OpenPlant work programme
Current agricultural practices and cultivation of trees, crops and pastures are responsible for major pressures on natural environments and land use globally. The OpenPlant initiative brings together an exceptional collection of scientists, whose skill sets range from biophysics, chemistry and DNA assembly to crop physiology and agronomy. In addition, we have recruited experts involved in conservation, entrepreneurship, law, policy development and the social sciences in Cambridge and elsewhere in the UK – who have demonstrated an interest in tackling the technical aspects of surveying future technologies. An overarching aim of the project is to provide a map of feasible technical approaches to improving bioproduction and agriculture – including studies of possible economic models, opportunities and social implications for different scenarios and current practices.
The OpenPlant initiative supports two tiers of activities.
First, we are developing open technologies that will underpin systematic approaches to bioengineering of plants. These include:
Workpackage A: Development of the lower plant Marchantia as a simple and facile chassis for Synthetic Biology, to enable high throughput screening and analysis at the cellular scale.
Workpackage B: A common syntax for plant DNA parts and assembly of genetic circuits. Establishment of a moderated archive for publication of DNA part descriptions.
Workpackage C: New DNA parts for the control and quantitative imaging of genetic circuits.
Workpackage D: Techniques for routine genome-scale engineering in plants.
Workpackage E: Software tools with improved performance for DNA part catalogues, automated assembly, modelling of synthetic gene circuits and cellular morphogenesis.
Second, the development of new tools is contributing to the engineering of new traits in plants:
Workpackage F: Altered photosynthesis and leaf structure.
Workpackage G: Changes in plant carbohydrate content.
Workpackage H: Engineered pathways for the metabolic engineering of natural products.
Workpackage I: New forms of symbiosis and nitrogen fixation for crop plants.
Workpackage J: Methods for high level production of biomolecules by transient expression.
Workpackage K: Annual funding round to support small-scale interdisciplinary grants.
Workpackage L: Outreach activities, training and tools for open exchange of DNA parts and other reagents in biotechnology.