Research group

Patron Group

Developing and applying engineering approaches to understand biological complexity and advance plant biotechnology

Group activities.

Plants provide us with food, textiles, building materials and numerous metabolic compounds used in health and industry. They also provide the potential for rapid production of complex molecules from water and light.

Until recently, we lacked the tools and data necessary for complex engineering of plant systems. The application of engineering principles to plant biology has enabled us to establish platforms for high-throughput, automated, experimentation at nanoscales. In our lab, we develop and apply engineering approaches to understand biological complexity and advance plant biotechnology.

Our research is focused on:

  1. Understanding the intrinsic and emergent properties of gene regulatory elements, the role of network motifs and, ultimately, how phenotypes emerge from network functions. We apply computational tools and use rewiring and reconstruction to investigate the relationship between sequence and function. Our long-term goals are to develop the knowledge and technologies required to manipulate plant responses through the rational engineering of gene regulatory networks.
  2. Exploring and utilising metabolic diversity. Plants synthesise a multitude of specialised metabolites, many of which have potential in human health and industry. We integrate genomics, metabolomics and transcriptomics to investigate the genetic basis of these molecules, enabling us to understand mechanisms of metabolic diversification and explore methods for biomanufacturing. We also develop plants as photosynthetic biomanufacturing platforms, applying engineering approaches to improve purity and yield.
Colleagues from the Patron Group gathered around a table during their weekly lab meetings.