Dr. Martin is graduated from University of Calicut, Kerala, India in 2001. He is a recipient of the prestigious UKEIRI-India research fellowship, and he performed his research to enhance the production of pharmaceutical compounds in medicinal plants using molecular tools in De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. He continued his research in Blumwald Lab, University of California, Davis as a postdoctoral fellow (2009-2014), and worked on the development of abiotic stress tolerant plants through genetic transformation. He started his research in KCGEB in 2014.
Research Summary: Crops tolerant to abiotic stresses
Crops growth is severely affected by the abiotic stresses such as drought, temperature and salinity. The development of crops adaptable to stress conditions addresses agricultural productivity. Plants surviving the extreme adverse conditions of UAE are the potential sources of unique genetic determinants conferring tolerance to various abiotic stresses. A number of genes enabling the plants to adapt the stress conditions have been identified and cloned from the plants growing well in the UAE conditions. The research focus is to functionally characterize these genes as to the stress conditions, and also to be stacked to compete high to the stresses. Besides, promoters inducing the expression of the key genes conferring tolerance to different stresses have also been identified and cloned. The genes conferring tolerance to different stresses under the control of these inducible promoters are used to develop genetically modified crops adaptable to the various stresses. The strategies include genomics, proteomics, molecular biology, plant transformation, and metabolomics approaches to characterize the genes. The target crops are tomato, eggplant, peanut, quinoa, pearl millet, maize, and date palm. In addition, the research on fruit crops focuses on flowering time, ripening and other novel fruit traits.
CRISPR/Cas9, the designer nuclease enables to switch genes off by knocking out or inserting new sequences with surgical precision at a specific site in the genome. The state-of-the-art Genome Editing technology have extensive practical applications in agriculture such as the development of new crop varieties, high-yielding crops tolerant to abiotic and biotic stresses, and fruits/vegetables/grains of high nutritional value. The research is focusing to develop crops with high tolerance to abiotic stresses, and also fruits with improved quality using CRISPR/Cas.
Dr. Ling joined the Khalifa Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology as a Senior Research Associate in 2014. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from the Ohio State University (Ohio, USA). She completed her doctoral degree in Molecular Genetics under the supervision of Professor Harald Vaessin at the Ohio State University in 2000. Her doctoral research focused on cell cycle regulation of the neuronal stem cells. In 2001, she joined the Bruce Edgar laboratory at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center – FHCRC (Seattle, USA) as a postdoctoral fellow to work on cell cycle and cell growth regulations. In 2008, she continued her research in the Eisenman laboratory at the FHCRC, focusing on post-translational regulations of the Myc oncogene.
Research Summary:Learning from halophytes for crop improvement
Increased salinity is a major abiotic stress resulting in both osmotic and ionic stresses presenting a great challenge for plant growth and crop productivity. Through various changes in genetic, metabolic and physiological traits, local plants growing in the UAE are well adapted to different abiotic stresses in the arid or semi-arid environment. These plants could potentially provide important genetic resources for crop improvement to enhance abiotic stress tolerance. As majority of crops are glycophytes, i.e. sensitive to saline environment, an enhancement in their salt tolerance could contribute to overall increase in crop production.
The research interests of my group are to investigate and utilize the natural genetic potential of abiotic stress tolerant halophyte for crop improvement. We are keen to understand how these halophytes survive in the saline environment through their physiological, biochemical and anatomical adaptations. Comparative genomic and transcriptomic studies on related halophytes and glycophytes could provide some vital insights into the ionic, molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in salt tolerance. By incorporating comparative genomics, bioinformatics and bio-engineering, my group aims to identify and analyze novel salt-responsive genes and regulatory elements that contribute to overall salt tolerance in local halophyte. The identified genes and regulatory elements will be utilized to improve salt tolerance in the crops using genetic engineering approach.
