Wood formation involves a strictly controlled developmental programme in which stem cells proliferate, elongate, and differentiate into cell types that specialize in structural support, water transport and the transfer of metabolites. A dynamic network of regulatory genes ensures that xylem cells deposit thickened cell walls and undergo programmed cell death in a precisely controlled fashion. Using biotechnology and particularly synthetic biology, the team is interested in deciphering the structure of this network and strategically re-engineering its topology to alter wood development in forest trees such as Eucalyptus. Our group operates in close collaboration with the Forest Molecular Genetics Programme.

Research interests:

  • Development of gene regulatory network models of wood formation in Eucalyptus
  • Uncovering how DNA-binding proteins and the dynamic packaging of DNA influences gene expression during wood formation
  • Designing and producing synthetic gene constructs that can be easily assembled to facilitate woody biomass re-engineering approaches
  • Identifying and testing regulatory genes as potential candidates for altering wood development
  • Synthetic biology innovation and development of low-cost sensors and devices

Finally, we have set up local capacity for novice-friendly electronic engineering for biosensors and devices through the Biomaker Challenge, in partnership with the University of Cambridge and UP Makerspace.