Plants and microbes produce a wide spectrum of natural products, which give them their huge range of colours, flavours and scents.
These chemicals are used to repel pests, diseases or competitors or to attract pollinators, but for humans they represent a potential source of new medicines, flavourings, antimicrobials or other useful compounds.
A major area of study at the John Innes Centre is in understanding how and why plants and microbes make these natural products.
With this knowledge, we are looking at ways of exploiting them to help maintain our health, to improve crops plants and to maintain a safe, nutritious food supply.
Professor Anne Osbourn leads a research group investigating the structure, function and evolution of natural products, in particular in crop and model plants.
Professor Cathie Martin’s research background is in cellular specialisation; in particular how flower colour and shape is determined. More recently she has been investigating how plants can be improved by manipulating the natural products that they produce.