Ninety Years of Discoveries at BTI

Basic Biology Discoveries

  • Discovered how fungal spores can inhibit their own germination. This knowledge made it possible to produce spores more efficiently and in higher quantities in the laboratory, which, in turn, led to advanced studies on the metabolism of germinating spores.
  • Proved that fungal pathogens (those that cause disease in plants) begin their development as a pathogen when they recognize the surface of a host plant. This knowledge may lead to innovative ways to protect plants from fungal disease through genetic modification.
  • Developed a rooting hormone now used extensively in the nursery industry to propagate plants quickly and efficiently. The hormone is a stable derivative of a natural hormone, called indole acetic acid.
  • Developed a serological procedure to identify plant viruses that is now used worldwide.
  • Discovered that the genome of a plant virus is divided into two parts.
  • Developed advanced techniques in paper and column chromatography for separating and identifying the biological components of mixtures.
  • Discovered that insects can become addicted to certain constituents in food plants. This knowledge, which helps explain why some insects feed only on specific plants, may lead to new kinds of insect-resistant plants and a reduction in the use of insecticides.
  • Discovered insect viral enzymes, which can be used to overcome an insects intestinal immune system. This advance has led to new concepts in animal-specific viral adaptations.
  • Established insect cell lines, which are acknowledge as superior for the production of viral pesticides and recombinant proteins. One cell line called High Five is used worldwide for the production of human therapeutics and vaccines.
  • Developed an assay (test) to determine the presence of tobacco mosaic virus in a plant a discovery that, in turn, led to the ability to detect and determine the amount of other pathogenic viruses of plants.
  • Discovered that insects are vectors that carry disease-causing pathogens from plant to plant and that plant pathogens multiply using the insect as a host. These discoveries led to new ways to control plant diseases.

Agricultural Discoveries

  • Discovered the biological and chemical basis for selectivity in herbicides and developed the first herbicide that could control specific weeds without harming other plants.
  • Proved that ethylene, a natural product produced by plants, is a hormone. Ethylene, which encourages ripening in fruit and vegetables, is now used throughout the food-processing industry.
  • Identified sex pheromones in bark beetles that make it possible to control these pests without chemical insecticides.

Environmental Discoveries

  • Developed computer modeling techniques for predicting forest growth/decline over long periods of time.
  • Contributed to PCB decontamination of the Hudson River by developing ecologically important data on the plant and animal life of the region.
  • Contributed to the development of EPA ambient air-quality standards for ozone by providing data and information concerning the impact of ozone on U.S. crops.
  • Formulated worldwide air-quality standards for fluorides, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.
  • Developed analytical methods now accepted as the global standard for detecting fluorides in biological materials and monitoring fluorides in the air.
  • Generated data used by the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program to evaluate the biological impact of ozone and acid rain.
  • Developed first computer models for testing the combined effect of ozone and acid rain on mature forests.
  • Developed a computer software package that enables the EPA to evaluate ozone injury to U.S. forests.

Human Health Discoveries

  • Discovered the role of a naturally occurring substance, called sugar-glass, that stabilizes dry, stored seeds. This discovery led to new technology for stabilizing insulin, enabling it to be delivered to diabetics through an inhalable dry aerosol spray instead of injection.
  • Discovered that vaccines against human diseases can be delivered orally through food and that plant-delivered vaccines are effective in protecting people against disease.
  • Developed modified plants that deliver “edible vaccines” against three human diseases, including hepatitis B.

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