Products and Pathways (Theme 1)

We discover new plant and microbial products, elucidate how they are synthesised in the producing organisms, and use this information to design new products of value to humankind.

Important areas of research include:

1. Discovery of new products from actinomycetes, a class of soil bacteria that is already the source of half of all clinically- useful antibiotics

Our research shows that these organisms produce a huge number of products that may be useful as antibiotics but have not yet been identified and evaluated.

2. Identification of plant biochemical pathways that are responsible for the synthesis of compounds important in medicine and as herbicides, pesticides and industrial raw materials

Research will be done on plants including Madagascan periwinkle – which produces the anti-cancer drug vinblastine – and species used in Chinese traditional medicine.

3. Elucidation of the synthesis and use of starch in plants

Starch is the main source of calories in our diet, and a raw material in many manufacturing processes. Better understanding of how it is made and then used by plants would enable the design of starch with new properties, leading to new applications for this cheap, renewable and versatile product.

4. Improved understanding of how plants take up and store iron and zinc

These elements are essential micronutrients which we obtain from plant-based foods. The health of many people around the world is affected by insufficient levels of iron and zinc in their diets. To improve human health, we need to understand what factors determine the accumulation of zinc and iron in crop plants, and hence how levels might be increased.

Project Leaders: Prof Barrie Wilkinson, Dr Andy Truman, Prof Cathie Martin, Prof Anne Osbourn, Prof Sarah O’Connor, Prof Alison Smith, Prof Rob Field, Dr Janneke Balk, Prof Dale Sanders, Dr Tony Miller