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Sainsbury Laboratory

Plant biotechnology and synthetic biology

My research interests are plant biotechnology and synthetic biology. My current projects focus on the development of synthetic light-controlled gene expression systems for plants and exploring the role plant hormones could play in the perennialization of annual plants. Entrepreneurially minded, I work on developing new tools that advance our research field, but also have potential impact in industry or agronomy. Beyond the lab I have worked in an advisory capacity with biotechnology firms across recycling, biomaterials, and agriculture projects. Before pursuing my PhD, I graduated with first class honors in Physics and Molecular & Cell Biology from University College London.



Biosensors our group develop visualise how plant hormone distribution patterns change across developmental processes. We want to perturb hormone distribution to understand if distribution changes are caused by or are responsible for the developmental changes. To this end I am developing synthetic light-controlled gene expression systems for use in plants. Beyond fundamental research, this technology could be used to control plant development or metabolism to optimise greenhouse yields or high value chemical production in plants.



Annual crops expend energy on vegetative tissues lost with reproduction whereas perennial plants achieve returns over longer time-frames. Selectively controlling perennial features could allow us to optimise crop yields. In the Arabidopsis soc1 ful mutant, some axillary meristems revert to a ‘perennialised’ state and produce aerial rosettes. By combining FRET-based biosensors with light-controlled gene expression systems I want to gain a quantitative understanding of how GA contributes to meristem identity and when and where GA levels must be perturbed to engineer new behaviors.


Biotechnology advocacy and commercialisation

Alongside my research I try to make the benefits of biotechnological advances available to society by engaging with commercialisation and policy debate. As a consultant I have advised synthetic biology and technology start-ups on market research, defining a business model and go-to-market strategy, and operational scaling drawing on my research and scientific background. Together with the Wilberforce Society, a think tank, I have instigated and edited a policy paper on post-Brexit GMO regulation and contributed to a government consultation.



Hofmann, Roberto. (2021). The Real and Perceived Risks of Genetically Modified Organisms - With a View on Changing Policy Following Brexit. The Wilberforce Society.

Griffiths, Jayne & Hofmann, Roberto & Jones, Alexander. (2021). Gibberellin Signaling in Plants. Encyclopedia of Biological Chemistry III (Third Edition)


PhD Student
 Roberto  Hofmann

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