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Leeds-China collaboration sees first virtual joint laboratory

A new research partnership between Leeds and Beijing is to help meet the challenge of feeding China’s fast-growing population.

Plant scientists from the University of Leeds and applied agricultural specialists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences will work on joint projects looking at the role of genes within crop plants, particularly rice. Potential areas of collaboration include how plants react to environmental stress, such as high salt levels, and ways to mitigate the impact of crop parasites.

The project will also see the creation of a ‘virtual laboratory’, where researchers can share information and research data.

The Plant Sciences partnership between the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds and the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing is the first UK link for this prestigious Chinese research institute. Professor Phil Gilmartin, the Faculty’s Pro-Dean for Research, hopes it will lead to further collaborations between the Faculty and the Academy in other research areas.

“Leeds’ Centre for Plant Sciences already had strong links with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which is how this agreement came about,” says Professor Gilmartin. “The project brings together two internationally renowned research groups with complementary areas of research and we expect the partnership to lead to long-term projects and future joint appointments.”

The agreement has been helped by the appointment of plant scientist Dr Bing Liu as the Faculty’s Director of China Liaison. Dr Liu’s role has been to build links between the two institutions and coordinate collaboration and exchanges at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Director for the Centre for Plant Sciences, Professor Brendan Davies has just returned from China with Professor Gilmartin, where they signed the ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ that seals the collaboration.

Says Professor Davies: “China has seen an enormous growth in funding for research into improving agricultural yields to feed its population and the Academy is its ‘centre of excellence’ in plant sciences. A recruitment drive has brought back many of the very best Chinese researchers who left to work in the US and Europe, making it a truly global player. Leeds’ strength in plant sciences makes for a perfect partnership and together, a very exciting research environment.”

Dr Jinghua Cao, Deputy Director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Bureau of International Cooperation says: “What makes this new collaboration particularly exciting is the combination of the complementary strengths of two top institutes in plant sciences. Such collaborations are what China needs, and I offer my full support to this initiative.”

Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Professor Jiayang Li says: “The successful signing of the MOU is the fruit of continuous hard work from both sides. I warmly congratulate this achievement, and sincerely hope the link between two internationally strong institutions will greatly enhance the values of our research output.”

The initiative is supported by a China Partnering Award from the BBSRC and a grant from the University of Leeds’ international fund, designed to assist the development of high-level international partnerships.

Abigail Chard | alfa
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