News 2016-03-15: Kelly Wilson Shares Research at UFWH Summit

 As part of the GIP program’s commitment to training and outreach, Esinam Nancy Amuzu-Aweh, an early career research associate at the University of Ghana, was invited to participate in the 11th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production (WCGALP), which was held at the Aotea Centre in Auckland, New Zealand. This congress is the premier event for researchers, students and industry professionals involved in the genetic improvement of livestock. This years’ congress brought together 1,000 delegates from all over the world. Nancy had the opportunity to give an oral presentation entitled “Genetic Parameters and Genomic Regions Associated with Growth Rate and Immune Response to Newcastle Disease in Local Chicken Ecotypes in Ghana and Tanzania”, during which she shared the main results of our NDV vaccine trials that were run in Ghana and Tanzania. Nancy also took advantage of various scientific sessions to learn about advances in methods, models and tools for genomic analyses, which is her main interest as a trainee quantitative geneticist. She also strengthened her professional network and had discussions with experts in the poultry industry about how these advances can be applied to breeding programs – particularly for smallholder poultry farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. Jack Dekkers, Distinguished Professor at the Iowa State University was also invited to present the GIP research work.

First doctorate awarded to student in Genomics to Improve Poultry Innovation Laboratory
Melissa Deist Melissa Deist

Melissa Deist

Melissa Deist, Iowa State University, successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation in March 2018. Her research discovered important genetic pathways associated with response to Newcastle Disease virus (NDV) infection in resistant and susceptible chicken lines. In addition to her classes and research, Melissa was also active in teaching, including hands-on training in laboratory techniques in the GIP Innovation Labs in Ghana and Tanzania. She says “Traveling to Africa was a life-changing experience that entrenched the importance of this USAID-funded project and how far reaching its impacts could be. This motivated me on a daily basis to work hard on my research.” Melissa won several scholarships and awards for her graduate research including Research Excellence Award from Iowa State. She recently began employment as a research scientist with a company that develops tests for early detection of cancer. Congratulations, Melissa!

Visit Iowa State University on February 2018


GIP Program Director Huaijun Zhou was invited to give department seminar regarding to the program at Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University. Huaijun Zhou also met with Drs. Sue Lamont, Jack Dekkers (PIs) and other GIP team members to discuss current program progress and future plans.

Congressional delegation visit University of Ghana


A team from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Global Food Security Project in Washington DC led a six-staff US Congressional delegation visited Ghana to assess the impact of Feed the Future programs implemented by USAID and other US Government Agencies. The delegation visited the University of Ghana team implementing the Poultry Genomics Feed the Future Innovation Lab on February 19, 2018. Prof. Boniface Kayang (Principal Investigator), Prof. George Aning and Prof. Augustine Naazie (Co-Investigators of the program) provided an overview of the project, highlighting the objectives and the results achieved to date. The GIP team stressed on the potential impact on households of applying advanced genetics and genomics approaches to sustainably enhance innate

5th Annual Meeting Held at Sokoine University of Agriculture Morogoro
The 2-day annual meeting was held on October 4th and 5th, 2017 at Sokoine University of Agriculture. Team members from Sokoine University of Agriculture, UC Davis, Iowa State, University of Ghana and University of Delaware attended to discuss research and share data.

5th Annual mtg

Forum Held at Sokoine University of Agriculture
Capacity building for Scientific Relevance in African Agricultural Universities

A three-day workshop was organized by the Innovative Agricultural Research Institute (iAGRI) staff at Ohio State University and hosted by the Sokoine University of Agriculture from the 14th to 16thof September under the sponsorship of the Norman Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program (Borlaug LEAP). The forum was attended by 50 participants from 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the US making a total of 12 countries represented. Among the participating delegates, nine of them were Borlaug LEAP alumni including me. The focus of the workshop was to evaluate progress of the African Universities under the Regional University Forum for Capacity Building in Africa (RUFORUM) for capacity building in Agriculture under contribution of efforts by Borlaug LEAP and iAGRI in trying to build capacity at the African agricultural universities.

