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Grant

QGG researcher receives the prestigious Novo Nordisk Emerging Investigator Grant

Assistant professor (tenure track) Guillaume Ramstein from Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics (QGG) has received an Emerging Investigator Grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation. The grant will be used for research in finding a new strategy to improve fitness of important crops.

Guillaume Ramstein, who only arrived at QGG in February 2021 from a postdoc position at Cornell University (USA), will receive DKK 8 million for the project Selection of mutations by in silico and experimental variant effects (SIEVE): a new strategy to improve fitness in cool-season grasses.

Quantitative genetics relies on associations between DNA changes and observed differences at physical traits. These associations are useful to predict plants’ performance and select the most promising varieties. However, they are only correlations and cannot tell us exactly which DNA changes are causing the observed differences.

The SIEVE project will develop new ways of detecting these associations in order to avoid the confusion between correlation – the statistical association between DNA changes and observed differences – and causation – the actual mechanisms by which DNA changes affect the expression of genes in organisms’ physical traits. Using computational techniques like machine learning, the impact of mutations on fitness will be predicted based on sequence conservation across species over large evolutionary times. The predictions will then be validated by evaluating the impact of induced mutations in experimental populations of Brachypodium, a model species for cool-season grasses like wheat and barley.

Guillaume Ramstein explains:

- ‘In this project, we will develop a method to choose the sites that matter most for “fitness”, i.e., the ability of plant species to survive and reproduce successfully. By validating these methods on induced mutations, my team will test the ability of computational techniques to select single mutations for crop improvement’.

The project results are expected to give predictions about the effect of precise DNA changes on physical traits, which will allow breeders to target the appropriate genetic variants for improving the fitness of important crops, for example to increase grain yield in wheat or biomass in barley.

The project in short

Project title: Selection of mutations by in silico and experimental variant effects (SIEVE): a new strategy to improve fitness in cool-season grasses.

Grant: 7,993,851 DKK.

Project period: The project starts 1 July 2021 and runs for 4 years.

For more information

Assistant professor (Tenure track) Guillaume Ramstein // Email: ramstein@qgg.au.dk Tel.: +45 4252 1266

See the full press release from the Novo Nordisk Foundation here.