Five-Year NSF Project to Promote Insect Functional Genomics
By David O’Brochta
Insect genome sequence data can provide enormous insights into insect biology, but genetic technologies that enable genomes to be manipulated are critical for gaining a deep understanding of how genomes function.
On April 1, 2014 a five-year National Science Foundation Research Coordination Network focusing on Insect Genetic Technologies was begun. The public face and organizational centerpiece of the Insect Genetic Technology Research Coordination Network (IGTRCN) was announced with the launch of the IGTRCN’s website – http://www.igtrcn.org.
Within insect science, there are insects such as Drosophila melanogaster for which many powerful genetic technologies are available. For most insects, however, we have or soon will have good genome sequence data, but lack many genome manipulation technologies that would really allow us to go deep into these genomes to figure out how they work.
The IGTRCN will work to flatten these steep gradients of genetic technology and knowledge among communities of insect scientists, and it has big plans.
The Network will organize symposia to promote the understanding of insect genetic technologies, and it has already organized a Program Symposium entitled The Futures of Insect Genomics: A Grand Challenge of Entomology for the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America this November in Portland.
The IGTRCN will fund fellowships to promote and support peer-to-peer training. Fellows will spend time in host laboratories where they can be trained on how particular genetic technologies work and are used.
The IGTRCN laboratory-based short courses on insect genetic technologies will use seasoned experts to train cohorts of “students” on the ins and outs of the latest genetic technologies. The first course will be offered in the summer of 2015.
Finally, the IGTRCN’s website will be a community resource and knowledge base where insect scientists can find information about insect genetic technologies, and colleagues with whom they can consult and/or collaborate.
The IGTRCN is an open network intended to serve scientist at all stages of training and at all ranks with an interest in insect genetic technologies.
David O’Brochta is the director of the Insect Genetic Technology Research Coordination Network (IGTRCN) and is a professor in the Department of Entomology and the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research at the University of Maryland, College Park. He has an active research laboratory focused on insect genetics and molecular genetics with interests in the development of insect genetic technologies and their application to the study of the physiological genetics of mosquitoes, with particular interest in their disease-vector capabilities. Professor O’Brochta teaches at the undergraduate and graduate levels, is the Head of the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research’s Insect Transformation Facility, and he is the editor of the Royal Entomological Society’s journal Insect Molecular Biology.