A visit from our American counterparts to deepen our plant science collaboration

29 September 2017
When it comes to developing new approaches to feed the world’s growing population, one thing is for sure: we can’t do it alone. That is why our VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology is increasingly embedded in an international network of plant biotech institutes. One recent feat in that respect is our ongoing strategic partnership with North Carolina State University established in 2016, which culminated in a visit from our American colleagues on May 11-12, 2017. The goal: share insights, explore complementary resources and deepen the collaboration.

A tangible example of such a collaboration model lies in the field of plant phenotyping. While the VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology excels in performing phenotyping under controlled greenhouse conditions at high volumes and high precision, our field research opportunities are limited. NC State, on the other hand, has access to a vast network of agricultural research stations that allows high-tech field research and the collection of phenotypic data under field conditions.

“NC State’s expertise and large field testing infrastructure complement VIB’s knowledge and research perfectly. There are already some collaborations between PIs ongoing and I am sure the return visit will inspire us even more. The opportunities are there for the taking!” (Marieke Louwers, VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology);

Assembling agro aficionados
Next to NC State’s Director of Research Partnerships Deborah Thompson and Associate Dean Steve Lommel, five other faculty members joined the American delegation: Colleen Doherty, Ross Sozzani, Lina Quesada, Jose Alonso and Amy Grunden. They had a look inside our state-of-the-art microscopy lab, were introduced to our phenotyping equipment and met one-on-one with our researchers.

According to Deborah Thompson, this partnership will open up new opportunities for discoveries that will lead to a future food supply that is safe, widely accessible and affordable.

“Together with NC State, we’re planning to collaborate on projects, explore funding, exchange staff and students, and launch new companies. And maybe, we’ll even invest in their projects. That would significantly increase our international image. However, we already have a surprisingly strong reputation in the US. They really look up to us, eager to learn from our experience. This is another fine example of our excellent prestige worldwide.” (Johan Cardoen, VIB Managing Director)

To be continued: this fall, our plant researchers will visit NC State and discover their assets live.

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