About the PMBB Program
A Message from the Director | History - A Wider Initiative | Resources - The Ways and Means | Translational Plant Sciences Targeted Investment in Excellence | Interactions - The Bigger Picture
Because of the obvious potential benefits from such interdisciplinary efforts in the plant sciences, the University designated the PMBB Program as a key component of a total initiative to enrich the molecular life sciences on campus, through a comprehensive Molecular Life Sciences (MLS) initiative. Over the last 5 years, five faculty were recruited to the PMBB Program using resources provided by the MLS initiative, while several additional faculty have recently been recruited via other means to add to the overall PMBB group.
In this new “age of biology,” it is clear that plant molecular biology and its biotechnological applications represent exciting and dynamic areas for meaningful research. At The Ohio State University, we have organized the talents of a diverse and highly active faculty, spread over several traditional departments and Colleges, into an organized and cohesive interactive and interdisciplinary program. This program is called the Plant Molecular Biology/Biotechnology (or PMBB) Program. The University and the state of Ohio have been highly supportive of PMBB, in the form of both financial and physical resources, with the result that the PMBB Program has become a highly interactive group that has allowed efficient use of common facilities while also stimulating novel and integrated approaches to basic issues related to plant molecular biology research. Indeed, the application of ongoing basic research is also a major part of our mission and it is clear that the PMBB Program has facilitated the integration of the OSU plant community with other initiatives taking place throughout the state and the nation.
We are excited about the potential that the PMBB Program offers for stimulating interdisciplinary research and education and we are pleased to initiate a new graduate program that has just been approved by our Graduate School. Clearly, the PMBB Program has become a dynamic force to galvanize the plant community on campus. Please take the time to familiarize yourself with our Program, our faculty, our facilities, and how we feel integrated efforts such as PMBB will catalyze plant research at The Ohio State University.
Recognizing the fact that Agriculture is Ohio's largest industry, the College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences (FAES) and the College of Biological Sciences (CBS) have established an interdisciplinary group to exploit the expertise of the many scientists in both colleges that study basic plant molecular biology or focus their research in plant biotechnology. These scientists, including plant physiologists/biochemists and molecular/cellular biologists, as well as microbiologists and biochemists, all are very much a part of efforts to use molecular biology/biotechnology to answer fundamental questions related to plant growth, development, and metabolism. This interactive group, encompassing 30 scientists from seven different Departments from both the Columbus and Wooster campuses, was formed into an umbrella organization called the Plant Molecular Biology/Biotechnology (PMBB) Program. Individuals associated with the PMBB Program are supported by millions of dollars in federal grants (from NIH, DOE, NSF, USDA) and industrial sources, and there is state-wide research support for basic studies related to agriculture (see below). Because of the obvious potential benefits from such interdisciplinary efforts in the plant sciences, the University designated PMBB as a key component of a total initiative to enrich the molecular life sciences on campus, through a comprehensive Molecular Life Sciences (MLS) initiative. Over the last 5 years, five faculty were recruited to the PMBB Program using resources provided by the MLS initiative, while several additional faculty have recently been recruited via other means to add to the overall PMBB group. We are currently involved in a search for 2 additional PMBB faculty. Thus, PMBB has clearly become an important rallying point to build plant science and especially plant molecular biology at OSU. For those associated with the program, PMBB provides a focus to plant-related research efforts, enabling participating scientists to more effectively take advantage of potential interdisciplinary and collaborative research efforts. In addition, PMBB fosters interactions between basic and applied scientists to facilitate the transfer of laboratory technology to the field, and ultimately new products. This attitude is also reflective of novel programs for the training of students, as PMBB recently obtained Graduate School approval for a new interdisciplinary graduate program that will enable students to gain unfettered access to facets of plant research that are historically not covered under the rubric of a single department. This newly approved graduate program is the PMBB Graduate Specialty Program.
