Mary Ann Lila, past-president of SIVB and Professor & Assistant Dean for Research, College of ACES, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and her lab team are focused on the biomedicinal properties of berry fruits, and in particular the effects of stress (ecotype) on the potency of the phytochemicals in the fruit flesh. This past summer, Mary Ann, her daughter and Tristan Kraft, a graduate student, had the unique opportunity to test their hypothesis with berries growing under some of the most extreme stress conditions – the weathered lava flows on the big island of Hawaii. The field research included collection of the ohelo berries (a relative of cranberry) fruits and explants for introduction into tissue culture. She says “It is absolutely amazing how these scraggly, practically leafless berry plants manage to produce copious yields of berries, right in the areas where the molten lava flows nearby”. Island legend claims the ohelo is a favorite of the volcano Goddess Pele, so, as dictated by island tradition the team was careful to throw samples of berries into the craters to appease her anger before shipping any via Fed Ex back to the laboratory. Mary Ann says “With the help of botanical experts at the Volcano National Park, we now have established 5 different genotypes from various locations in the rainforests of the Big Island, and plan to adapt them each to suspension and bioreactor production”.

Michael Horn, past Plant Section President and Transformation Leader at ProdiGene, has been awarded a Phase I SBIR titled “Development of a Plant-based Vaccine against HIV” from the NIH. This is the second NIH award for ProdiGene for the pursuit of a corn-derived edible vaccine against AIDS.

In other ProdiGene news, International Oilseed Distributors, Inc. of Adel, Iowa, a Stine Seeds entity, has purchased a majority ownership in ProdiGene, Inc. International Oilseed Distributors, Inc. will supply working capital, assume select obligations and rapidly seek to commercialize ProdiGene’s products. John W. Reiher has been appointed CEO and joins Dr. John A. Howard, ProdiGene founder, who continues as Chief Technology Officer.

Allan Wenck left Syngenta at the end of June and started as a Research Scientist for BASF Plant Sciences in Research Triangle Park in July. His new contact information is:

BASF Corporation
26 Davis Drive
P.O. Box 13528
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-3528

Allan is serving the Plant Section as Co-Chair for the 2004 Congress Program and will be sending out letters to companies asking support for the 2004 congress. He says to “Please consider sending money to the plant section. We need it in order to make for a successful congress!”

Chuck Armstrong, Senior Science Fellow at Monsanto, and his wife Ginger Peschke became proud parents of a baby girl on April 17th. Rachel Marie Armstrong, and her 2-year old brother Matthew, are both doing fine. Mom and dad are very happy and very, very tired…….