IITA PhD student among 10 top fellows selected to attend the 2018 World Food Prize
A PhD student at IITA, Francis Onyilo, was among the 10 fellows of the Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agricultural Programme (Borlaug LEAP) selected to attend this year’s World Food Prize festivities in Des Moines, Iowa. The 10 were selected based on their excellence in research, mentorship, and leadership.
The main purpose for the participation of the fellows at the Borlaug LEAP event was to expose them to world scientists, leaders, and policy makers, to create partnerships and collaborations, and to be inspired by the World Food Prize Laureates in educating the next generation of leaders in the fight against hunger and uplift food and nutrition security.
At the Borlaug LEAP meeting, the fellows shared research experience and expertise with scientists from different universities.
Francis Onyilo gave a talk about his research work, “RNA interference mediated gene silencing in ascomycetes Pseudocercospora fijiensis causing black Sigatoka disease in banana,” highlighting the findings of the research which are relevant to food security. Onyilo’s work, supervised by Leena Tripathi, IITA Country representative for Kenya, is a step towards developing transgenic banana resistant to Black sigatoka disease. The techniques, Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transformation and RNA interference gene silencing, can be used to investigate other fungal pathogens of cereals like Magnaporthe oryzae of rice.
The fellows had interactive and inspirational discussions with the 2018 World Food Prize Laureates, Drs Lawrence Haddad and David Nabarro. The two Laureates emphasized that communication, partnership, persistence, and taking research findings to the community are key to economic development.
The Borlaug LEAP Fellowship has supported over 170 fellows from over 29 countries to complete their graduate research.