Throughout this process of growth in the PMBB Program, considerable resources were brought to bear such that modern and well-equipped laboratory facilities are available to researchers and students affiliated with the PMBB Program. A major renovation project in the late 1980's resulted in the formation of the Plant Biotechnology Center, housed at Rightmire Hall on the west campus in Columbus. When the PMBB Program was formed, Plant Biotechnology was folded into the PMBB Program and this facility at Rightmire Hall is an important part of the overall PMBB effort. Rightmire Hall provides excellent state of the art laboratory facilities with adjacent well-maintained greenhouse space available for the 7 PMBB researchers currently in residence in this building. Indeed, a large NSF grant provided resources to establish the plant growth and research facilities required. With recently acquired space, Rightmire will also become the home of the administrative offices of the PMBB Program; laboratory space is available for 2 additional PMBB members, at least one of which will be a new PMBB hire. Additional research and greenhouse space is found in nearby Howlett and Kottman Halls with these buildings housing several PMBB members. PMBB members are also located on the main part of the Columbus campus in the Biological Sciences and Riffe Buildings, close to where a new Life Sciences Building is being constructed that will become the eventual home of several PMBB faculty. Finally, members of the PMBB group are also housed at the Wooster campus, where unique opportunities for basic and, especially applied research, are available, including large research plots and specialized greenhouse facilities.
The PMBB Program Chosen for one of OSU’s Targeted Investment in Excellence Initiatives
In 2006, The Ohio State University took a large step towards fulfilling its Academic Plan of fostering selected academic areas that are either already recognized or capable of achieving worldwide recognition. By initiating the Targeted Investment in Excellence (TIE) program, OSU took the latest step in fulfilling that mission. The program calls for the reallocation of some $50 million in central dollars over the next five years to support 10 high-impact initiatives chosen for Targeted Investment in Excellence funding. As stated by Provost Snyder: “TIE is our most concerted strategy to date for promoting and sustaining Ohio State's international prominence.” These funds are matched by the colleges representing the winning initiatives, for a total investment of at least $100 million. The PMBB Program was one of the 10 programs chosen for a TIE award and together with matching funds from the Colleges of Biological Sciences (CBS) and Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), the PMBB TIE represents an investment of over $ 6 million in new and recurring cash allocations. The TIE initiative, entitled “Translational Plant Sciences”, will fund efforts to leverage existing excellence in three subareas of molecular plant sciences to improve OSU’s ability to enhance applications in agriculture, medicine, pharmacy, and engineering. By hiring additional faculty who bridge between basic and applied plant science, installing large multi-user specialized instrumentation, providing fellowships to recruit the best graduate students, and providing funds for travel and conferences, the proposed program in Translational Plant Sciences will augment and enhance Ohio State’s reputation as a leader in the molecular plant sciences. A distinct advantage of the Translational Plant Sciences TIE initiative will involve the close association and synergy with other well-recognized PMBB-affiliated programs, such as the Ohio Third Frontier supported Ohio Bio-Products Innovation Center, the NSF-supported Arabidopsis Biological Resource Center, and large multi-university research programs (led by OSU faculty) funded by such agencies as the Gates Foundation, NSF, and DOE. The major goal of this TIE initiative, to create or “translate" new and existing synergy between basic and applied plant science across Colleges, will also serve to provide substantially enhanced graduate and undergraduate research opportunities for students in Ohio, the USA, and internationally via a novel PMBB-led joint international graduate program with the University of Sao Paulo and Rutgers University.
In summary, the Translational Plant Sciences TIE, in concert with an award from the Board of Regents, will provide funds for:
the hiring of new faculty that will strengthen molecular-based applied and basic research in emerging areas: (a) bioenergy and carbon sequestration, (b) sustainable bioresources and bioproducts, and (c) plant-microbial interactions. Each focus is an area targeted for future investment by national funding agencies (NSF, DOE, USDA). Our goal is to hire exceptional faculty members that will build strongly-funded research programs in the above areas, and that will bring international prominence. New hires will target strategic fields in each of the three areas to complement existing strengths and lead to team building. Their cutting edge basic research will in turn support, directly or indirectly, the needs and priorities of applied research, a synergy representing the “translational” impetus of the TIE initiative.
the hiring of additional support staff with highly specialized training to enable PMBB members and students to maximize the infusion of new post-genomic skills and instrumentation into ongoing and future research projects.
