A biologist at the University of Rochester has received a $100,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for research into how to protect crops without using toxic pesticides, UR officials announced Wednesday.
The grant was given to John Jaenike in a program that supports innovative projects that “break the mold” in trying to solve important problems in global health and development, UR officials said. It was one of more than 100 projects funded in the eighth round of the Grand Challenges Explorations program.
Jaenike’s project applies previous research that found a beneficial bacterium that can be passed from animals to their offspring. This bacterium is found in some fruit flies and gives them protection against a parasitic worm that also attacks plants, causing more than $125 billion in crops losses each year.
The goal of Jaenike’s project is to see if in controlled trials the bacterium can protect crop plants from the bacterium in the same way it protects fruit flies, UR officials said. If that is possible, it could both reduce the use of toxic chemicals and increase crop yields.
To receive funding, applicants had to demonstrate a bold idea in one of five global heath and development topic areas that included agricultural development, immunization and nutrition, UR officials noted.
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