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 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

– Diaz-Benito P, Banakar R, Rodriguez-Menendez S, Capell T, Pereiro R, Christou P, Abadia J, Fernandez B & Alvarez-Fernandez A 2018, ‘Iron and Zinc in the Embryo and Endosperm of Rice (Oryza sativa L.) Seeds in Contrasting 2 ‘-Deoxymugineic Acid/Nicotianamine Scenarios’, Frontiers In Plant Science, 9, 1190.

– L. Pérez, E. Soto, G. Villorbina, L. Bassie, V. Medina, P. Muñoz, T. Capell, C. Zhu, P. Christou  & G. Farré. 2018, ‘CRISPR/Cas9-induced monoallelic mutations in the cytosolic AGPase large subunit gene APL2 induce the ectopic expression of APL2 and the corresponding small subunit gene APS2b in rice leaves’, Transg Res 27: 423–439

– C. Zhu, G. Farré, D. Zanga, J. Lloveras, A. Michelena, J.P. Ferrio, J. Voltas, G. Slafer, R. Savin, R. Albajes, M. Eizaguirre, C. Lopez, C. Cantero-Martínez, J. Díaz-Gómez, C. Nogareda, J.A. Moreno, E. Angulo, J. Estany, R. N. Pena, M. Tor, M. Portero-Otin, N. Eritja, G. Arjó, J.C.E. Serrano, X. Matias-Guiu, R. M. Twyman, G. Sandmann, T. Capell & P. Christou 2018, ‘High-carotenoid maize: development of plant biotechnology prototypes for human and animal health and nutrition’, Phytochem Rev 17:195-209

– E. Vamvaka, G. Farré , L.M. Molinos-Albert, A. Evans, A. Canela-Xandri, R. M. Twyman, J. Carrillo, R.A. Ordóñez, R. Shattock, B.R. O’Keefe, B. Clotet, J. Blanco, G. S Khush, P. Christou & T. Capell 2018, ‘Unexpected synergistic HIV neutralization by a triple microbicide produced in rice endosperm‘. Proc Natl Acad Scie USA 115: E7854–E7862.

Selected research activities

Invited Lectures

  • Biofortified staple crops through metabolic engineering and synthetic biology strategies. Plant Biotechnology in the 21st Century. Univ Inter Menendez Pelayo & CIB Madrid.
  • Metabolic engineering through synthetic biology in cereals. Jaques Monod Conference. First International Plant Systems Biology Meeting, Roscoff, France.
  • Engineering natural products in plants for enhanced nutrition; 43rd FEBS Congress, Prague, The Czech Republic.