Dr. Ed Buckler is a USDA-ARS Research Geneticist & Group Leader at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. The Buckler lab uses functional genomic approaches to dissect complex traits in maize, cassava, and grapes. The lab exploit the natural diversity of these plant genomes to identify the individual nucleotides responsible for complex (quantitative) variation and then apply it to US and global breeding. The methods that have developed are applied to all areas of genetics including medicine, agriculture, and conservation.
Dr. Dan Voytas is a Professor and a Director of the Center for Genome Engineering, Colleges of Biological Sciences, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN. The Voytas lab uses targeted plant genome modification for understanding plant gene function in order to develop crop plants with new traits of value. The lab has enabled efficient methods for targeted genome modification of plants using sequence-specific nucleases. With zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs), TAL effector nucleases (TALENs), and the CRISPR/Cas9 system, the lab has achieved targeted gene knockouts, replacements and insertions in a variety of plant species. The current focus of the lab is on optimizing delivery of nucleases and donor DNA molecules to plant cells to more efficiently achieve targeted genetic alterations.
Dr. Harry J. Klee is a professor at Horticultural Sciences Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. The Klee lab is working to understand the chemical and genetic make-up of “flavor” in fruits and vegetables. While the lab emphasize tomato in the research, the lab also have conducted research on melons, strawberries and lettuce. The taste of a tomato is the consequence of the interactions of sugars, acids and a set of 15-20 volatile compounds. These volatiles are derived from a diverse set of precursors, including amino acids, fatty acids and carotenoids. The lab is trying to understand how all of these chemicals are integrated into the unique flavor of a tomato, which is not clearly understood. Further, the lab has also exploited the large scale screening of heirlooms to identify the very best ones and has crossed those with modern cultivars resulting in varieties with heirloom taste and vastly improved performance.
Dr. Robert Meeley is a Senior Scientist and Manager in Pioneer’s Trait Discovery organization. His group focuses on integrated genetic strategies Native Trait Discovery and Genome Editing. Native Trait Discovery seeks to isolate maize genes controlling important plant phenotypes, using positional cloning, transposon tagging and sequence-based evaluation of natural or induced variation for important traits, including plant architecture and disease resistance. Genome editing emphasizes CRISPR-Cas projects on Next Generation Waxy Corn, a collaboration with CIMMYT on Maize Lethal Necrosis, “allele-swap” concepts for better disease tolerance, and exploratory concepts to alter plant architecture.
Linda L. Walling is a Professor, Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, University of California-Riverside. The walling lab is working to understand plant responses to wounding, pathogens, and herbivores. Two research projects dominate the current lab research initiatives. First, dissecting the mechanisms used to perceive phloem-feeding whiteflies in squash, tomato and Arabidopsis. Second, the lab identified a peptidase (leucine aminopeptidase) that responds to bacterial pathogens, wounding and tissue-damaging herbivores. This enzyme has led the lab to study the role of N-terminal processing enzymes during development and in response to stress. The lab utilize multidisciplinary approaches in both projects by incorporating the tools of biochemistry, genetics, cell biology, and genomics.