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Medicinal Plant Consortium Mini-Symposium on Plant Genomics

Date: May 19, 2015 - 10:00 a.m. ET to 12:00 p.m. ET

Location: NIH Campus, Natcher Conference Center, Room D

Event Description

The Medicinal Plant Consortium (MPC) represents a large array of academic, governmental and private industry scientists across the US associated with the advancement of plants and plant biology for human health. The MPC wishes to help the NCCIH and other NIH Centers/Institutes fully appreciate the opportunities of emerging capabilities and research endeavors empowering current and future uses of plants for human health.

Agenda:

10:00 AM

Introductory comments - Craig Hopp, Ph.D.

10:20 AM

The Medicinal Plant Consortium – Joe Chappell, Ph.D., George A. Digenis Professor of Drug Design and Development, Professor and Chair, Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Kentucky

10:30 AM

Evidence for how exploratory science has translated into successes for botanical utilizations – Joseph Noel, Ph.D., Arthur and Julie Woodrow Chair, Director, Professor and Investigator, The Jack H. Skirball Center for Chemical Biology and Proteomics, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies & Howard Hughes Medical Institute

What shapes natural selection of specialized enzymes and metabolic pathways underlying the emergence and expansion of chemical diversity in living systems remains a fundamental yet largely unanswered question in evolutionary biology. For sessile organisms possessing the developmental and ecological complexity of plants, this rapid adaptive process is especially critical to their survival. These quickly diversifying natural chemistries mediate intra- and interspecies interactions resulting in survival, ecological fitness and plant variation-speciation. While largely untapped, this vast reservoir of bioactive chemicals has provided humans with a natural form of medicinal chemistry for the discovery of disease treatments and the identification of functional foods for health and well-being. A generalized platform for extracting and exploiting the biosynthetic relationships underpinning the molecular evolution and functional diversification of orthologous/homologous enzyme sequences up and down the green plant lineage and across related species of plants that produce this plethora of bioactive natural products is poised to rapidly translate basic discoveries into bona fide therapeutics and sustainable functional foods. This seamless merging of exploratory and translational biology will be facilitated by integrating advances in high content omic, phylogenetic, biochemical and structural technologies to fill the pipeline with predictive and sustainable access to existing, biosynthetically transformed and new specialized metabolic pathways related to health, well-being and resilience at the interface of plant-animal co-evolution.

10:50 AM

Advancing botanicals and dietary supplements with new computational/informatic tools – C. Robin Buell, Ph.D., MSU Foundation Professor & William J Beale Distinguished Faculty, Department of Plant Biology, Michigan State University

Advances in genomics, bioinformatics and computation now permit generation of complementary datasets that enable genome-guided discovery of natural products. Data from several plant natural product systems have revealed that coexpression, physical clustering within the genome, as well as phylogenetic and comparative genome analyses can provide powerful insight into candidate genes involved in natural product biosynthesis, regulation and transport. Application of these approaches in new species has the potential to generate a wide and novel range of discoveries for human health applications.

11:10 AM

Research advances with medicinal plants using new spatial and temporal analytics – Basil J. Nikolau, Ph.D., Frances M. Craig Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology, Director, Center of Metabolic Biology, WM Keck Metabolomics Research Laboratory, Iowa State University

Plant natural product systems have historically been the chemical templates for a large number of our pharmacological reagents. In the current technological setting that can readily reveal the genomic framework of these natural product systems, extracting and translating metabolic knowledge from these massive genomics datasets is the bottleneck that requires investments for the discovery of natural products. Analytical systems based on mass-spectroscopy, NMR, Raman and fluorescence spectroscopy are being applied to provide unprecedented insights into the spatial and temporal distribution of natural product metabolism that have the potential to generate new discoveries for human health applications.

11:30 AM

New Systems/Synthetic Biology tools for medicinal plants – Dan Voytas, Ph.D., Professor and Director, Center for Genome Engineering, Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development, University of Minnesota

Recent advances in genome engineering provide newfound control over a plant’s genetic material. It is now possible to alter DNA in living plant cells in a variety of ways, including introducing specific nucleotide substitutions in a gene to change a protein’s amino acid sequence, deleting genes or chromosomal segments, and inserting foreign DNA at precise genomic locations. Further, artificial transcriptional activators and repressors can be constructed to regulate the temporal and tissue-specific expression of target genes. Such technological advances promise to advance basic plant research by linking DNA sequences to biological function. Further, the biosynthetic capacity of plants can now be harnessed to produce the metabolites of pharmaceutical and industrial importance.

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