39 North Innovation District Plan Unveiled
The Science in Our Food
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Danforth Center scientists are in daily pursuit of sustainable solutions to the most critical challenges of our time. Using cutting-edge science and technology, our research aims to unleash the full potential of plants as solutions to hunger and malnutrition, renewable energy, and sustainable development of economies.
Joining the Danforth Center are four new lead scientists, who are coming at an important time of growth for the Center. The new hires will help expand the existing state-of-the-art research in plant phenomics, genomics, root structure, pathogens, and bioenergy grasses. Each principal investigator will recruit additional 10 – 12 scientific personnel to their labs located in the current Danforth Center building.
Collectively the researchers bolster core areas of focus while expanding the Center’s scientific portfolio.
“We are excited about the focus of the research that will be explored by the new investigators. The groups will strengthen our efforts to use genomics, imaging, and analytical technologies to accelerate discovery and contribute to achieving food and energy security,” said Jim Carrington, president of the Danforth Center.
Toby Kellogg’s extensive research enhances the existing interest in grasses and diverse cereal crops used for food. “Having moved to St. Louis in 1998, I've watched the growth and development of the Danforth Center since its beginning. I am excited to join the Center and to work with an incredible group of people,” Kellogg said. “My work on development and genomics of cereal grasses contributes directly to the Center’s focus on translating basic research into results that provide food and fuel for the U.S. and the world.”
Becky Bart will strengthen the Center’s resources in cassava research; her background in diseases of plants and defense mechanisms strengthens the Center’s research of this imperative crop. Cassava, which serves as a food security crop for many farmers in Africa, offers calories but very poor nutritional value and highly susceptible to a number of viruses such as cassava mosaic disease and cassava brown streak disease. The Center has multiple research projects aimed at improving cassava’s nutritional quality and disease resistance.
“Whereas many researchers turn to model organisms to study fundamental processes, I prefer to work directly within the system that I am trying to improve,” said Bart. “Few places in the world have the resources and infrastructure to support this type of science. The Danforth Center does and is particularly well suited to support my research on cassava. I am particularly pleased to join the Center because of the collaborative, energetic spirit that dominates this community.”
Chris Topp and Dan Chitwood are helping the Center explore new areas of plant science. Chris’ research focuses on root growth and physiology while Dan’s research analyzes shoot architecture, two entirely different areas that relate to each other.
"The Danforth Center is unique because of its focus on real-world impact. The Center’s culture will allow me to translate scientific discoveries into tangible improvements in crop yield and sustainability,” said Topp. “And the St. Louis community has a rare enthusiasm for plant science. I can't imagine another place that would be more supportive of my research goals, and I greatly anticipate future collaborations and synergies with my new colleagues.”
With Chris and Dan’s collaboration and focus on new technologies, especially phenotyping and automation, they will give insight into improving plant growth by interpreting large amounts of data.
Chitwood said, “I am excited to be working with both new and established scientists with diverse and creative research interests. The Danforth Center is using technologies that are transforming the way that plant science is done, and I am looking forward to collaborations with my colleagues that will revolutionize the way we quantify plant traits and think about plant growth and development.”
The Center tends to look at new hires with entrepreneurial goals and research that aligns with current and future technology investment; the Center’s tools are only as good as the minds guiding them. Recently, the Center added the Bellwether Phenotyping Facility, new greenhouse range, and plans to break ground on a $45 million expansion this spring. The new facilities will allow the Center to continue to attract the best scientific teams to the region.
Discovery and innovation thrive in an environment that is nurturing, dynamic and inclusive. Our scientists are part of a community of individuals and organizations—in St. Louis, the region, and around the world—with a shared commitment to use scientific expertise and technology to solve the most critical problems facing humanity.
These solutions have the potential to lift families, communities and nations from poverty, creating global economic growth and security for future generations.
The continued generosity of our donors enables us to attract top scientists and provide them with the necessary tools to establish their labs and research programs. Donor support helps make the Danforth Center competitive when recruiting the best and brightest scientists, and gives us an edge to do the most impactful research. Thank you to all of our friends and supporters for contributing to the Danforth Center’s success.
GET TO KNOW THE NEW HIRES
Elizabeth Kellogg, Ph.D., Member Primary focus of research: Dr. Kellogg works on relatives of corn, sorghum, sugarcane, Miscanthus, and millet, as well as the wild plants that constitute the North American prairie. She studies the evolution, domestication, and genetic architecture of these cereal crops and their wild relatives in the grass family. Dr. Kellogg’s research has led to identification of genes that contribute to the diversity of the primary cereal crops used for food.
Rebecca Bart, Ph.D., Assistant Member
Primary focus of research: Dr. Bart will primarily be working with cassava. Her research is focused on developing robust resistance strategies to minimize crop losses from damage by pests. Dr. Bart will combine genetics research with molecular and computational biology to study the mechanisms of plant-microbe interactions. Dan Chitwood, Ph.D., Assistant Member
Primary focus of research: Dr. Chitwood primarily works on tomato, both domesticated tomato and a wild relative that comes from the Atacama deserts of Peru. By working on a crop with relatives that come from a desert environment, he hopes to develop more drought-tolerant crops and reduce the amount of water needed for agriculture.
Dr. Chitwood also works with grape and its wild relatives. Grape is a long-lived, woody, clonal, perennial crop traditionally difficult to do genetics in but with extensive germplasm resources and a sequenced genome, Dr. Chitwood and his team can begin studying the genetic basis of domestication traits unique to grape. His research will explore the relationship between genotype and phenotype, particularly as it relates to leaf development.
Chris Topp, Ph.D., Assistant Member
Primary focus of research: Dr. Topp, an expert in crop root analysis, has a fifteen-year background in corn and remains his major research focus. He is pioneering new approaches for understanding how environmental and genetic factors influence root growth in plants.
For more information on the Center’s new principal investigators, view the press release.
| principal investigatorsnew hiresgenomicsDan ChitwoodChris ToppphenomicsBecky BartToby Kellogg