Blog @ Illumina
Real scientists. Real commentary.

One Step Closer to Eliminating World Hunger

Mimi Padmabandu
| Jan 17, 2013

AGGI logoA child dies from hunger every six seconds. In the words of Illumina's Mike Thompson, Associate Director of Global Sales: Do we really need any motivation aside from this shocking statistic to be inspired to change the world?

The Illumina Agricultural Greater Good Initiative (AGGI) began as a dinner conversation. It has developed into a collaborative effort to change the world by providing aid organizations or research groups with access to Illumina genomic tools and support. The AGGI collaborates with multiple initiatives around the world, using the power of genomics to impact global issues such as hunger and poverty. “The lesson here is that no idea is too big or too small,” says Thompson. “Just go for it. If you have an idea that can do a lot of good, one of the worst things you can do is not try.”

During the Illumina workshop at PAG XXI this past week, Illumina announced the recipients of the AGGI Award: Appolinaire Djikeng from Biosciences Eastern and Central Africa – International Livestock Research Institute Hub (BecA-ILRI Hub), and Rajeev Varshney of International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), India. Both BecA-ILRI Hub and ICRISAT will receive Illumina reagent donations to support their research.

BecA-ILRI Hub will use the grant to study genetic resistance to cassava brown streak disease and cassava mosaic disease, both of which have affected a large percentage of crops across East Africa where cassava is a major source of nutrition. Additionally, BecA-ILRI plans to conduct molecular and genomic assessment of cassava and compare livestock pathogen genomics with livestock genetic diversity.

ICRISAT will use the grant to improve the productivity of pigeonpea through molecular breeding. A draft genome sequence is now completed for pigeonpea—a staple crop used for food, feed, and fuel production in Africa and India—and ICRISAT plans to use this sequence information to enhance the pigeonpea breeding program.

By empowering agricultural research and development with the latest sequencing technology and other genomic tools, the AGGI works to connect scientific advancements with the needs of families and small farmers across the globe.

In 2012, Illumina broadened the scope of the AGGI through engagement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest transparently operated private foundation in the world. Illumina also joined up with Dow AgroSciences and the Feed the Future initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). With support from these influential and far-reaching organizations, the AGGI is making even larger strides in the march to eliminate world hunger.