University of California, Davis - BioFuels & Antibiotics

Food doesn’t grow in the grocery stores – food grows in real farms with real hard-working people. And we scientists have a message and we have a challenge to face in order to expand our repertoires of plants, how they grow, what we are growing, and increase productivity.

My name is Katie Dehesh. I’m a professor at Plant Biology Department, College of Biological Sciences, at University of California Davis.

We have two different research programs. One of them is focused on production of oil in vegetative tissues as a source of biofuels, and the other one is plant stress responses with the final goal of finding plants as a platform for identification of novel drugs for malaria and antibiotics.

In terms of the oil production, we have identified the number of genes that, if introduced into the leaves or high biomass part of the plant, we can produce oil. We are hoping to tweak that to the higher economically viable levels in order to use plants as a platform for biofuel production of actual biodiesel, rather than ethanol.

The other project is that we have identified the bi-chemical pathway, which is shared between plants, bacteria, and malaria. And this pathway we have tagged it in a way that we can follow how the plants responds to various chemicals that either upregulates or downregulates this pathway, and whatever downregulates it, could be a potential candidate for drugs, antibiotics, and anti-malaria drugs.

To be honest, it may sound conceded, but I think the growth chambers in UC Davis are number one in the world. That is something that I always boast about wherever I go. The way it’s been run, the way it’s been managed, the way that people respond to a request is absolutely amazing and I’m delighted and honored to be here to be able to use it.