Plants play an essential role in human life and environmental sustainability. Significant progress has been made in the domestication and improvement of crop plants using breeding, along with limited genetic modifications. However, the slow, incremental improvement of plant varieties/cultivars based on traditional breeding and genetic engineering will not be adequate to meet the requirements for crop quality and yield to support a better quality of life and to feed the increasing global population in the future. Plant biosystems design, which is an interdisciplinary research field seeking to redesign natural plant organisms or create new plant biosystems, shows a great promise to expand the potential of plants for enhancing food and energy security, environmental sustainability, and human health. Specifically, plant biosystems design can facilitate basic plant biology research to gain deep understanding of molecular functions and biological processes in plant biosystems. Also, it can be used for applied plant science research in various aspects, such as enhancing photosynthetic efficiency, plant stress resistance, crop quality, climate change mitigation, bioeconomy, and bioenergy production. In spite of vast opportunities available in the application of plant biosystems design, there are multiple challenges to be addressed for realizing the potential of biosystems design in plants, such as the complexity of plant biosystems causing a big problem for programmable design and a lack of platforms for international collaborations.
Dr. Xiaohan Yang is a Senior Staff Scientist in the Synthetic Biology Group in Biosciences Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). He is a co-editor-in-chief of BioDesign Research. His research covers plant genome editing, plant metabolic pathway engineering, synthetic biology tool development, secure biosystems design, and plant genomics, with a focus on bioenergy crops and plant-microbe interactions to solve renewable energy and environmental challenges. He won a R&D 100 Award in 2018.
For details of his research and recent publication, please visit HERE
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