CurtisLab awarded $600,000 NSF grant to advance African agriculture and economics


Wayne Curtis, professor of chemical engineering and principle investigator of the CurtisLab at Penn State, has been awarded a $600,000 collaborative grant from the National Science Foundation’s Basic Research to Enhance Agricultural Development (BREAD) Program to assist African farmers with the production of agricultural food staples.

The grant, sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to employ low-cost plant propagation technology—specifically through use of molecular biology tools and embryogenic protein production—to improve the cultivation of yams (the region’s most economically-relevant cash crop), bananas, and cassavas, which serve as food staples to millions throughout the tropics.

Curtis will partner with Morufat Balogun, visiting scientist and tissue culture specialist at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and Leena Tripathi, plant biologist at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nairobi, Kenya, on the work with a goal to educate African farmers about new technologies and provide them with resources to aid in increased plant production.

Part of this work includes the development of, an open-source website which was created to provide resources to yam stakeholders, including researchers and farmers worldwide.

Undergraduate and graduate students at Penn State who are interested in joining this project may express interest via the CurtisLab website interest form.

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Diagram of Manual Hy-TIB illustrates the evolution of the Hy-TIB design that is a focus of CurtisLab's NSF BREAD project.



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