The purchasing of needed large equipment pieces to support competitive research in the three target areas and which fit the scope of the TIE proposal, and which may be used to support the staff positions.
the enhancement of the PMBB graduate program via the recruitment of highly qualified graduate students to compete for multi-year “Excellence in PMBB Graduate Fellowships”.
the establishment of a Summer Undergraduate Research (SURE) Program in Plant Science to enable students to spend 10 weeks to work in PMBB member laboratories. This program will provide an opportunity for motivated undergraduate students to explore what OSU has to offer for graduate education and interact with PMBB faculty members and current graduate students.
programming needs for the PMBB Program, which will, for example, contribute support to the Summer Genomics Workshop and the PMBB retreat. In addition, funds will be available to support travel for specialized training for graduate students and for faculty, postdocs, and graduate students to travel in association with the International Tripartite Graduate Program under development with the University of Sao Paulo and Rutgers University.
In addition to the aforementioned and impressive physical facilities, OSU is the home of several critical resources for molecular and biotechnological research in plants, plant-microbe interactions and agricultural microbiology. Relevant centralized biotechnology facilities at OSU include the Arabidopsis Biological Resource Center (ABRC). ABRC was established at OSU in September, 1991, with Dr. Randy Scholl Director. Primary support for the ABRC is provided by the National Science Foundation. The mission of ABRC is to provide collection, preservation and distribution of seeds, and DNA clone and library storage, as well as DNA clone distribution services. Arabidopsis is the key plant organism used for virtually all genomics and a large proportion of current molecular biological studies is performed with this model plant. As such, Arabidopsis is the first plant for which the whole genome sequence became available. ARBC supplies molecules and germ plasm for basic studies to laboratories all over the world.
Another important resource is the Plant-Microbe Genomics Facility (PMGF). Fueled by an Ohio Board of Regents grant as well as matching funds from OSU, PMGF provides state of the art equipment to offer basic services and technical support related to molecular-related studies performed by plant researchers. PMGF has facilities for high-throughput and rapid DNA sequencing and genotyping, global gene expression studies using microarray printing and reading equipment, specific gene expression using real-time PCR, and there is a complete system for performing proteome analyses and automated protein separation from 2-dimensional acrylamide gels. Robotics equipment is available for large-scale and routine operations requiring repetitive sampling and handling.
At the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) on the Wooster campus, the Molecular and Cellular Imaging Center (MCIC) provides services for all types of sophisticated microscopy, including electron microscopy, as well as DNA sequencing.
The Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) is situated on the OSU campus in Columbus and is central to efforts for developing bioinformatics resources. Also located in Columbus is the Edison Biotechnology Center (EBC), which has recently performed several key surveys relative to commercial applications of plant biotechnology for Ohio. EBC has also helped to formulate a statewide bioinformatics web involving industrial and academic partnerships. Most importantly, new biotechnology incubator laboratory facilities are planned for Columbus that will facilitate the development of start-up companies in biotechnology. These various resources put OSU in a very strong position to take a leadership role in plant and microbial biotechnology, with PMBB at the forefront of such efforts.
Finally, an additional and important resource of note is the Ohio Plant Biotechnology Consortium (OPBC), which is a state-funded consortium of 10 universities throughout the state of Ohio. It is administered through the OARDC and OSU, and OARDC faculty represent over half the membership of the consortium. The mission of the OPBC is to maximize synergy and collaboration among plant and microbial biotechnologists throughout the state related to problems of critical importance for Ohio agriculture. The OPBC has identified 16 areas of critical importance for biotechnology research towards problems of importance to Ohio Agriculture. It operates a competitive grants program to meet these needs. These 16 areas of research and collaborative efforts are funded through the OPBC and can be reviewed at the OPBC website.