Professor Ian A Graham FRS
Head of Department and Weston Chair of Biochemical Genetics

Profile

Career

 

2014 - present Head of Department Department of Biology, University of York
2008 - 2013 CNAP Director CNAP, Department of Biology, University of York
2003 - 2008 CNAP Deputy Director CNAP, Department of Biology, University of York
1999 - present Chair of Biochemical Genetics Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP), Department of Biology, University of York
1998 - 1999 Senior Lecturer Division of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Glasgow
1994 SERC/NATO funded research scientist Department of Plant Biology, Carnegie Institute, Stanford
1993 - 1998 Lecturer Division of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Glasgow
1990 - 1993 Post-doctoral research fellow Department of Plant Science, University of Oxford
1986 - 1989 PhD PhD    Department of Botany, University of Edinburgh
1982 - 1986 BSc First Class Honours in Botany and Genetics The Queens University Belfast

Research

Overview

Plants make an amazing array of chemical structures, and we are interested in working out how they do this, plus how we can develop them to make useful molecules. I have two main areas of interest, one focused on understanding the regulation of processes associated with seed germination and the other focused on discovering and improving the production of high value chemicals in plants. Current projects range from lipid signals and transcription factors that control seed dormancy and germination to the development of medicinal crops such as Artemisia annua and Papaver somniferum (opium poppy).

Discoveries

Seed germination is crucial for survival of plants in the wild and is also important for commercial seed production where there is a need to ensure uniform growth. We have recently discovered that during seed development a transcription factor called SPATULA controls the expression of a network of five other regulatory genes that are known to affect when a seed germinates (Vaistij et al., 2013).    

With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we have developed improved varieties of the Artemisia annua plant, which is the source of artemisinin, the World Health Organisation recommended drug that kills the malaria parasite. Our studies have resulted in the first genetic map for the plant, published in the leading journal Science in 2010, and a partnership with industry that is delivering improved hybrid seed into the developing world supply chain (see project website for further details: http://www.york.ac.uk/org/cnap/artemisiaproject/index.htm).

 In partnership with GlaxoSmithKline Australia, in 2012 we discovered the genetic basis for production of the antitussive and anticancer compound noscapine in opium poppy. A ten gene cluster encoding five different enzyme classes has evolved to produce noscapine, which is currently in early stage clinical trials in the USA. This breakthrough, published in the journal Science in 2012, will lead to the improved production of noscapine and related bioactive molecules. In June 2015 we reported a key genetic discovery that paves the way for more effective painkillers. This discovery, published in Science, reveals the long sought after gene that is seen as a critical gateway step in the synthesis of the morphinan class of alkaloids, which include the painkiller drugs morphine and codeine.

Projects

A sustainable supply of artemisinin from high-yield Artemisia annua for treatment of malaria 
Funding body: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
 
Molecular breeding of a commercial pharmaceutical crop
Funding body: Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Pty Ltd 

Understanding the regulation of alkaloid biosynthesis in opium poppy and breeding new varieties
Funding body: BBSRC (Industrial Partnership Award)

High Value Chemicals from Plants (HVCfP) network
Funding body: BBSRC

Developing platforms for the production of diterpenoids
Funding body: Innovate UK

Research group(s)

StatusNameProject
Snr Research Administrator Judith Mitchell

Various, including poppy etc

Research Associate Dr Theresa Catania  Understanding the regulation of alkaloid biosynthesis in opium poppy and breeding new varieties
Senior Research Associate Dr Tomasz Czechowski Developing platforms for the production of diterpenoids // A sustainable supply of artemisinin from high-yield Artemisia annua for treatment of malaria 
Research Associate Dr Anuja Dave Assessing treatment with miltefosine as an intervention strategy for visceral leishmaniasis in Brazil
Research Associate Dr Edith Forestier Developing platforms for the production of diterpenoids
Senior Research Associate Dr Tony Larson Leads CNAP Metabolite Profiling Unit (50% time)
Senior Research Associate Dr Yi Li Head of CNAP Bioinformatics Unit 
Research Associate Dr Mauro Rinaldi A sustainable supply of artemisinin from high-yield Artemisia annua for treatment of malaria
Research Associate Dr Sandesh Swamidatta Developing platforms for the production of diterpenoids 
Senior Research Associate Dr Fabian Vaistij Various (Arabidopsis based)
Senior Research Associate Dr Thilo Winzer Head of CNAP Molecular Breeding Unit
  Dr Caroline Calvert High Value Chemicals from Plants (HVCfP) Network / A sustainable supply of artemisinin from high-yield Artemisia annua for treatment of malaria / Developing platforms for the production of diterpenoids
  Dr Wendy Lawley High Value Chemicals from Plants (HVCfP) Network 
PhD student Adama Cole Factors regulating the control of dormancy and seed germination in the model oilseed Arabidopsis
Senior Research Technicial Amy Cording Developing platforms for the production of diterpenoids
Senior Research Technician Samantha Donninger Molecular breeding of a commercial pharmaceutical crop
Senior Research Technician Alison Gilday Developing platforms for the production of diterpenoids
Technical Specialist David Harvey

CNAP Metabolite Profiling Unit

Senior Research Technician, (70% FTE) Jennifer Hodson Poppy research support
Professor Ian A Graham

Contact details

Prof. Ian A Graham FRS
Head of Department and Weston Chair of Biochemical Genetics
Department of Biology
University of York
York
YO10 5DD

Tel: 01904 328750

http://www.york.ac.uk/org/cnap/