Dr Whitney’s career began with the discovery of unique forms of the photosynthetic CO2-fixing enzyme, Rubisco, in the symbiotic marine microalgae of corals and clams. In 1996 he moved to the Australian National University to begin postdoctoral studies where he showed crop Rubisco was not the pinnacle of evolution and began bioengineering Rubisco in plants by plastome transformation biotechnology. Since 2014 he has been a chief investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis where, using SynBiol approaches, his team have been able to successfully improve the CO2-fixing properties of Rubisco above that evolved by nature.
ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis, Australian National University
Talk title and synopsis
Improving Rubisco function and plant growth
Simulations of natural Rubisco kinetic diversity has identified variants beneficial to C3-photosynthesis. In this talk I will examine whether this diversity is sufficient to alter plant productivity and discuss the feasibility of directed evolution as a more feasible pathway towards generating the step change in Rubisco performance needed to visibly improve higher rates of leaf photosynthesis and plant growth.