WIT Award Year: 2019
Organization: John Innes Centre
Sanu Arora, from India, is a post-doctoral researcher with Brande Wulff at the John Innes Centre (JIC), in the United Kingdom. In 2015, she completed her PhD with Parveen Chhuneja from Punjab Agricultural University in India, exploring the genetic diversity present in Ae. tauschii, the D genome progenitor of bread wheat. Fascinated by the enormous diversity present in wild wheat, she continued her research to tap into this diversity and improve the resistance of cultivated wheat to a wide range of biotic and abiotic stresses. To achieve this, Sanu has developed a novel technique called AgRenSeq. Combining association genetics with resistance gene enrichment sequencing on a genetically diverse panel, this technique reduces genomic complexity by focussing solely on NB-LRR gene diversity. Using AgRenSeq, Sanu has cloned a number of resistance genes from an Ae. tauschii diversity panel and identified new sources of resistance to various wheat diseases. She is now implementing this method in different species to clone scores of resistance genes which will then provide precise molecular markers for use in breeding programs. Sanu is working with international collaborators to build a catalog of cloned R genes which would help underpin breeding for durable resistance. She hopes that this effort will eventually help to reduce the use of pesticides in agriculture and mitigate health risks for people around the world.