FAPESP and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) are partners in the Center for Research in Genomics Applied to Climate Change, hosted by the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) and formally established on December 13, 2017, during an event held at FAPESP's headquarters, in São Paulo. The research center’s mission is to create biotechnological assets that increase plant resistance to drought and heat, and to transfer technology to the productive sector.
“The field of applied genomics is developing rapidly and Brazil can’t afford to lag behind,” said FAPESP president José Goldemberg.
Using genomics and genetics, with such tools as genetic engineering, genome editing and microbiome research, the center will create and manage genetic improvement and agricultural biotechnology pipelines for the production of genetically edited transgenic plants, among other activities.
It will also develop competencies in regulation and patenting to assure compliance with biosafety rules and laws on access to biodiversity. “We’ll use the same processes as those implemented by large manufacturers, with scale being the only difference,” said Paulo Arruda, principal investigator for the center.
This is the sixth Engineering Research Center/Applied Research Center supported by FAPESP in partnership with private enterprise for a period of up to ten years under the aegis of its Research Partnership for Technological Innovation Program (PITE). Five others are already operating: two with GSK, one with Shell, one with Peugeot Citroën, and one with Natura.
“The total value of the contract signed with the Center for Research in Genomics Applied to Climate Change is 102.8 million Brazilian Reals (BRL). FAPESP will invest BRL 25.2 million, EMBRAPA BRL 32.9 million, and UNICAMP BRL 44.7 million, corresponding to salaries, research infrastructure etc.,” said FAPESP Scientific Director Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz.
The center inherits the Mixed Unit for Research in Genomics Applied to Climate Change, a joint venture established by EMBRAPA and UNICAMP in 2012.
“EMBRAPA allocated researchers to work at UNICAMP on project development in plant biotechnology under the leadership of Paulo Arruda from UNICAMP and Eduardo Assad from EMBRAPA,” said EMBRAPA President Maurício Antônio Lopes.
Mixed research units embody the “cross-fertilisation” strategy pursued by EMBRAPA to build ties with universities and basic research, he added. “It’s a pleasure to see this initiative receiving FAPESP’s support,” Lopes said.
“Now we can bring other initiatives to this research platform. We can use EMBRAPA’s network to validate prototypes of biotechnological assets created by the center and also seek support from the productive sector.”
For Teresa Dib Zambon Atvars, Vice Rector of UNICAMP, the partnership and the projects that will result could represent a “paradigm shift” for research in food and agribusiness. “We have all three ingredients of success: competence, funding, and willpower,” she said.