age of “phenotypes to genotypes” is clearly upon us, with important implications for feeding the world and significant impacts for improving crops, livestock, and human health.
Bill F. McCutchen, Ph.D.
Executive Associate Director
Texas A&M AgriLife Research
The Texas A&M University System