Dr. Somvong Trangoonrung, Executive Director, National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC), received the Outstanding Academic Alumni Award 2019 from the Kasetsart University Alumni Association (Kamphaeng Saen Campus) under Royal Patronage.
Dr. Tragoonrung’s expertise lies in genome technology. In 1992, he joined BIOTEC as a researcher at Plant Genetic Engineering Laboratory. In 1999, he was tasked to lead the establishment of DNA Technology Laboratory (DNATEC) and became its first director. Jointly-founded by NSTDA and Kasetsart University, DNATEC was established as a government-funded key service center providing advanced and affordable diagnostic tools using DNA technology. The services provided have significantly contributed to the improvement of quality of agricultural products, facilitating exports of local products and addressing several international trade law and barriers. DNA Tech was the first lab to provide quantitative analysis of GMO testing services for exported food products. DNATEC is one of the assigned lab in the country to do purity testing of Aromatic Thai Rice (KDML105 and RD15) for export purpose.
As a representative of Thailand, Dr. Tragoonrung was tasked to draft the ISO standards on methods of analysis for the detection of genetically modified organisms and derived products along with representatives from other countries. The DNA technology developed by him is used for purity testing of aromatic rice exported from Thailand to ensure standards are met, for species identification of plants and animals, for inspection of imported food to prevent Mad Cow Disease and for inspection of exported tuna cans to help entrepreneurs encountered trade barrier.
The discovery of genes responsible for producing aroma in rice by Dr. Tragoonrung and the team from Kasetsart University and BIOTEC is another scientific breakthrough. Testing of fragrance in different rice varieties from various geographical sites was carried out. Genetic mapping of gene for aroma was constructed. Cloning of aroma gene and functional analysis were conducted. The gene commanding rice aroma was inserted into non-aromatic rice variety. The result of the experiment was rice with emerging aroma. Patents were filed in 10 countries. The breakthrough carries significant implications for the country’s breeding program.
His works on the development of nutrient-dense rice varieties (which are not genetically-modified) such as Riceberry and Sinlek were released in Thailand. Riceberry has been transformed into a variety of food products available in both domestic and foreign markets.
Kasetsart University initiates the Outstanding Alumni Award Program to recognize the exceptional contributions to the society of KU alumni. The KU Outstanding Alumni Awards are given every year to alumni who have notable achievements in their respective careers. Dr. Tragoonrung’s predecessors include Prof. Apichart Vanavichit, Director, Rice Gene Discovery Unit and Dr. Theerayut Toojinda, Director, Integrative Crop Biotechnology and Management Research Group.
Posted on 23 December 2019.