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Symposium: Genomics in Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

21 April 2016


Genomics, the science of studying genomes, has radically changed the way we study the composition and functionality of plant, animal and microbial populations of relevance for agriculture, fisheries and the food sector. Monitoring the genetic composition of organisms, populations and communities, allows to understand their interaction with the environment, to steer (meta)populations towards optimal agronomical or ecological properties, or to develop diagnostic tools and control measures for harmful (micro)organisms in water, soil, and food.

ILVO Genomics Platform

In 2013, the Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO) created the Genomics Platform to implement next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies and corresponding bio-informatics tools for genome analysis in a broad range of applications. Now, in 2016, we present you an overview of recent results and demonstrate the added value of the Genomics Platform to the research at ILVO. 

Programme at a glance

Four invited speakers will present current applications of genomics and computational biology tools in conservation biology, for development of healthy and tasty food, in livestock breeding and to decipher functions in genomes. In addition, 18 ILVO scientists will present current research in four areas:

  • Genome structure, function, and diversity
  • Environmental and population genomics
  • Genomics for food quality and gastrointestinal microbial communities of livestock
  • The first and second plant genome function

During Meet&Greet sessions, there will be plenty of opportunity to discuss with the presenters about their experiences with applied genomics, and exchange ideas about future applications. We close the day with a networking reception.

Invited speakers

From metagenomics to metaproteomics and back again
Peter DawyndtPeter Dawyndt is a computer science professor at the Ghent University, where he heads the Computational Biology group. His research occurs at the intersection of computer science and the life sciences. This cross-fertilization is a potential starting point for fundamental new developments in biology, biotechnology and medicine, but also serves as a source of inspiration for novel developments in computer science. He is a former board member of the Genomic Standards Consortium, a task force of leading information providers and research centers that publishes international standards and acts of conduct for the genomics research domain.

Population genomics in plant conservation biology
Olivier HonnayOlivier Honnay is a conservation biologist holding a master’s degree in agronomy and a PhD in Plant Ecology (KU Leuven, 2000). He is head of the Plant Conservation and Population Biology research group at the Biology department of KU Leuven. This research group mainly studies the impacts of anthropogenic disturbances such as soil eutrophication, invasion of exotic species and habitat fragmentation on plant species diversity and plant population genetic diversity. The objective is to understand the mechanisms behind the worldwide decline of plant (genetic) diversity, and to provide practical, science-based guidelines regarding its conservation and sustainable use. Recently, the availability of next generation sequencing techniques has also opened opportunities for answering conservation questions that are related to the local adaptation of plant populations. Examples of such research projects are the study of the process of local adaptation preceding the spread of exotic plant species and the delineation of seed provenance zones in a context of sustainable forest restoration.

Microbiomics research for the development of healthy and tasty food
Michiel WelsMichiel Wels is a bioinformatician with a PhD in microbiology (Wageningen University). Currently he is an expertise group leader in the field of microbiomics at NIZO food research, a contract research organization for the food industry, located in Ede (The Netherlands). His expertise group focusses on using genomics and microbiota research in food (fermentation, safety/spoilage and probiotics), as well as human microbial communities (GI-tract, skin, oral) studies. The main goal of the group is to identify and understand the role of different microbes in strain collections or complex communities and identify the underlying mechanisms that influence the microbial composition. Once these mechanisms have been identified, they are used to develop approaches to intervene with the community in order to improve food quality and human health.

Forward and reverse genomic approaches to dissect phenotypes of interest in livestock
Carole CharlierCarole Charlier is a veterinarian holding a PhD in Veterinary Sciences (University of Liège). She is Senior Research Associate of the FNRS and group leader within the Unit of Animal Genomics at the GIGA (Interdisciplinary Cluster for Applied Genoproteomics). This research group is using the same state-of-the-art genomics toolbox to identify genes and variants underlying inherited defects, embryonic lethals and breeding values for economically important traits, including disease resistance. They are developing methods that exploit genomic information, including sequence data, for selection, i.e. "genomic selection". They work mainly in cattle and pigs, and collaborate closely with breeding organizations in Belgium, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

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