A pioneering study undertaken at the Institute of Evolution has identified a new protein family, which is present in most of the cereal species and is responsible for fighting harmful diseases. In the case of wheat, the functional gene is present in wild emmer wheat, the progenitor of wheat, while domesticated bread and pasta wheats contain only non-functional copies of the gene. Accordingly, future incorporation of the gene into the cultivated varieties will protect them against yellow rust disease that currently cause damages totaling around one billion dollars annually. “Our discovery is an outcome of a long research project that lasted 25 years. However, as soon as we managed to identify the sequence of the gene that provides resistance against yellow rust in wild emmer wheat, we also discovered genes that are structurally similar in almost all plant species. This is a real breakthrough that open new ways to reduce the yield losses caused by plant pathogens, as part of the efforts to secure the global supply of food,” explains Prof. Tzion Fahima, who headed the research.