Prof. Dr. Rita Groß-Hardt
In 2017, Prof. Rita Groß-Hardt and her team demonstrated that a single plant egg cell can fuse with two sperm cells to produce offspring with three instead of two parents—a mother and two fathers. This groundbreaking research result may lead to a new breeding strategy. “Using three-parent crosses, the positive characteristics of three plants can be combined in one step. In addition, this novel crossing strategy allows hybridization barriers to be overcome, which opens up the possibility of combining more distant varieties,” says Prof. Groß-Hardt. With the TriVolve project, the research group now hopes to transfer the findings to crops.
Three-parent crosses may help overcome agricultural challenges of the future. “Conventional plant breeding cannot keep up with the major changes caused by climate change,” Prof. Groß-Hardt explains. In order to adapt crops to extreme climatic conditions such as heat and drought periods, proven traits must be combined with new characteristics.
The ERC Proof of Concept Grant “TriVolve: Establishment of three-parent crosses in crop plants” is intended to support Prof. Groß-Hardt and her research group in testing the market potential of their research and bringing it to practical application. The Proof of Concept Grant of the ERC, worth 150,000 €, is a highly respected European award. Only nine were awarded to research groups based in Germany in this funding cycle. The funding is awarded to research which has produced groundbreaking results and has a good chance of reaching market maturity.
“I am very pleased for Rita Groß-Hardt, her research group and the University of Bremen about the approval,” says university rector Prof. Bernd Scholz-Reiter about the decision of the European Research Council. “This is another important step towards the technology transfer of this excellent basic research into application. Technology transfer is also of great importance for the University of Bremen as a whole.”
The European Research Council has been funding Prof. Gross-Hardt’s research since 2015. The ERC awarded the scientist the renowned ERC Consolidator Grant, which is endowed with around 2 million €. As part of TriVolve, the university research group is now cooperating with KWS SAAT SE & Co. KGaA, the largest seed producer in Europe. The process of “three-parent crossing” developed at the University of Bremen has been submitted for patenting for Europe, the USA and China. The Bremen patent exploitation agency InnoWi has been involved in the protection and marketing of the scientific results. “The step from basic research to application is a challenge that I could not take without a strong team and the support of the University of Bremen and KWS. I am very grateful for this support,” says Prof. Groß-Hardt.(© AcademiaNet)