Advancing Translation

Our team is exploring seven opportunities to improve photosynthesis. Each photosynthetic modification is tested in a single genotype of a model crop, tobacco. Tobacco was chosen as the initial test crop solely because it is relatively easy to engineer and work within the laboratory, greenhouse, and field—allowing us to apply the engineering principles of design, test, build until we achieve success. Photosynthesis is highly conserved across plants, meaning any breakthroughs identified in tobacco should be transferrable to important food crops. 

Transformations are confirmed, from gene expression to production of the targeted proteins, and then phenotyped in the greenhouse and tested in replicated field trials. Once our team identifies an opportunity to improve photosynthesis and boost crop productivity, we begin the process of translating these successes into staple food crops such as cassava, cowpea, maize, soybean, and rice. Photosynthetic improvements in food crops are then tested in laboratory, greenhouse, and field experiments to ensure each trait's efficacy.

Every trait will also undergo a rigorous regulatory approval process to ensure these crops are safe for the environment and consumption. We are committed to providing global access to the farmers and communities who need these technologies most.


Carl Bernacchi
Amanda De Souza
David Drag
Peng Fu headshot
TJ Higgins
Steve Long
Ting Lu
Mike Root
Matthew Siebers
Andrew Smith
Picture of ground breaking

New greenhouse coming to U of I's Research Park

A new state-of-the-art greenhouse is coming to the University of Illinois' Research Park.

By: Haydee Clotter | Illinois Fox News

Greenhouse mock-up

Research Park to welcome new greenhouse

Representatives from Illinois and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will break ground on a new, state-of-the-art greenhouse.

Cowpea seeds

As Nigeria makes final move to commercialise Bt cowpea

After nine years of intensive trials of the Bacillus thuringiences (Bt) cowpea, Nigeria finally begins the final processes towards commercialisation.

By: Leadership, a Nigerian newspaper

Representatives from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation breaking ground

Greenhouse groundbreaking at the University of Illinois Research Park

Representatives from Illinois and the Gates Foundation broke ground on a state-of-the-art greenhouse.

Picture of team

Scientists stack algorithms to improve predictions of yield-boosting crop traits

RIPE researchers have stacked together six algorithms to more accurately predict high-yielding crop traits. 

Scientist measuring a plant using spectral analysis.

Study reports breakthrough to measure plant improvements to help farmers boost production

A new method can quickly capture improvements to plants' natural capacity to harvest energy from the sun.