Unrestricted Futures 2017: Keep science sailing

A world without science funding is a world without science

A fundraising campaign for Boyce Thompson Institute

In 1917, William Boyce Thompson traveled to Russia with the America Red Cross on an aid mission to a nation ripped apart by revolution. There, "the Colonel" had a revelation. He witnessed, first-hand, the connection between agriculture and food security, and social and political stability. Thompson returned to the States determined to push the US government to invest in plant science. When the president and congress dragged their feet, Thompson used his own wealth to found BTI. For more than 90 years, BTI researchers have worked to unlock discoveries in support of agriculture, the environment, and human health.


True to the Colonel's vision, BTI science aims to support the most crucial needs of the global community. BTI’s diverse group of researchers work on foundational projects related to biofuels, food production, flavor and diseases, human autoimmune disease, and more.  Some collaborate with breeders in developing nations to make crops more disease resistant and more nutritious. Others examining the insect gut, learning how viruseslike Zika live within insects and how they're spread people. Still others delve into the chemistry of roundworms, bringing us closer to developing therapies for chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, and arthritis. Some of your favorite crops like corn, coffee, and citrus are constantly at risk from viruses, bacteria, and environmental stresses. We're on the front line, diving deep into their biology, combing through their genetics, looking for clues that will lead us on a path to long-term sustainability. Your support helps to provide capacity to make all of this work possible.


The health and economic impacts associated with plant science cannot be overstated. The life processes that exist beneath us and surround us offer a bridge to an uncharted territory where discoveries lie in waiting. You can help us to find them, by investing in BTI with your gift today. Thank you!

BTI on your table: Potato

December 7, 2017

                 “The idea was to produce potatoes and use it as a model for other crops in developing                                  countries, especially in areas where vitamin A deficiency is a problem.” - Joyce Van Eck

Over 40 billion pounds of potatoes are produced in the USA every year. Most of us chow down on these delicious tubers without too much concern about the nutrient content they provide. However, in other parts of the world, nutrients are hard to come by. That is why it's essential that scientists like BTI's Joyce Van Eck are working on a potato variety featuring increased levels of  beta-carotene—a precursor of vitamin A. In 2015, Van Eck received a patent for her methodology which inserts a specially designed segment of DNA into the potato genome to silence the gene that codes for the enzyme that converts beta-carotene into zeaxanthin (which the body cannot convert to vitamin A). She used a technique that ensures that the activity only occurs in the tuber, while the rest of the plant is unaffected.

When the beta-carotene hydroxylase gene was silenced, beta-carotene built up to levels that would satisfy up to 18 percent of a toddler’s daily nutritional requirement. Though they will need to use additional strategies to boost beta-carotene levels further, the research shows that biofortification is indeed possible. Vitamin A deficiency is a major problem in the developing world, and BTI science is working hard on potential solutions.

This is an example of the amazing research happening at BTI and reminds us what is possible when projects are fortunate enough to be the recipient of sufficient funding. 

90% and climbing!

November 29, 2017

As we head into the final month of the 2017 Unrestricted Futures Campaign, we're grateful to everyone whose generosity has pushed us past 90% of our goal! We hope you'll continue to share our campaign and advocate for BTI to ensure we hit 100% before the end of the year. We live in a time of climate change and a rapidly growing human population. This combination continued to create challenges and those challenges will only intensify in the future. We thank you for supporting a science institute taking these challenges head on. 

BTI on your table: Apple

November 20, 2017

 Pies, cider, donuts, and sauce! Apples are a major part of our diets and culture. Thanks to researchers from BTI's Fei lab, we now know the history of this historic fruit. Apples are a $2 billion industry in the United States alone, and unlocking the genomic history of the apple, will ideally pave the way for improved apple breeding which could result in higher yields and larger apples. So, if you enjoy the delicious side of apples, or you make your living growing and selling apples, consider BTI a friend! 

BTI on your table: Tomato

November 15, 2017

At BTI, we love our tomatoes. Three labs at our institute work with this delicious, model fruit. USDA scientist/BTI faculty member Jim Giovannoni was part of the International Tomato Sequencing Project, Jim's work with the fruit ripening played a large role in his 2016 induction into the National Academy of Sciences. Thanks to Jim, grocery store tomatoes have a chance at tasting good year round!

The Martin lab uses tomato to study the molecular basis of plant-pathogen interactions to develop plants with increased natural resistance to diseases. Such plants would require fewer applications of pesticides producing economic and environmental benefits while providing food for consumers with less pesticide residue.

Whether we're studying tomatoes to learn more about diseases, or improving their taste and color, BTI is working hard to put more tasty, pesticide-free tomatoes on your table!

Top 10 reasons to fund science!

November 14, 2017

Thank you to all of our generous science supporters who have pushed us past 70% of our goal with 46 days remaining! Your contributions are pivotal in our on going mission to make discoveries that improve agriculture, protect the environment and advance human health. 

Whether you are a long-time donor or thinking about making your first gift, we thought we'd show you why your philanthropy is needed. David Letterman might be retired, but his Top 10 concept is a convenient vehicle for disseminating crucial information. Presenting, the Top 10 reasons to donate to BTI:

The top 10 reasons to donate to BTI

10) We keep you caffeinated! Our research on coffea arabica aims to make coffee plants stronger so that your daily $5 cup o' joe doesn't become a $10 daily cup of debt. 

9) BTI is comprised of 120 scientists from 40 different countries! Your donation supports the work of many, many scientists whose work will have a global impact.

8) We had an experiment go wrong and the result is a greenhouse tenant with a very expensive appetite.

7) We fight the diseases that attack your tomatoes! Thanks to BTI scientists like Greg Martin, you can maintain the title of best tomato sauce/salsa in the family. Everyone says it's your uncle, but you know people are just trying to make him feel good.


6) We've got worms!... Round worms by the name of C.elegans. BTI's Schroeder lab studies these 1mm wonders because their chemistry is a good model for humans. The lab's research has received much praise and has the potential to help develop treatments for the growing number of human autoimmune diseases. 

5) We have the power...plant power! BTI's Stern lab continues their work on algal biofuels, including research in which droplets of water containing algal cells are placed on a chip to create a micro-bioreactor. 

4) BTI's Van Eck lab works on grapes so you don't have to.

3) By 2050, we'll need to feed 2 billion more people on the same amount of land we have now. That requires discovery and innovation...luckily, BTI excels at both.

2) Your drinks would be dreary without us. BTI's Heck lab is working hard to combat the devastating citrus greening disease that has already destroyed over 130,000 acres of orange groves. Citrus is a major part of the American economy, but it's also a delicious addition to your beverages. Cheers to BTI research!

1) The government isn't cutting it! (it = the checks) Reliance on federal funding to support our research is becoming increasingly unpredictable. That means science research needs to expand and diversify funding sources. Our work is needed more now than ever, so help us, help you! 

We're off!

October 24, 2017

The 2017 Unrestricted Futures Campaign has officially begun! We hope you'll follow along as we push to advance discovery science at the Boyce Thompson Institute! We'll be sharing insights into our crucial research from now until December 31st, so check back often to see what we've been working on. You're bound to learn something and develop an appreciation for our institute which, for over 90 years, has been dedicated to science that supports agriculture, the environment, and human health. 

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