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STTR Phase II: Developing High Carotenoid Orange Corn for Large-scale Commercial Adoption

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 1926952
Agency Tracking Number: 1926952
Amount: $747,432.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: BT
Solicitation Number: N/A
Timeline
Solicitation Year: 2016
Award Year: 2019
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2019-08-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2021-07-31
Small Business Information
1281 WIN HENTSCHEL BLVD, Unit 046, West Lafayette, IN, 47906
DUNS: 080259004
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Evan Rocheford
 (217) 417-6766
 admin@nutramaize.com
Business Contact
 Evan Rocheford
Phone: (217) 417-6766
Email: admin@nutramaize.com
Research Institution
 Purdue University
 Darwin Ortiz
 Young Hall
155 S Grant Street
West Lafayette, IN, 47907
 Nonprofit college or university
Abstract
The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) project will be the development and commercialization of a novel variety of corn that is high in carotenoids and orange in color, and with yields that are competitive with today's commercial hybrids. In the diets of Americans, two important antioxidant carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, are in low abundance. This deficiency has been associated with higher risk for degenerative diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, and potentially, dementia. The ultimate goal of the proposed research is to provide a way for Americans to consume more lutein and zeaxanthin, which will be achieved by increasing significantly the levels of these antioxidants in the U.S.'s most widely grown staple crop: Corn. Since corn is used in a wide variety of popular processed food formats, improving the carotenoid content of corn provides an opportunity to significantly increase the amount of health benefiting antioxidants that Americans consume, without changing consumers eating habits. However, in order for this strategy to be economically feasible, corn varieties that are high in carotenoids must be developed that also are high in grain yield. This STTR Phase II project proposes to use genetic markers to select for favorable alleles of genes associated with carotenoid biosynthesis and stability in corn bred for commercial production. There is considerable genetic variation in genes associated with carotenoid biosynthesis and stability, however, the most favorable alleles are typically not found in varieties that are commercially relevant to US corn production. Thus, the use of genetic markers developed previously will enable favorable alleles to be moved from lower yielding germplasm that is not well adapted to the US Corn Belt into elite inbreds suitable for the production of yield-competitive commercial F1 hybrids for the US market. The primary goal of this Phase II research is to use the user-friendly genetic markers associated with favorable alleles for 18 key genes associated with carotenoid biosynthesis and stability developed in Phase I to rapidly develop fixed inbreds for use in the production of yield-competitive high carotenoid F1 hybrids suitable for large-scale commercial applications. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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