Costa Rican scientists return to N.C. Research Campus

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 30, 2015

KANNAPOLIS — A delegation from Costa Rica has returned to the N.C. Research Campus to discuss collaborative research opportunities, arrange a post-doctoral fellowship and attend the Plant Pathways Elucidation Project (P2EP) Research Symposium.

“By formalizing our scientific collaboration with Costa Rica’s best universities,” said Clyde Higgs, Research Campus executive vice president of operations and business development, “we are bringing together leading scientists and top students who will be able to advance the study of some of the most challenging questions in human health, nutrition and agriculture.”

Vanessa Gibson, director of corporate development and investment climate for CINDE said, “The relationship we’ve developed with N.C. Research Campus allows us as a country to transfer research and development expertise to the Costa Rican talent, hand in hand with one of the major research centers in the United States. After visiting the campus last May with the president of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solis, both N.C. Research and CINDE have continued working to develop joint educational programs that we hope to materialize in the near term.”

Solis visited the Research Campus on May 14, forming an agreement with David H. Murdock, Research Campus founder and CEO and chairman of Castle & Cooke and Dole Foods, for collaborative education and training programs between the NCRC and universities and institutes in Costa Rica.

The University of Costa Rica, the National Center for Science and Food Technology, the University of Costa Rica Agricultural Research Center, EARTH University and the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency are represented in the delegation that toured the campus Tuesday and attended the P2EP Research Symposium on Wednesday.

Now in its third year, P2EP is answering more complex scientific questions with higher translational value such as examining the wound-healing properties of oats and the effect of broccoli on colon cancer. Their research builds on the success of the first two classes to map the plant pathways and genomes of blueberries, strawberries, broccoli and oats. During the symposium the graduate and undergraduate students presented the results of their 11 weeks of research.

While visiting the N.C. Research Campus, the Costa Rican delegation was to meet with several campus partners including the N.C. State University Plants for Human Health Institute (PHHI) and Dole Foods.

“We are really looking forward to extending our research on campus to include the expertise of scientists and students from Costa Rica,” said Dr. Mary Ann Lila, director and P2EP leader. “Their collaboration will contribute tremendously to our ability to study more crops and better understand how fruits and vegetables improve human health.”

Dr. Nicholas Gillitt, Dole Foods vice president of nutrition research and director of the Dole Nutrition Institute, added, “Getting the Costa Rican University representatives here to Kannapolis is a great first step in ramping up the collaboration President Solis announced recently. We at Dole have huge operations in Costa Rica and want to engage the latest and greatest Costa Rican students in programs designed to improve agriculture and production there. The Dole-sponsored banana and pineapple PhD programs as part of P2EP and through N.C. State will really kick this goal into high gear.”