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Last update: May 2021

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Florimond Desprez

An interview with Pierre Devaux

Florimond Desprez
Florimond Desprez, a family-owned plant breeding company founded in 1830 and located in northern France has been supporting the IWGSC since 2011. The IWGSC is extremely grateful for its continuous support.

About Florimond Desprez

Florimond Desprez breeds plant varieties and also produces seeds to meet the needs of the arable crop sector. The group is one of the world leaders in the sugar beet seed industry and is one of the leading European breeders of small grain cereals. Florimond Desprez is also one of the key players in Europe in the seed potato market. The group is present in 65 countries, devotes 15% of its turn over to research and employs 1,090 employees.

Florimond Desprez representative in the IWGSC Coordinating Committee

Research manager, Biotechnology
Twitter: @PDevaux_FD


Pierre Devaux received the Food and Agriculture Engineer degree at Polytech Lille (France) and his Ph.D. and D.Sc. degrees in Natural Sciences from the University of Sciences and Technologies (USTL) of Lille. He was an invited scientist at the Washington State University, Pullman, WA (USA), where he performed research on genetic recombination and DNA methylation in barley. He is currently of Research Manager, Biotechnology at Florimond Desprez Seeds Co., where he is mainly focused on the application of biotechnologies for plant breeding: cell culture, cytology, genetic modification, molecular biology, and the “omics.”. He has been working on sugar and fodder beets, cereals, potato and other secondary crops. He is the author of more than 60 papers in international scientific journals.

What are the benefits of been part of an International Consortium? And of the IWGSC in particular?

The main advantages of being part of an international consortium are to follow the research activities, to be able to interact with colleagues around the world and to exchange for a better synergy. This was the case for the IWGSC wheat reference sequence genome.

The IWGSC wheat reference sequence (IWGSC RefSeq v1.0) has been available since 2017, what impact has it had on your work/company?

Having a reference sequence is a very important benefit to better understand genes on which the genetic improvement of a species is based. From the development of new reliable molecular markers linked to genes of interest to their expression in relation to phenotyping.

How did you translate the reference sequence into applications in the field?

Mainly by developing new molecular markers easier to use, less expensive to implement and more accurate in their diagnosis.

Despite the very high quality of IWGSC RefSeq v1.0, there are still gaps and improvements needed. The IWGSC is currently working on manual and functional annotation of IWGSC RefSeq v1.0. What would you like to see included in the future improved versions?

It would be wise to add all the publicly molecular markers available to the reference genome in order to gain accuracy in polymorphism information. These markers would help mapping of traits of interest more efficiently. Implementing data from international initiatives e.g. Breedwheat in France would benefit the wheat research community.

The IWGSC is now in Phase II, focusing on four priority areas: wheat diversity project, manual and functional annotation, exome array, and generation of databases and tools for users. Which area areas of most interest for you and how would you like to the IWGSC to focus on these?

For varietal improvement, the most important is to have accurate diagnostic tools that are easily accessible in databases. These end-user applications obviously involve more upstream actions. The IWGSC has the expertise via its extensive network of researchers and therefore everything is in place for this goal.