The authors acknowledge the financial support from the Slovenian Research Agency (research core funding No. P4-0165).
The proposed research program supports both excellence in science and excellence in teaching at all levels of higher education in the field of biotechnology and food safety. It is also strongly connected to the professional work for Slovene governmental organizations and different companies related to the agriculture, environment, food safety, and biotechnological and pharmaceutical industry.
In the program we will continue our study of plant stress responses with the application of the systems biology tools, which generate a tremendous amount of data on biological systems. In order to integrate those data of dynamic interactions between genes, RNA molecules, proteins and metabolites into a multi-level model, new approaches and tools for data analysis and interpretation are required. Because in our research the main stressors are microorganisms, the study of their biology is needed. Based on the obtained knowledge we will continue developing new sustainable plant protection strategies and methods for ensuring food and water safety.
The main goals of the proposed research program are therefore:
(1) to gain better understanding of plant stress (mainly biotic) responses using systems biology approaches;
(2) to gain a better insight into the biology of microbes in order to understand their diversity, pathogenicity and epidemiology, and to elucidate their role in plant host and on the basis of obtained results develop efficient and sustainable biotechnological and biological control methods;
(3) to develop new plant protection strategies and strategies for food and water safety;
(4) to upgrade the technological platform to support the systems biology research and todevelop new metrologically sound technological support, more efficient identification and detection methods for microbes and GMOs which may be applicable in fields of pharmacy, human health and environment.
To achieve these goals we will apply state-of-the-art approaches and methodologies, specifically metagenomic studies, next generation sequencing (NGS), quantitative analysis of nucleic acids, isothermal amplification nucleic acids (e.g. LAMP), digital PCR, life cell imaging and bioinformatic and bioststistic approaches.
The research program has achieved excellent results in the past due to the interdisciplinary of the team that covered diverse fields of molecular biology, biology, microbiology, biochemistry, biotechnology, mathematics, biostatistics and computational science. In addition, it had established strong international collaboration with researchers in EU and Slovenia.The program team members participated in several EU projects. The research program represented small but very important part of the research support to the Department of Biotechnology and Systems Biology. Due to the the fast growing fields of systems biology, biotechnology and food safety, which are our main directions, the department doubled its budget and the number of employees from 20 to 43 in the last 10 years.