Dr. Suja obtained PhD in Biotechnology from University of Madras in 2008. Her doctoral work involved understanding the molecular mechanisms of abiotic stress tolerance in the drought tolerant plant Prosopis juliflora. She worked as Senior scientist and later Principal Scientist at M.S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), India until 2019. During this period, she received several awards and research fellowships such as DBT CREST fellowship 2011, Indo-US research fellowship 2012, Indo-U.S. Genome Engineering/Editing Technology Initiative (GETin) Fellowship 2018, SERB Early Career Research Award 2018 etc. As part of the fellowships, she gained postdoctoral experience from research labs in University of Illinois (2011) and University of California, Davis (2012-13, 2018-19). Her research career focuses on understanding plant abiotic stress tolerance and developing crop plants tolerant to drought and salinity. She joined KCGEB in 2019.
Dr. Manish Roorkiwal joined the Khalifa Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (KCGEB) as a Research A. Professor - Genomics Breeding. Dr Roorkiwal is also associated with the Institute of Agriculture, the University of Western Australia as an Adjunct Associate Professor. Before joining KCGEB, Dr Roorkiwal worked at International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) Hyderabad, India, on Genomics, Pre-Breeding and Bioinformatics. Dr Roorkiwal earned his PhD in Biotechnology with a specialization in Applied Genomics from the GGSIP University of India in 2013. During his PhD, he mainly focused on identifying drought-responsive candidate genes and candidate gene-based association mapping in chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.). With a basic background in molecular genetics and applied genomics, Dr Roorkiwal has extensive research experience in improving the crop productivity of legumes in marginal environments using modern genetics and breeding approaches, including identifying candidate genes and their functional validation genomics-assisted breeding. With a strong interest in modern breeding approaches such as genomic selection, next-generation sequencing-based re-sequencing, and low-cost genotyping to enhance the use of markers in routine breeding. He is also known for leading the efforts in developing cost-effective (low-, mid- and high-density) genotyping platforms enabling the use of markers in routine breeding programs. With a vast experience in international agriculture, he has published >50 research in high impact journals, including Nature, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Genetics, Trend in Plant Science, Trends in Genetics, Plant Biotechnology Journal, etc. In addition, to his credits, he has also contributed to the development and release of several molecular breeding products for drought tolerance and disease resistance for commercial cultivation in India and Ethiopia. Dr Roorkiwal is a dedicated Agriculture Scientist with expertise in Genomic Breeding, Plant Biotechnology, Genomics, and Next-generation sequencing.
Genomic breeding platform to develop improved climate-resilient varieties
Improved crop cultivars are a key component of agri-food systems, and business-as-usual breeding scenarios do not suffice to meet future agri-food system demands. Technology advancement provides unique opportunities to identify and deploy superior allele(s)/gene(s) for climate-smart traits, innovations and enabling technologies for improving crop genetics to address the future climate change related challenges for desert agriculture. We focus on establishing efficient crop breeding through collaborative development of timely interventions and technologies to develop and deliver improved varieties well adapted to existing and evolving climate conditions. We envisage the integration of breeding technologies innovations, precision phenotyping platforms, and big data management to bridge knowledge gaps for implementing genomics breeding to deliver climate-resilient improved crop varieties. The group is focusing on –
Research Summary:Genomics and Bioinformatics
Khaled Hazzouri’s bioinformatic group is dedicated to provided extensive state-of-the-art genomics and bioinformatics expertise to other researchers at the KCGEB. His group offers support in the Next-generation sequencing (NGS) experimental design, sample quality-control, sequencing and large data analysis. The group is specialized in the discovery of novel molecular markers from the microorganisms, plants, insects, birds and microbes in the UAE, centering on the use of DNA polymorphisms, differential gene-expression and chromatin modifications that can have a potential application from a translational genomics into a commercial crop such as Tomato, Eggplant and Water Spinach.
Bioinformatics pipelines: Transcriptomics; Computational Genomics; Comparative Genomics; Functional Genomics; Genetic Variation Analysis; Metagenomics; Pathogen bioinformatics; Plant-Pathogen genomics.
The group activities include –
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