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2nd Meeting of COMSATS' International Thematic Research Group (ITRG) on 'Agriculture, Food Security, and Biotechnology'
2nd Meeting of COMSATS’ International Thematic Research Group (ITRG) on ‘Agriculture, Food Security, and Biotechnology’

The second meeting of COMSATS’ International Thematic Research Group (ITRG) on ‘Agriculture, Food Security, and Biotechnology’ was held on October 19, 2016, at the Industrial Research and Consultancy Centre (IRCC), Sudan, on the sidelines of the 2nd International Conference on ‘Agriculture, Food Security, and Biotechnology’ (October 17-18, 2016, Khartoum, Sudan).

This ITRG was formally launched on 10th June 2015, when the Group’s Foundation meeting was jointly organized by COMSATS and the National Research Centre, Egypt, that was later designated as the lead Centre for the Group.

The 2nd meeting of the Group was chaired by Dr. Widad H. AbdelHalim, Director General (IRCC) as the host institution. In addition to IRCC, COMSATS’ Repre sentative, and the members of the Group belonging to University Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD), Senegal, and COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT), Pakistan, the meeting was also attended by five scientists and researchers from Iranian Research Organization for Science and Technology (IROST), Iran; Agriculture Fisheries Development Fund (AFDF), Oman; University of Khartoum, Sudan, and Agriculture Research Corporation (ARC), Sudan.

The meeting commenced with a presentation by Ms. Huma Balouch, Sr. Assistant Director (Programmes), COMSATS Secretariat, on the historical perspective, mandate, structure and technical programmes of COMSATS. During the presentation, Ms. Balouch shed light on the background and objectives of COMSATS’ ITRG’s, as well as COMSATS’ expectations from the Group's 2nd meeting.

The Technical Session of the meeting commenced with a talk by Dr. Ghazi Hamid Badawi, Assistant Professor, Department of Agronomy, University of Khartoum, Sudan, who introduced topics relating to the theme of the Group’s proposed project for collaboration. Proposals on the same were also made by representatives of other participating organizations, IRCC and ARC, Sudan. These presentations were followed by brief introduction by the representatives of other members/participating institutions, who highlighted the objectives and strengths of their organizations. These participants were: Dr. Tayyaba Yasmin, Head, Department of Biosciences, CIIT, Pakistan; Dr. Diegane Diouf, Professor, UCAD, Senegal; Dr. Majid Javanmard Dakheli, Director, Agriculture Institute, IROST, Iran; Dr. Shahzad Kouser, Assistant Professor (Agro-Economics), CIIT, Pakistan; Ms. Halima Rashid, Expert, AFDF, Oman; and Dr. Amani A.M. Idris, Assistant Professor (Agronomy), National Coordinator Wheat Research Programme, ARC, Sudan. These participants helped in identifying areas of mutual interests in the field of Agriculture, Food Security, and Biotechnology and highlighted the relevant potential of their institutions.

Based on the understanding developed during the first half of the meeting, the deliberations focused on finalizing the title of the joint research project, identifying the most effective mechanism for its implementation and decision making on other related matters of cooperation. A consensus was built as to the title of the joint research project: ‘Improvement of Wheat Quality and Productivity using both Traditional and Modern Techniques’. In order to seek commitments of the Group-members to contribute towards the joint project and membership of the Group, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will be shared with them, for signatures by Heads of the participating institutions/organizations.

Later, the participants of the meeting deliberated on broad goals of the joint research project and agreed on the following objectives for the said project: 1) enhancement of heat and salinity stress tolerance in Wheat; 2) screening and evaluation of Wheat germplasm for high productivity; 3) producing a suitable Wheat variety for processing; and 4) application of modern molecular techniques (DNA markers, protein markers, proteomics, and transcriptomics) in Wheat breeding. Dr. Ghazi pledged to share the detailed research proposal along with defined time-line and methodology for efficiently executing the project with cooperation from all members. The group members pledged to take an active part in its undertakings, as well as offered to make significant portions of the research at their own labs.

The meeting concluded on a note of commitment by the participants to timely follow-up its decisions and further strengthening the Group by having additional relevant institutions inducted as Group Members.

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