Imagine a world without wheat… No bread, no cakes, no pasta and no beer. With wheat providing over 20% of the calories and protein consumed globally each day, a wheat-free future may seem inconceivable, but today, the world’s wheat supplies are being ravaged by a dangerous epidemic. Professor Diane Saunders will introduce you to the notorious “polio of agriculture”, the wheat rusts, that throughout history has endangered the production of one of our oldest and most precious food crops.
Despite long-standing efforts by a global community to wrestle the wheat rusts into submission, new strains are constantly evolving that can overcome the barriers we create to inhibit infection, and once again leave the world’s wheat crops vulnerable. Professor Saunders will discuss how phenomenal recent scientific advances have created the tools and resources in our arsenal that now have the real potential to finally outsmart these cereal killers and safeguard a sustainable food supply for generations to come.
Professor Diane Saunders is a Group Leader at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK. Her research focuses on (re-)emerging plant pathogens that pose a significant threat to agriculture.
The Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award and Lecture is made to an individual for an outstanding contribution to any area of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and to support the promotion of women in STEM. The award is supported by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and is named in honour of the biophysicist Rosalind Franklin, who made critical contributions to the understanding of the fine molecular structures of DNA. The first award was made in 2003. The lectureship is accompanied by a medal of silver gilt, a grant of £40,000 and a gift of £1,000. The recipient of the award is expected to spend a proportion of the grant on implementing a project to raise the profile of women in STEM.
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