Plants and photosynthetic microbes have the extraordinary ability to convert light energy to chemical energy and as a consequence, they are the foundation of virtually all ecosystems and all agricultural systems on the planet.
The characteristics that make plants successful in natural ecosystems are often antithetical to agriculture and over 1000s of years we have domesticated plants to make better crops. The molecular genetics revolution of the 20th century has simultaneously provided a means to understand the relationship between plant genes and plant characteristics, and the ability to target and/or select specific genetic changes in plant genomes.
This combination of knowledge and technology opens the possibility for designer crops, and raises interesting questions about the governance of our food system.
Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser
Director, Sainsbury Laboratory University of Cambridge
Ottoline Leyser is Professor of Plant Development and Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. Her research focuses on understanding how plants adapt their growth and development to suit the environment in which they are growing.
Ottoline received her BA (1986) and PhD (1990) in Genetics from the University of Cambridge. After a period of post-doctoral research at Indiana University, she returned to the UK and took up a Lectureship at the University of York (1994), where she worked until moving to the Sainsbury Laboratory when it opened in 2011. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Member of the Leopoldina and a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences. She currently chairs the Royal Society’s Science Policy Expert Advisory Committee and serves on the Council for Science and Technology. In 2017 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to plant science, science in society and equality and diversity in science.