Research underpinning the development of plants and microbes as green factories is focused in the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP), based in the Department of Biology at the University of York. Founded in 1999 with the help of a benefaction from the Garfield Weston Foundation, CNAP is an award winning, internationally recognised centre delivering research excellence with impact. Research is undertaken by around 80 staff and students in a highly distinctive academic environment, led by five professors: Ian Bancroft, Neil Bruce, Robert Edwards, Ian Graham and Simon McQueen-Mason (CNAP Director).
Biorenewables are a major research focus of CNAP, with well-established programmes in industrial biotechnology and bioenergy encompassing areas such as plant oils and high value chemicals for a range of industrial applications, along with projects aimed at biomass development for use as biofuels. We routinely use molecular breeding technologies for the rapid improvement of both domesticated and wild species for food and other high value chemical based applications. For example, over the past six years the CNAP Artemisia Research Project has successfully developed new varieties of the medicinal plant Artemisia annua; the primary source of the leading anti-malarial drug artemisinin (www.york.ac.uk/org/cnap/artemisiaproject).
Building on the successful CNAP model, the University of York has recently established the Biorenewables Development Centre as a not-for profit company that provides industry with new processes to convert plants and biowastes into high value products (www.biorenewables.org).
CNAP receives support for specific research programmes from a range of sources including the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, EU framework programmes, government departments and industry.
Professor Ian Graham, CNAP Director 2008- 2013 (Professor Simon McQueen-Mason takes over as CNAP Director from 1st January 2014)
£10m funding has been awarded for major projects led by CNAP professors. Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC's Chief Executive, stated: "This public funding offers long-term support to address major research challenges, while building research capacity in important areas and maximising economic and social benefits for the UK."
BBSRC report a recent discovery by a CNAP team led by Rob Edwards along with colleagues at the University of Durham: the gene AmGSTF1 plays a key role in controlling multi-herbicide resistance in blackgrass and ryegrass.
CNAP scientists led by Ian Graham have found that a regulator gene called SPATULA can control the expression of five other genes known to affect when a seed germinates. A report on the work has just been published in the PNAS journal early online edition.
Researchers in CNAP together with colleagues at the University of Portsmouth and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the USA have determined the structure and function of a key enzyme used by gribble to digest wood. An article by the team has just been published in the journal PNAS.
Research by CNAP and the University's Centre for Immunology and Infection (CII) published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry demonstrates that natural dietary flavonoids have a wide range of effects, with important implications for diet and in the development of new pharmaceuticals.
The University of York and Fera have announced a new joint venture: an Initiative in Agrifood Resilience. The initative brings together their scientific expertise to address the key challenges of food security and environmental sustainability amid unprecedented global challenges in the agri-food supply chain. Rob Edwards leads the initiative.
New Scientist journal article features work by Rob Edwards and his team to address the problems posed by the presence of herbicide resistant weeds such as black-grass and annual ryegrass in cereal crops. An in-depth report by the team has just been published in the journal PNAS.
Congratulations to the CNAP poppy team led by Ian Graham for their Excellence award and to Simon McQueen-Mason for his Internationalisation award in the prestigious, university-wide scheme, the Vice-Chancellor's Awards for Outstanding Achievement 2013.
We are delighted to announce that the Department of Biology at the University of York will be welcoming three new Plant Biology colleagues in the coming months, including Professor Ian Bancroft, currently at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, who will join CNAP in August 2013. Ian's research is focussed on understanding genome structure, function and evolution in the Brassicaceae, plus the genetic regulation of seed storage lipid accumulation and other traits relevant to sustainability of the UK oilseed rape crop. The other Plant Biology colleagues joining the Department will be Professor Seth Davis and Dr Michael Haydon.
Ian Graham was a finalist in the Social Innovator of the Year category, and was nominated for his work applying molecular breeding approaches to create improved varieties of pharmaceutical crops.
Tiny bugs could supply the enzymes needed for modern bioenergy - Simon McQueen-Mason and Will Eborall of CNAP describe their ongoing research.
Researchers from the UK, USA and India led by CNAP begin a major project to develop new strains of rice to to meet challenging weather conditions. Video feature describes the project.
A team led by Neil Bruce is in the final of the 2014 BBSRC Innovator of the Year competition in recognition of their work on developing plants to clean up land polluted with explosives.
CNAP scientists led by Ian Graham report development of hemp plants yielding high quality oil for use in cooking and industrial applications (in Plant Biotechnology Journal online).
BBSRC have just announced funding awards for Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (NIBB). Two of these will be led by CNAP professors - Plant Biomass Biorefinery Network (Simon McQueen-Mason); High Value Chemicals from Plants Network (Ian Graham).
CNAP Director, Professor Simon McQueen-Mason
CNAP, Department of Biology, University of York, Wentworth Way, York YO10 5DD, UK