Paul Christou

Universitat de Lleida

Life & Medical Sciences

BS Chemistry & PhD Plant Biochemistry, University College London. Senior Scientist at Agracetus Inc., Madison, WI, USA, where he developed genetic transformation technology that lead his group to generate the first commercial crop sold by Monsanto (Roundup Ready Soybean). Subsequently Head of Molecular Biotechnology Unit, John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK-led the Tropical Maize and Rice Biotechnology Laboratory sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation. Head Crop Genetics & Biotechnology Department, Fraunhofer Institute Molecular Biotechnology & Applied Ecology, Aachen, Germany. Currently at Universitat de Lleida as an ICREA Professor & Head of the Applied Plant Biotechnology Laboratory. Founding Director Agrotecnio CERCA Center, 2013-2015. Recipient of ERC Advanced Grant BIOFORCE and ERC PoC Grant Multinutrient Maize. Received 2 Bill & Melinda Gate's grants, one ongoing. PI in 12 EU projects over past 25 years 2 as coordinator and 2 as deputy coordinator

Research interests

Our programs rely on our unique multi-gene/multi-pathway engineering capabilities to generate plants with high value recombinant pharmaceuticals for human health and veterinary medicine; cereals with enhanced nutrition, and novel strategies of sustainable agriculture with emphasis on developing countries, poverty alleviation and food security. More recently we established 3 active collaborations with industry which have led to one patent application filed in Nov 2017 (in the process of being licensed to an industrial collaborator) and 2 other patent applications in preparation. A recent major focus is plant synthetic biology and genome editing. Our group is heavily involved in training and capacity building in plant biotechnology focusing on developing countries. We also develop tools, methodology and a comprehensive understanding of the essential mechanisms underpinning the creation and performance of genome edited plants for the application of synthetic biology to major crops.

Selected publications

- Zhu C, Bortesi L, Baysal C, Twyman RM, Fischer R, Capell T, Schillberg S & Christou P 2017, 'Characteristics of genome editing mutations in cereal crops', Trends in Plant Sci, 22: 38-52.

- Díaz-Gómez J, Twyman RM, Zhu C, Farré G, Serrano JCE, Portero-Otin M, Muñoz P, Sandmann G, Capell T & Christou P 2017, 'Biofortification of crops with nutrients: factors affecting utilization and storage', Current Opinion in Biotechnol, 44: 115–123.

- Banakar R, Alvarez Fernández A, Abadía J, Capell T & Christou P 2017, 'The expression of heterologous Fe (III) phytosiderophore transporter HvYS1 in rice increases Fe uptake, translocation and seed loading and excludes heavy metals by selective Fe transport', Plant Biotechnol J 15: 423-432.

- Berman J, Zorrilla-López U, Medina V, Farré G, Sandmann G, Capell T, Christou P & Zhu C 2017, 'The Arabidopsis ORANGE (AtOR) gene promotes carotenoid accumulation in transgenic corn hybrids derived from parental lines with limited carotenoid pools', Plant Cell Reports, 36:933–945.

- Díaz-Gómez J, Moreno JA, Angulo E, Sandmann G, Zhu C, Ramos AJ, Capell T, Christou P & Nogareda C 2017, 'High-carotenoid biofortified maize is an alternative to color additives in poultry feed', Animal Feed Sci and Technol, 231: 38–46.

- Banakar R, Alvarez Fernandez A, Díaz-Benito P, Abadia J, Capell T & Christou P 2017, 'Phytosiderophores determine thresholds for iron and zinc accumulation in biofortified rice endosperm while inhibiting the accumulation of cadmium', J Exp Bot, 68: 4983–4995.

Selected research activities

Graduated 10 PhD and 12 MS thesis in the past 5 years. Funding well in excess of € 5.2 million in the 2013-2017 period. Delivered 44 keynote/plenary/invited lectures in the past 5 years. Active in dissemination and public perception of GMOs with 28 popular lectures and 26 interviews in national and international media (newspaper, radio, TV) in the past 5 years. Two issued Spanish patents (currently at PCT) and one filed US patent (November 2017).