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RIPE's Parry receives ISPR Innovation Award


Martin Parry surrounded by green.

In recognition of his outstanding achievements in the transfer of photosynthesis research to the benefit of society at large, Martin Parry has received the Innovation Award from the International Society on Photosynthesis Research (ISPR).

*All of our food, directly and indirectly, develops through the enzyme Rubisco, which is also the single most abundant protein on the plant,” said RIPE Director Stephen Long, Ikenberry Endowed University Chair of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology at Illinois’ Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology.   “Martin is the world expert on this protein and has led and succeeded in identifying more efficient forms that will be critical to improving food security*

The award was created in 2007 as a way for members of ISPR to celebrate the contributions the field of photosynthesis research has on emerging fields like solar energy and combatting climate change through practical applications. Parry, Research Leader for the Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) Project and Professor in Plant Sciences for Food Security within the Lancaster Environment Centre, was awarded along with his coauthor Maureen R. Hanson of Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, USA. Their paper, A faster Rubisco with potential to increase photosynthesis in crops, was published in Nature in 2014 and has impacted the translation of photosynthesis through its Rubisco findings ever since.

“It was the first time that people have been able to get foreign Rubisco expressed and functional inside a plant,” said Martin of the work. “This opened the avenue to make it more likely that we’ll be able to get a carbon concentrating mechanism incorporated into crops and reap the benefits from more efficient photosynthesis.”

While Martin noted that the work is just a step in the right direction he is proud of all the “small steps” they’ve taken toward proving the utility of Rubisco. His ultimate goal is to get the levels of expressed Rubisco high enough that farmers will be able to apply less nitrogen, photosynthetic activity will be increased, and those two changes will improve CO2 levels and have a positive effect on climate change.

Even with the recognition of his research progress and his hopes for future success, Martin is thankful for the team around him including additional paper authors Myat T. Lin, Alessandro Occhialini, and P. John Andralojc, and more recent colleagues Doug Orr, Dawn Worrall, and Elizabete Carmo-Silva for the award.

“It’s really exciting to win the award, it’s recognition for the hard work that’s been put in by the team over the years,” he said. “The work has really been built on a team effort from colleagues at Illinois, Cornell, Rothamsted, and Lancaster.

The ISPR Innovation Award is funded by LI-COR Biosciences. The RIPE Project, an international research project that aims to increase global food production by developing food crops that turn the sun’s energy into food more efficiently operates with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research, and U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office