A Kenyan Lecturer has hit headlines not only in Africa but globally after winning this year’s Royal Society Africa Prize for the best scientific research.
Professor Steven Runo of Kenyatta University was last week named the winner of the award aimed at recognising the African best performing scientific researchers.
He is set to get cash prize of British Sterling Pounds 15,000 or Sh2.1 million for research plus additional personal cash award of British Pounds 2,000s (Sh280,000) and a bronze medal.
He will be hornoured with the awards in London towards the end of this year.
“The Royal Society Africa Prize 2020 is awarded to Dr Steven Runo for elucidating pathways for long distance RNA trafficking between parasitic plants and their hosts and identifying and developing transgenic protocol for characterising and validating candidate host and parasite genes,” the Society said in a statement.
Runo says his research was driven by the desire to bring a change in the society as far as food security is concerned.
Who is Professor Runo?
Professor Runo is a specialist in plant molecular Biology at Kenyatta University.
He heads the institution’s Biochemistry Microbiology and Biotechnology Department.
In his area of specialisation ,Runo attempts to look at plant nutrients and how modifying plants biological composition can make them parasite-resistant.
His research focused on how the nutrients can be used to control weeds.
Of interest to him was a common weed in Western Kenya with pink colours that kills maize, sorghum and millet called striga or whitchweed.
He studied the nutrients taken up by striga and with that knowledge grafted similar but poisonous variety of the nutrients that is injected in the host crops to make it resistant to parasitic attacks.
The research majorly focused on three food crops ,ie sorghum, maize and millet which are the common hosts for striga.
He said that he aims at helping the farmers to ensure that they get value out of their sweat.
He has therefore opted to work with Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research (Kalro) centres in Kibos in Kisumu County, Alupe in Busia and Mbita in Homa Bay and seed companies to translate academic research into practical use rather than limiting the research to KU laboratories.
The research was an extension of his PHD in plant molecular biology which he did through a collaborative Programme between US based University of Carliforniia and Kenyatta University.
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