School of Plant and Environmental Sciences
To meet the increasing demands for quantity and quality of food for a developing and growing global population in an ever more rapidly changing environment, we need to adapt the crops we depend on to become more sustainable. New breeding techniques are key to speeding up the development and refinement of novel traits. Research in the lab is based on experience in the regeneration of whole plants from single cells, i.e. protoplasts, and the use of state-of-the-art genome-editing technology. Fundamentally, we want to understand and improve the reliability of processes involved in the embryogenic and organogenic recovery of fertile plants from protoplast culture, focusing on cell-identity establishment and growth-regulator signaling. This work will be conducted both in model systems (e.g. Arabidopsis thaliana) and in relevant crop species. Furthermore, we want to establish and enhance next-generation breeding technologies, particularly gene-editing through CRISPR-Cas9 and related molecular tools, in order to increase precision, efficacy, and applicability in plants. Such tools can thus be employed to improve crop traits and accelerate breeding programs to develop varieties with characteristics that better suit growers, processors, and consumers. Although more traditional transgenic methodology will also be used for exploratory and proof-of-concept approaches, part of the aim in the use of protoplasts is to generate non-transgenic products with only transient expression of the genome-modifying tools.
Fundamental and translational studies towards crop improvement through genome-editing and tissue-culture.