Other Projects | Andre projekter

SeqApp Project: Sequencing strategies and their applicability for the molecular characterization of current and next generation GMOs

11/2020 – 11/2023

SeqApp advances knowledge on molecular characterization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the context of European regulations. It aims to have this knowledge help decision- makers in developing and updating biotechnology regulations to meet societal challenges of promoting environmental conservation and effective food-choices. Genetic engineering techniques have evolved in the past decades to the development of CRISPR technologies capable of targeting genetic sequences in the genome of virtually any species. However, it is anticipated that the current European Union regulatory requirements might not be adequate for the identification of unintended changes in next generation GMOs due to the complexity of genomic and epigenomic modifications. SeqApp investigates how different genetically modified GM techniques outcomes impact the identification of genetic modifications, what parameters are necessary to generate effective, reliable and operational GMO molecular characterization, and how new and alternative methods can improve current risk assessment requirements in EU. For proof of concept, we will use a model system based on CRISPR/Cas9 modified soybean lines for testing the proposed molecular profiling analysis. In addition, the project aims at developing a flexible multicriteria decision analysis model (MCDA matrix) suitable for the evaluation and comparison of a variety of analytical methods. SeqApp will build on an existing BfN-funded project called “GMOmics: omics techniques as useful tools for addressing emerging gaps in GMO risk assessment” and find synergies where appropriate with the Research Council of Norway newly funded project “FOODPRINT: traceability and labelling of gene-edited products in the context of the food chain”, as well as other projects at GenØk. Besides technical experts, also field-related, application-oriented scientists will actively participate in determining the user requirements for the methods to be applied, in the light of current and future European regulations.

Principal Investigator: Sarah Zanon Agapito-Tenfen

Partners: Federal University of Santa Catarina/Brazil & GenØk Centre for Biosafety/Norway

SeqApp Project (FKZ 3520 84 0200) was funded by The German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (Bundesamt für Naturschutz, BfN) – 350,000 € award over three years

GMOmics: Omics techniques as useful tools for adressing emerging gaps in GMO risk assessment

10/2017 – 07/2021

The concept of substantial equivalence has long being used in safety testing of GMO crops, but the term and the concept has no clear definition. Currently, the common practice has been the investigation of compositional and nutritional substances in the GMO. However, unintended changes in the GMO might not be identified by the analysis of such small number of components. It is an evolving view among regulators that omics techniques, such as proteomics and metabolomics, can be used to complement analytical tools to existing safety assessment procedures. Therefore, this project is about the application of omics technologies to investigate potential unintended metabolic alterations in genetically modified plants and for elaboration of their relevance for GMO risk assessment. In particular, metabolic disturbances will be investigated when different transgenic inserts are combined in a single plant (stacking), and when these plants are exposed to abiotic stressors, such as herbicide application and drought. The project is divided into three working packages each containing experiments to address specific research questions.

Principal Investigator: Sarah Zanon Agapito-Tenfen

Partners: Federal University of Santa Catarina/Brazil & GenØk Centre for Biosafety/Norway

GMOmics Project (UFOPLAN 2017 – FKZ: 3517841000) was funded by The German Federal Agency for Nature
Conservation (Bundesamt für Naturschutz, BfN) – 500,000 € award over four years

SynPlast: understanding metabolic plasticity in synthetic biology

01/2017 – 12/2020

Synthetic biology is a field of science and technology that still lacks an international agreed definition. In general, synthetic biology is perceived as the engineering or the re-engineering of biological components and systems in a novel way; a major development in genetic engineering and other biotechnological applications. Although it is a task that requires an intimate understanding of the biological process that is to be engineered, many products are already reaching commercial stages.
The classic example of synthetic biology is synthetic nucleases. CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)/Cas (CRISPR-associated) is the most popular system these days due to its easy design. The potential applications of synthetic nucleases go well beyond simply creating mutations. These tools will find uses in various kinds of more comprehensive genome modifications (or even the construction of artificial genomes).
Site-directed change of only a few nucleotides in plant genomes deserves special consideration in future biosafety evaluations. Plants carrying such point mutations induced by the use of synthetic nucleases might not be discriminated from natural varieties of the same species, which is a challenge to current GMO regulations. From a biosafety viewpoint, synthetic biology holds itself to a reductionist approach because the understanding of both efficiency and specificity are still necessary to improve the system. Current knowledge gaps remains in our understanding on how does CRISPR/Cas enzymes bind to DNA and DNA repair mechanisms, how does it search for the right target site, what are the off-target activities, how well is it tolerated in cells over long periods of time. Therefore, there is a pressing need to further improve the fidelity and specificity of the CRISPR/Cas9 platform, a prerequisite for any agricultural applications of CRSIPR/Cas9-mediated editing.
This research proposal focus on understanding three biological aspects of biosynthetically plant cells: 1) efficiency of CRISPR system; 2) potential off-target mutations and metabolic disturbances; 3) potential biosafety concerns related to metabolic changes. The reason for this analysis is to both create a historical record of the emergence of this risk and for this risk to serve as another case study in how ‘early warnings’ may be incorporated into risk assessments at the cutting edge of technology.

Principal Investigator: Sarah Zanon Agapito-Tenfen

Partners: Federal University of Santa Catarina/Brazil & GenØk Centre for Biosafety/Norway

SynPlast Project (GEd Dept 5555) was funded by internal funds from GenØk Centre for Biosafety – 380,000 NOK award over three years

 

Contact | Kontakt

Scientific enquiries – sarah.agapito@uit.no

Administrative and press enquiries – katrine.jaklin@uit.no