Dr Philippa Borrill

Group Leader Designing Future Wheat

The Borrill group focuses on understanding the wheat genome to improve the nutritional value of wheat grain.

They study wheat, which is a staple food for billions of people around the world.

Although wheat is mainly considered to be a source of calories, it also provides protein and micronutrients in the human diet. The levels of key micronutrients such as iron and zinc are low in wheat grains.

The group’s aim is to improve the nutritional value of wheat grain by harnessing the genetic potential of this polyploid crop.

Their research addresses two main questions:

  1. Which genes control wheat grain nutrient content?
  2. How are physical characteristics determined in crops with polyploid genomes?

Wheat is a polyploid species, therefore it has multiple copies of each gene, known as homoeologs. In general, it is not known if these copies have the same or different biological roles.

If the homoeologs have the same biological role then all the homoeologs would need to be targeted for crop improvement.

Therefore the group aims to understand how homoeologs influence wheat biology and to use this knowledge to improve the nutrient content of wheat.

To do this they use a wide range of techniques: from genetics, genomics and bioinformatics to greenhouse and field experiments.