Oct. 27, 2009

New center to bring CU agricultural innovations to China

A new center may help make such Cornell agricultural advances as transgenic drought- and salt-tolerant rice available in China.

A Sept. 24 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Cornell and the Department of Science and Education of China's Ministry of Agriculture facilitated the creation of the Sino-U.S. Ray Wu Agricultural Technology Innovation Center at Cornell.

"The MOU reflects the fact that we really want to work together," said Alan Paau, vice provost for technology transfer and economic development. "We want to be doing things that not only benefit our researchers' understanding of the real problems in China, but we also want to help China benefit through our domain expertise."

Similarly, the Chinese may have new technologies and innovations that may be of value here and may use Cornell's expertise to help advance them. "Innovations will come from both sides," said Paau.

In early December, a delegation from China's Ministry of Agriculture will visit Ithaca to negotiate the center's operating and funding details. Most of the funding for the center is expected to come from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, with Cornell providing support and coordination for projects.

An initial project may include sending animal vaccines to China. The vaccines, developed at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine, have already worked well in the United States and Europe. Cornell may also help Chinese researchers engineer drought- or salt-tolerant rice that were developed by Wu, the late Cornell professor of molecular biology and genetics, who was widely recognized as a father of plant genetic engineering. The new center is named after Wu to honor his career and efforts to help China improve life sciences education standards, among other things.

The center will be led by Cornell Center for Technology Enterprise and Commercialization, which manages technology and innovation projects coming out of Cornell's colleges with the involvement of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine. The center's main activities will be to work with China's ministry to select, monitor and acquire funding for meaningful projects.

"When the Chinese tell us what they need, we will work with the colleges to find out what might apply," said Paau. "We are excited to collaborate with China in agriculture since it is one of the most friendly and practical applications for what we do," said Paau. "For the Chinese to appreciate Americans helping them feed the people, while at the same time raising food safety standards and sustainability of the environment, is a very good thing to do."

The MOU was signed Sept. 24 by Paau; Michael Kotlikoff, the Austin A. Hooey Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine; Jan Nyrop, senior associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; and the Chinese director general for the Department of Science and Education of China's Ministry of Agriculture.