James Lloyd

Posted: Jun 14th, 2024

Research Associate

Astro Synthetic Botanist

My research background has focused on how plant genes turn on and off, and how we can engineer this to develop better, more versatile genetically modified crops. I have studied the basically processes of alternative splicing of transcripts, RNA decay, transcriptional repression and epigenetics, largely through a genomic’s lense, which allows me to take advantage of high-throughput sequence of DNA and RNA to study all of the genes of the genome at once.

Since joining Plant Energy Biology, I have focused my efforts on the creation of synthetic gene circuits. These are analogous to electronic circuits, which underpin modern computing. While we are not (yet) connecting electrodes to plants for this work, we take inspiration from how simple circuit components can be build used to generate circuits with different outputs. We have build circuits requiring both inputs to be on before the output is activated (an AND gate), but also a circuit that only requires one of two inputs to be on in order for the output to be made (OR gate), along with a range of other logic processes to customise the output based on input conditions. I led the creation of memory circuits that use DNA recombinases, that can permanently alter the DNA sequence in order to create the desired input-output response (link to article). I have also contributed to the creation of reversible gene circuits that take advantage of CRISPR interference to repress the output gene (link to article).

Currently I go by the title of “Astro Synthetic Botanist” as I try to apply our synthetic gene circuits to the problems of growing plants in space (and also in harsh environments here on Earth). As part of the ARC CoE in Plants for Space (P4S), we aim to make nutritionally complete plants that can satisfy all your dietary needs, as well as plants that act as bioproduction factories for important products, including therapeutics, that can be produced and purified locally in remote locations.