Queensland University of Technology

QUT Panama disease breakthrough sparks US funding

QUT researcher Distinguished Professor James Dale and his team have successfully developed a line of Cavendish bananas resistant to Panama disease tropical race 4 (TR4).The development of the TR4 resistant line has led to a multi-million-dollar partnership with US-based international fresh fruit and vegetable leader, Fresh Del Monte.

Image: QUT

Professor Dale said the funding would enable his research team to build on this breakthrough research by using gene-editing CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) technology to now create a non-genetically modified variety of Cavendish, also resistant to TR4.

“While our success in developing a disease-resistant genetically modified line of Cavendish is a world-first achievement, this funding will enable us to develop the next generation of TR4 resistant Cavendish bananas,” Professor Dale said.

Hans Sauter, Chief Sustainability Officer, and Senior Vice President, Research and Development, Agricultural Services for Fresh Del Monte said the company was addressing critical issues facing the banana industry as we speak.

“The ability to leverage the capabilities of the team at QUT is very exciting. We see the potential with these revolutionary technologies, and we are looking forward to putting these tools to work to solve real problems facing the world. 

“Fresh Del Monte is proud to partner with a respected research university facility like QUT in this endeavour,” Mr Sauter said.

Professor Dale’s research is conducted in Brisbane at QUT’s Centre for Agriculture and the Bioeconomy, with the confined field trials conducted on a La Manna Premier Group (LPG) joint venture banana farm outside Darwin in the Northern Territory.

He said the field trials showed that high expression of the gene RGA2 derived from a wild banana provides resistance to TR4 disease. Although RGA2 is also present in Cavendish it is not expressed.

“Our main gene editing strategy is to activate the expression of the RGA2 gene in Cavendish creating a gene-edited banana resistant to TR4,” Professor Dale said.

For more information:
Rose Trapnell
Queensland University of Technology
Tel.: +61 07 3138 2361
Tel.: +61 0407 585 901
E-mail: rose.trapnell@qut.edu.au 

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