ABS Project: Technology Development
The goal of the research-based technology component of the ABS project is to develop a transgenic sorghum that contains increased levels of essential nutrients, especially lysine, Vitamin A, iron and zinc. The nutrition-enhanced sorghum will be used by the product development team for introgression of the nutritional traits into high-yielding, African and farmer-preferred varieties.

The ABS Project technology development group brings has seen close collaborations between Dupont Pioneer (Principal technology donor), the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (technology recipient on behalf of Africa) and the University of Pretoria (which leads the nutrition and digestibility research). Their work involves developing and evaluating the set of technologies required to bring forth the ABS product as well as creating the set of genes that will be transferred into the product during product development. As the project nears the end of Phase 1 (in June 2010), scientists from the three institutions have been working on a product with the full complement of nutritional and digestibility traits.

The ABS Project developed the world's first golden sorghum (with yellow/golden endosperm) as well as the world's first sorghum transformation system. The technology development group ensured that the project successfully surpassed the molecular targets set within the project. Although the project has since decided not to work on protein improvement, by the time this decision was made protein quality had improved as levels of amino acids lysine, tryptophan and threonine increased between 30% and 120%. Protein digestibility had also increased with the reduction of kafirin proteins in the grain. Bioavailability, the absorption of Iron and Zinc within the digestive tract, was enhanced with the reduction of phytate molecules in the grain. Currently, the group is working on increasing the levels and stabilizing Vitamin A within the plant.

Six successful sets of field trials of nutrition-rich sorghum have been conducted in the United States where the sorghum has proven stable and effective over several generations.

While over 70 scientists have been involved in this project – most of them in Africa - the technology development group is particularly proud of the capacity building of African scientists; this strengthens the South/North and Private/Public partnership, ensuring relationships are build on solid ground.
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