One of the case studies was the contribution of Borlaug LEAP fellowships to human capacity development. It was noted that the fellowship has highly contributed to improvement of research in many sub-Saharan African Universities and research institutions by having renown scientists who have led and others leading research in agriculture, researchers who have published and shared relevant scientific findings with other scientist in Africa and around the world. This notice indicated the significance of the Borlaug LEAP fellowship program into improvement of human resource capacity in the African Universities under RUFORUM.

As Borlaug LEAP beneficiaries, we shared with the rest of the workshop attendees, such aspects as the type of research that we did during the fellowships, the Agricultural Universities or research institutions in which we are affiliated with in Africa, what we are during now to contribute to research in agriculture and development, experience in the collaborating American institutions during the fellowship and suggestions of improvement in our African institutions. Emphasis was also put on collaborative research within African agricultural universities and research institutes. For more we established networks with various researchers for future collaborations.

James R. Mushi

James TZ mtg

TZ Brlg Grp Pic

Tanzania Agricultural Show
Engaging Poultry Breeders and Smallholder Farmers on Raising Healthy Indigenous Poultry Flocks in Tanzania

The Sokoine University of Agriculture Genomics to Improve Poultry team participated in the annual Tanzania 8-8 Agricultural Show in Morogoro on August 8, 2017. The event brings together poultry breeders, smallholder poultry producers, students, and policy makers from across Tanzania to showcase agricultural products and technologies. Professor Amandus Muhairwa and graduate student Gaspar Honorati shared information about the the local indigenous ecotypes involved in the program’s efforts to enhance resistance to Newcastle Disease and heat in African chickens. They discussed with participants best practices for maintaining indigenous poultry flocks, biosecurity, and Newcastle disease control and prevention. As part of the event, Professor Muhairwa was interviewed for a national television program. In the interview, Professsor Muhairwa spoke about the program and the importance of genomics approaches to enhance natural resistance to Newcastle disease as a complimentary approach to vaccination for combating the disease in Africa.

Tanz field1  Tanz field 2

World Poultry Veterinarians Association Conference
At the recent World Poultry Veterinarians Association conference in Edinburgh UK, graduate student Melissa Diest gave a podium talk on her USAID research on NDV, and co-PD Sue Lamont gave an invited Keynote talk on “Breeding for Disease Resistance” including examples from the USAID project research. Over 2,000 poultry health professionals from around the globe were in attendance.

SueLUK DiestUK

PhD student from Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania, visits Iowa State University to learn techniques and computer software for genomic analyses
As part of his Borlaug LEAP Fellowship, James Mushi, a PhD student at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), Tanzania under the Genomics to Improve Poultry Program, traveled to Iowa State University (ISU) in July 2017, to collaborate with ISU Genomics to Improve Poultry program partners on analyses for data generated through poultry trials conducted at SUA. James, whose research focuses on enhancing innate resistance to Newcastle disease virus in indigenous chickens in Tanzania, worked closely with partners at ISU to learn new techniques for data management and genomic analyses using R, Axiom suite Affymetrix, MobaXterm, and Plink programs. James also had the opportunity to network with other scientists working in Animal Science Department at ISU and learn about the use of HapFLK, a genomic software for determination of selection signatures in animals.

Visit to Ghana - June 2017
Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Genomics to Improve Poultry: Ghana site visit for Lab Troubleshooting

Perot Saelao from the Huaijun Zhou lab at UC Davis visited Dr. Boniface Kayang and the Ghana research team in order to help improve and troubleshoot the quantitation of the Newcastle disease virus through qPCR. On his arrival, Perot reviewed procedures done by the Ghana students and research team and was able to assist in the recovery of over 300 data points through reevaluation and troubleshooting. Despite the local holiday in Ghana, the team worked to establish working standards that were then validated on site and used to quantify the viral titer of 864 samples across two trials. Perot also helped in the design of a more optimized workflow to maximize the amount of data generated, in addition to limiting the extent small errors can have in disqualifying results. Perot also resupplied several critical reagents that were needed to continue sample processing. Under supervision, Ghana student Princess was consistently successful in her qPCR methods, and appears to be able to continue to generate data that will help to quantify the viral titers successfully.

