2017 New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research

Markita Landry, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research awarded eight grants to the 2017 New Innovators in Food and Agriculture Research recipients. These awardees will receive a total of $4.8 million over five years. The New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research award is designed to provide the early investment needed to launch new faculty members into successful scientific careers in food and agriculture. Learn more about the FFAR New Innovators.

Research Project: Plant-Nanoparticle Hybrids: Optimize Crop Engineering and Nutrient Delivery

Markita Landry, Ph.D., examines nanomaterials in her lab.

Agricultural biology is at the crux of our sustainability efforts as we face the demands from a growing population and due to changing global climate. Implementing tools to transform agricultural practices are needed to keep pace with growing global food and energy needs. Recent progress in genome editing tools have revolutionized researcher abilities to genetically probe and modify living systems. To keep pace with growing demands on our food supply and energy needs, we require rapid improvements to the toolkit for understanding and controlling plants at the molecular level.

Nanomaterials hold great promise to advance our knowledge of – and toolset for – gene editing for plant science. This study will systematically characterize nanomaterial transport in plants to develop tools for nanoparticle-mediated gene editing of plants. This project is a first-of-its-kind, where nanomaterial-biomolecule conjugates will be systematically studied for applications in plant genome research. Furthermore, success in nanoparticle-mediate delivery of gene editing tools will produce a platform by which to genetically modify plants without DNA, which could transform our view of genetically modified foods. The present study is founded at the interface of nanomaterial science and plant biotechnology, will systematically unravel the complexity of nanomaterial interactions and transport in plants for gene editing.

Thegoals are to develop tools to enable broad-scale production of transgenic plants, which can mitigate the increasingly urgent need for sustainable and high-yielding crops. The study of nanomaterial biodistribution in plant systems, and leveraging their use to create mature plant genetic transformants will enable a synthetic method to create robust crops to meet our growing food and energy needs.

About Markita Landry, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, University of California, Berkeley

Markita Landry is an assistant professor in the department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.  She received a B.S. in Chemistry, and a B.A. in Physics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Additionally, she has held interim research positions at the Biophysics Institute at the Technical University of Munich, and at the center for nanobiosciences at Osaka University.

Her current research centers on the development of synthetic nanoparticle-polymer conjugates for the delivery of functional biomolecules and nutrients into plants. The Landry lab exploits the highly tunable chemical and physical properties of nanomaterials for targeted delivery of biological cargoes into plant cells and plastids. Her group’s work seeks to develop high-throughput technologies for the delivery of DNA, RNA, and protein into plants to facilitate the discovery of plant biosynthetic pathways, and to expedite testing of plant genotype-phenotype relationships. She is a recent recipient of early career awards from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, the Beckman Young Investigator program, and is a Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator.