Dr Diane Saunders an early career scientist at the John Innes Centre (JIC) in partnership with the Earlham Institute has been awarded a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) starting grant to pursue her chosen area of research.
Dr Saunders will receive funding from the ERC over the next 5 years to investigate the molecular mechanisms driving host adaptation of yellow rust on cereal crops and grasses. Yellow rust disease is a major threat to cereal crops and grasses worldwide, causing significant losses to the global wheat harvest each year. The long-term aim of this research is to develop new varieties of wheat with enhanced resistance to yellow rust. To do this, it is essential to understand host specificity – the ability of the pathogen to specialize on particular grass hosts, coupled with the ability of the host to resist infection by different strains of yellow rust.
Each year a limited number of ERC grants are awarded to researchers, based in European research institutions, who show great promise and submit outstanding research proposals. The aim of the ERC starting grant is to encourage young researchers to stay in Europe, to create excellent new teams which bring energy and new ideas to their disciplines and to support their transition to become the EU's next generation of research leaders.
Dr Saunders said: "This ERC grant provides a fantastic opportunity to develop an array of vital tools to understand yellow rust disease, and to use these innovatively to have a real impact on improving disease management. It will also allow me to establish my research programme at the John Innes Centre, which is a world leader in plant and microbial science and has a long history of research on rust disease."