Ghana Lab1

Ghana Lab 2

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab Council West Africa Regional Partners Meeting
GIP Director Huaijun Zhou attended the Feed the Future Innovation Lab Council West Africa Regional Partners Meeting held February 6-8 2017 at the King Fahd Palace Hotel In Dakar Senegal. The objectives of the meeting were to draw together regional stakeholders, USAID country, regional and Washington staff and the Feed the Future Innovation Labs in order to:

1) Identify key agriculture and nutrition research priorities and needs for the region;

2) Examine human and institutional capacity needs and successful models;

3) Map current research and development programs against needs and priorities to identify synergies and gaps; and

4) Identify opportunities for collaboration within and between the Innovation Labs, Missions, and other research and development programs in the region.

The meeting assembled nearly 100 participants in a series of plenary presentations and discussions on the agricultural research and development programs in the region. These presentations initiated discussion on the needs, challenges and opportunities for improving their performance. Following the plenary presentations, four working groups assembled to refine further the needs, priorities, gaps and potential synergistic activities in a structured exercise. The working groups built upon the plenary presentations in each of the following four thematic areas and extended the discussion into strategies and potential partners: 1) Climate Resilience and Risk Management, 2) Crop Improvement Systems, 3) Food Safety and Nutrition and 4) Animals in Production Systems. A key message of this workshop is that there are many shared elements across the thematic groups. There is strong opinion that harvesting the genetic potential of plants and animals will be an important strategy to improve resistance against biotic and abiotic stresses that limit the productivity. Genetic enhancement was seen as a tool to increase food availability and quality and hence one avenue to improve nutrition. There is need for continued investment in the building of human and institutional capacity in these areas.

Dakar Sewnegal

PhD Student from Tanzania Kicks off Borlaug LEAP Fellowship Program at the Plant and Animal Genomics Conference in San Diego
January 2017

James Mushi, a PhD student conducting research at the Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania under the Genomics to Improve Poultry Program, kicked off his Borlaug LEAP Fellowship Program1 at the prestigious Plant and Animal Genome Conference (PAG) in San Diego. PAG brings together over 3,000 leading scientists in plant and animal genetics research to discuss recent developments and plans for genomics projects.

James, whose research focuses on enhancing innate resistance to Newcastle disease in indigenous chickens in Tanzania, had the opportunity to network with animal geneticists to exchange ideas and applications related to genetic variability, selective breeding, and maintaining genetic resources for ensuring sustainable improvements to poultry production. In addition to providing James with new insight into approaches and next steps for his graduate research, the conference provided him broader perspective on the application of genomics to address increasing global demands for protein. He stressed how the conference was “an amazing lifetime experience” inspiring him to work toward “safeguarding our world against the challenges of global warming and food insecurity”. He hopes to share his contributions to improving food security in Africa through his research at a future PAG conference.

1The Norman E. Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program is supported through the US Government’s Feed the Future Borlaug 21st Century Leadership Program funded by the United States Agency for International Development. Borlaug LEAP is managed by the International Programs Office, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, University of California, Davis.

PAG conference

Fourth Annual Team Research Meeting
The research team members for the “Genomics to Improve Poultry” project traveled to and held their 4th Annual Meeting in Accra, Ghana at the University of Ghana, the last week of September 2016.

For the annual meeting, the research teams discussed research progress and challenges; data organization, analysis, and management; graduate student and post-doc training; manuscripts that will stem from this research; plans for the upcoming year; and long-term goals of the program. The team also had the opportunity to meet with Samson Konlan from the Ghana USAID Mission to brief him on the project. Mr. Konlan also participated in the afternoon sessions on the first day of the annual meeting. Huaijun Zhou and Terra Kelly also met with the University of Ghana team and visited the laboratories and natural exposure trial facilities to plan upcoming research.

