Professor of Plant Biology, Sainsbury Laboratory

Professor Jonathan Jones did his PhD at the Plant Breeding Institute in Cambridge, and then worked on symbiotic nitrogen fixation at Harvard. He began making GM plants in 1983 at a startup agbiotech company, Advanced Genetic Sciences (now defunct) in Oakland California, where he worked for 5 years. He used the GM method to make discoveries about what regulates gene expression in GM plants, and about plant transposable DNA.

Since 1988, Jones has been a researcher at the Sainsbury Lab in Norwich (www.tsl.ac.uk), funded largely by David Sainsbury’s private charity the Gatsby Foundation. He has led a well-regarded basic research program into mechanisms of plant disease and plant disease resistance, for which he was elected EMBO member in 1999 and FRS in 2003. He is one of the highest cited plant scientists in Europe ((http://www.labtimes.org/labtimes/ranking/2013_04/index2.lasso).

In addition to his basic science programs, Jones has isolated and is isolating new resistance genes against potato late blight from wild relatives of potato, with the goal of using them to deliver market-favoured potato varieties that are protected from late blight by genes, rather than by chemistry. Patents have been filed on the Rpi-vnt1 gene, which was trialled in Norfolk, and the gene is being commercialized in the US by Simplot (www.simplot.com).

Because of his 30+ years of experience with using the GM method, his distinguished academic career, his commitment to public engagement, his familiarity with the seeds and agbiotech industry, and his concern that the potential benefits of using GM methods be brought to public use and not carelessly spurned, he is sporadically called upon to provide advice to government. He was a coauthor on http://royalsociety.org/policy/publications/2009/reaping-benefits/ and on the annexe to a recent report about GM requested by the Council on Science and Technology (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/genetic-modification-gm-technologies).

Experience

  • –present
    Professor of Plant Biology, The Sainsbury Laboratory