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Plant Biotechnology

Plant Biotechnology continues the tradition of Dr. George Washington Carver, the legendary scientist who developed hundreds of innovative products from sweetpotatoes and peanuts while working at Tuskegee University. Genetic engineering has the potential to rapidly improve the sweet potato, which is the focus of several ongoing research projects. One of those projects is the sweet potato tissue culture. Plant biotechnology develops methods to produce adventitious plants efficiently in vitro, and has been successful in developing a high-frequency somatic embryogenesis protocol and identifying highly regenerable cultivars.

Transgenic plant research has already resulted in a greenhouse study under hydroponic conditions of genetically engineered sweetpotato plants with marker genes. The Project also successfully tested transgenic sweetpotato plants with herbicide resistance genes under field conditions. Another project focused on improving the protein quality of the sweetpotato to enhance the diets of children in developing countries.


  • The CPBR has set itself up with triple goals of research, training and outreach:
  • Employ innovative genetic tools to enhance our knowledge-base of crop quality and productivity
  • Train U. S. minority students in plant biotechnology research
  • Pursue outreach efforts in southern US underserved communities
  • Pursue outreach efforts to foster a more informed global community on agricultural technology issues.


Employing cutting-edge tools in molecular biology such as gene transfer and genomics, we are developing improved strains of sweetpotato and peanut with enhanced protein content and virus resistance, and also expanding our knowledge of the genetic architecture of peanut, sweetpotato and cowpea.

CPBR is proud of its contribution so far in enhancing workforce diversity in plant biotechnology through its highly rated program in training African-American students, international and visiting scholars in the frontier techniques in plant molecular biology, tissue culture, and genomics. Our future efforts would build on this in developing a more comprehensive and structured program aimed at targeting both undergraduate and graduate students in providing experiential learning in biotechnology with state-of-the-art training in research methodology.

To promote an increased awareness of the science and societal issues related to the adoption of agricultural biotechnology especially in US underserved communities and developing countries, we are pursuing a range of activities to provide policymakers, media, academics, NGOs and other stakeholders with science-based information on issues through a web-based knowledge center, workshops, public forums, Internet discussion groups and training programs. Key areas of interest here include science policy, technology transfer, research, and biosafety and intellectual property issues.

Dr. C. S. Prakash, Center director, says: "A major mission of the Center is to train minority students in plant biotechnology and this is critical considering there are so few African-American or Hispanic molecular biologists. Several minority graduate and undergraduate students are provided with research assistantships and an opportunity to work on biotechnology projects. Similarly, high school students are offered summer internships to work in the laboratories and participate in research projects. This has proved very successful in enticing young minorities to consider a career in science."


Marceline Egnin
Phone: 334-724-4404 or 727-8084
Position: Associate Research Professor
Education: Ph.D., Plant Genetics and Biotechnology, Pennsylvania State University, 1992
Research Interests: Using biotechnology to improve sweetpotato and peanut quality and quantity to better human and animal health. Biotechnology outreach to United States underserved regions and Africa
Number of Publications: Refereed Journal Articles (12), Technical Presentations (20), Technical Reports (10),  Books (2)

Guohao He
Phone: 334-727-8459
Position: Research Assistant Professor of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Education: Ph.D., Quantitative Genetics and Plant Breeding, Clemson University, 1991
Research Interests: Plant genomics, genetic mapping, QTL mapping, molecular breeding
Number of Publications: Refereed Journal Articles (12), Technical Presentations (13), Chapter (1)

Channapatna S. Prakash
Phone: 334-727-8023
Position:  Professor, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Plant Molecular Genetics; Director, Center for Plant Biotechnology Research; Director, Multimedia Center for Interactive Learning
Education: Ph.D., Forestry/Genetics, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia, 1985
Research Interests: Plant Molecular Biology and Application of Biotechnology in Developing Countries; Transgenic Plant Development and Testing in Sweetpotato and Peanut; Plant Genome Analysis; Engineering Plants for Disease Resistance and Improved Nutritional Quality; Producing Edible Vaccines against Cholera and Rabies in Plants; Writer of a Monthly Column on Biotechnology in a Newsletter
Number of Publications: Refereed Journal Articles (50+), Technical Presentations (100+ ), Technical Reports (10+ ), Book Chapters (3), and Books (1)-in preparation