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Prof. Dr. Korbinian Schneeberger receives Consolidator Grant from ERC for "BYTE2BITE"

€2 million project funding for research into combining new genomic technologies with conventional breeding for efficient diploid potato breeding


Prof. Dr. Korbinian Schneeberger, Professor for Computational Genetics and Genome Plasticity at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich and Principal Investigator of TRR356 PlantMicrobe project A06, has been awarded one of the prestigious Consolidator Grants of the European Research Council (ERC).

The BYTE2BITE project, funded with 2 million euros over 5 years, seeks to merge cutting-edge genomic methodologies with traditional breeding techniques to streamline the process of potato breeding.

Potato is a major global food crop for approximately 1.3 billion people. Nonetheless, enhancing potato varieties encounters hurdles due to the tetraploid nature of its genome. Unlike humans, who inherit one chromosome from each parent, potatoes inherit two copies of each chromosome, rendering them tetraploid. This complexity poses challenges in efficiently crossing and selecting superior cultivars.

To address this, a paradigm shift is proposed, aiming to convert tetraploid potatoes into a diploid crop with only two chromosome copies, thus facilitating effective crossing and selection of superior cultivars. However, initial endeavors to implement diploid potatoes yielded feeble plants with subpar yields due to the prevalence of deleterious mutations in the potato genome.

The BYTE2BITE project

Under the ERC COG project BYTE2BITE, Korbinian Schneeberger will confront these challenges with novel breeding strategies and leveraging genomic technologies. The research team's primary objective is to scrutinize the entire genomic spectrum of domesticated potatoes, identifying mutations impeding the efficient production of diploid potatoes. Subsequently, they will embark on an inventive pre-breeding program aimed at generating potato genomes with minimized mutation loads. By purging these mutations, the team aims to develop tetraploid potatoes capable of yielding robust diploid plants.

BYTE2BITE combines state-of-the-art genomic technologies with traditional breeding methods, holds immense promise in ensuring global food security amidst evolving challenges in the forthcoming decades.

"I am delighted to receive continued support from the ERC. This will facilitate our advancement in potato breeding leveraging our expertise in genomics," expressed Korbinian Schneeberger.

ERC grants are generally regarded as the tip in competitive funding for academic research in Europe. The ERC Consolidator Grant supports outstanding scientists and enables the researchers to consolidate their autonomy, pursue their promising scientific ideas and continue a successful research career in Europe.

potatosMany of the most wildly used potato cultivars were already introduced for many decades ago. The image shows the most used cultivar in potato breeding named Katahdin, which was already introduced in 1932.

© Prof. Dr. Korbinian Schneeberger

View MPI-PZ press release here