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Date
 15/02/2007
News Provider
 Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani
News Source
 soyatech com
Headline
 UK University, Malaysian Firm to Build Oil Palm Genetic Research Center

13 /2/2007 (soyatech.com)  -- The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus is to collaborate on a new research centre that will focus on oil palm research using the latest molecular techniques.

The University is collaborating with a Malaysian company, Applied Agricultural Resources (AAR), to lead research into genetic improvements that could make the oil palm more resistant to disease, easier to harvest and more valuable to the producer.

Bill Rammell MP, Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, was at The University of Nottingham's Malaysia Campus, at Semenyih near Kuala Lumpur, to perform the groundbreaking ceremony at an adjacent site where the AAR Research Centre will be based. Mr Rammell, visiting Semenyih with five Vice-Chancellors of other UK universities, was also briefed by Professor Brian Atkin, Vice-President at the campus, on other developments.

AAR is an internationally-recognised centre for plantation crop research and development. Among the areas that will be explored at the new AAR Research Centre are the use of DNA to detect illegitimate crosses, tissue culture mix-ups and other identity-related issues. DNA finger-printing technology will be utilised to authenticate the in-house breeds and clones for intellectual property rights.

The laboratory will also seek to hasten traditional breeding programmes through genetic relationship studies to determine desirable oil palm breeding partners. In order to speed up the breeding programmes, marker-assisted selection technology will be developed for early selection of wanted and unwanted traits at DNA level, rather than selection after the oil palm starts fruiting and yielding. Traits of interest include oil quality, tree height and fruit colour.

Construction will now start on the new facility, which is expected to open in October 2007. It will be located on a site adjacent to the Malaysia campus.

In the future, scientists envisage that genetic engineering technology could be used to overcome the barrier of introducing new traits into oil palm. This technology, together with marker-assisted selection and tissue culture, could speed up the production of new oil palm varieties with desirable traits - such as high value oil, disease resistance and amenability to mechanised harvesting.

Professor Brian Atkin, Vice-President at the Malaysia Campus, said: "Industry-academic collaboration is an important part of research and as a research-led university, we are pleased to collaborate with AAR.

"The centre will also provide facilities for high level biotechnology research for students from our undergraduate and postgraduate biotechnology programme."

Dr Soh Aik Chin, Head of Agricultural Research at AAR, said: "The decision to locate the Research Centre at an adjacent lot to the Malaysia Campus is to enable us to leverage on the resources and facilities available at the School of Biosciences at the Malaysia Campus.

"We are pleased to be able to collaborate with an internationally acclaimed centre of excellence for teaching and fundamental research. I would like the AAR Research Centre to emulate NottinghamÌs success and look forward to a successful and fruitful collaboration."

The groundbreaking was performed by Bill Rammell MP. He was in Malaysia with a delegation of five vice-chancellors from UK universities, to sign a Memorandum of Understanding in Education, in collaboration with the Ministry of Higher Education in Malaysia, and to meet policymakers and senior educationalists from both the public and private sectors.

The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus opened in September 2000 to become the first branch campus of a British university in Malaysia and the first anywhere in the world. The Malaysia Campus is a full and integral part of The University of Nottingham, UK, and students are awarded University of Nottingham degree certificates.

Led by senior academic staff seconded from Nottingham, UK, the Malaysia Campus offers students the Nottingham experience in a local setting and yet is firmly rooted in all that is distinctive about UK education - innovative teaching and assessment methods, which encourage independent, creative thinking.

Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is Britain's University of the Year (The Times Higher Awards 2006). It undertakes world-changing research, provides innovative teaching and a student experience of the highest quality. Ranked by Newsweek in the worldÌs Top 75 universities, its academics have won two Nobel Prizes since 2003. The University is an international institution with campuses in the United Kingdom, Malaysia and China.

Applied Agricultural Resources Sdn Bhd (AAR) was established in 1986 and is an internationally recognised premier centre in plantation crop research and development. The company is jointly owned by Boustead Plantation Bhd and Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad, and between both, operates about 300,000 hectares of plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia. AAR's oil palm tissue culture laboratory, with a production capacity of 1.5 million clonal plants, is currently the largest oil palm tissue culture laboratory in the world. The company has a track record of carrying out collaborative research with universities, research institutions and other commercial companies.

More information is available from Mimi Rashid, PR/Communications Manager, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, on 603 8924 8034, mimi.rashid@nottingham.edu.my; or Media Relations Manager Tim Utton in the UniversityÌs Media and Public Relations Office (UK) on +44 (0)115 846 8092, tim.utton@nottingham.ac.uk

ECONOMICS & INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT DIVISION
Malaysian Palm Oil Board ( MPOB ) Lot 6, SS6, Jalan Perbandaran, 47301 Kelana Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan, MALAYSIA.
Tel : 603 - 7802 2800 || Fax : 603 - 7803 3533