Equipping potatoes with resistance to fungal infestation
Dr. Dieter Peschen
Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME), Aachen
Recipient: Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME), Aachen
Funding: GO-Bio Phase I (01.01.2008 - 30.04.2012, 1.977.150 Euro)
Late blight is considered the most dangerous potato disease in the world, and is also the dominating problem in potato cultivation in Germany. It is triggered by the fungus Phytophtora infestans and is currently treated with fungicides, as conventional methods of breeding have failed to bring the harmful fungus under control. In the context of his Go-Bio project, Dieter Peschen is now pursuing a biotechnological approach for protecting potato plants from attack by the fungal infestation. The method is based on the use of antibodies that recognise the fungus, which are coupled with a fungicide. The genetic blueprint of these ‘fusion proteins’ is incorporated into the plant in such a way that it can then produce its own antibodies. This gives the potato plant a specific resistance to the fungus.
Peschen is hoping to establish this as a commercial process in a yet-to-be-founded company, which would also sell genetically modified plant varieties to seed companies. In addition to their work on potato plants, long term plans include the expansion of the application spectrum of the technology for the development of other genetically modified agricultural plants and ornamental plants with integrated resistance to other pests.