Fourth Annual Mtg

World Poultry Congress
Dr. Huaijun Zhou was invited to give a talk on improving food security in Africa by enhancing resistance to Newcastle disease and heat stress in chickens, at The XXV World Poultry Congress in Beijing on September 7, 2016. This is one of the largest conferences in poultry science with more than 4000 delegates from 72 countries. The themes included Nutrition and Feeds, Genetics and Breeding, Health and Disease, Welfare and Behavior, Housing Systems and Environment Management, Waste Management, Egg Quality and Safety, Extension and Education, Meat Quality and Processing, Economics and Marketing, Biotechnology and Reproduction, Incubation and Hatchery Management, Small-Scale Family Poultry Production, Quail and Turkey, Waterfowls.



Click the link below to read our article featured in the Feed the Future Newsletter "Feed the Future Innovation Lab Hatches Plan to Breed Heartier Chickens

White House Summit on Global Development
On July 20, 2016, As a Program Director of Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Genomics to Improve Poultry, Dr. Huaijun Zhou was invited to join President Obama, Secretary of USDA Tom Vilsack, Administrator of USAID Gayle Smith, Ambassador Susan Rice, Samantha Power and entrepreneurs, diplomats, civil society members, public and private sector financing partners, and development leaders at the White House Summit on Global Development to mark global progress and find ways to catalyze further development efforts that will improve real lives and deliver real outcomes in six key areas: energy, food security, global health, governance, partnership, and youth. See detail from the following website:


Zhou speaks at The Global Food Security Summit: Sustainable Solutions
GIP Program Director Dr. Huaijun Zhou was invited to speak and serve as a panelist to discuss challenges we face on global hunger and malnutrition on The Global Food Security Summit: Sustainable Solutions at UC Irvine on May 5-6, 2016. The summit assembled global leaders, practitioners, and academics to think critically about the new frameworks designed to address this challenge at the intersection of food security, development, health and climate action, to collaborate on the work being done, and to identify priorities that the academic world can and must address.The Summit includes topics in Food System Policy, Perspectives on Global Food Security, Global to Local: Challenges and Opportunities for Collective Action, Research and Outreach to Improve Food and Agriculture, The Promise and Challenge of Effective Technological Transfer, Research Innovation Fellowships in Agriculture, Overview and Priorities of the UC Global Food Initiative, Research & Education Priorities & Partnerships and remarks by UC President Janet Napolitano.


Click Here to read UC Davis's blog about the contributions of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Genomics to Improve Poultry Project to One Health

March 2016
Kelly Wilson Shares Research at UFWH Summit
Over the last decade there have been steep declines in global hunger rates, but there are still 793 million undernourished people in the world today (FAO). In the US alone, 50% of people will at some point use food assistance to provide for themselves and their families. This past weekend, students, professors and professionals came together at Missouri State University for the 11th summit of Universities Fighting World Hunger (UFWH) to discuss current obstacles to the war on hunger and collaborate on solutions for the future.

Graduate student Kelly Wilson was invited to the UFWH summit to share her research, which focuses on the project’s 6th objective: to design and implement a breeding and distribution program for an improved chicken, as part of the “Applied Research and Multidisciplinary” panel. Along with seven other masters and PhD students from around the country, the session centered around the importance of bridging the gap between scientific innovation and the target beneficiary.

As a social scientist working for this research program, Wilson’s responsibilities lie not the lab where researchers are using genomic approaches to enhance Newcastle Disease and heat resistance in chickens, but in the next steps. Once a scientific innovation exists, how can it become accessible to the people it could truly help? What key elements are needed in a project to ensure that the innovation has been developed to meet the felt-needs of these beneficiaries? If an improved chicken could prevent divesting losses for the rural poor, how can it then make it accessible and sustain the desired traits in village flocks?

Her presentation inspired spirited discussion with a wide range of skill-sets, who brain-stormed mechanisms for connecting technology to targeted beneficiaries. Multi-disciplinary teams were deemed an essential component to food security work as these divergent perspectives provides perspective on externalities that might otherwise be ignored, and can even lead to negative results for the beneficiaries. These ideas and conversations continued throughout the UFWH summit, further fueling the inspiration to go back into our communities and keep up momentum towards establishing a food secure world.