On the way to achieve the goal of the Photoboost, which is to project to develop and implement strategies to boost the productivity and performance of essential crops like potatoes and rice, the project partners have made good progress during the first reporting period. Various objectives, including the generation of several multi-gene expression constructs, the development of a photosynthetically active cell-free system and initial transformation of potato and rice plants, were achieved. The following list briefly summarises the progress made for each of the six distinct work packages.
WP1: e-Photosynthesis model was adapted to understand the impact of future higher [CO2] environments, enabling the identification engineering/editing targets for adapting the photosynthetic apparatus to future climate challenges.
WP2: A cell-free system derived from tobacco BY-2 cells and supplemented with chloroplasts is photosynthetically active and can be used to screen and optimize chloroplast targeting efficiency of recombinant proteins.
WP3: Fast-track multi-gene expression vectors have been generated and are available for the transformation of potato and rice.
WP4: Transformation of potato and rice plants with the final fast-track expression vectors has been initiated.
WP5: A detailed biochemical characterisation has been initiated with the transgenic potato plants analysed in WP4, to evaluate the impact of multi-gene expression on the accumulation of photosynthetic end-product (glucose, fructose, sucrose, starch) as well as the primary metabolites. However, additional experiments are needed to confirm the initial results.
WP6: We have carried out relevant scoping and preparatory work, developed an online presence for the project and begun the first round of qualitative data collection following ethical approval, which involves liaising with experts in agricultural biotechnology policy and regulation from across the EU and UK. Our scoping review of literature on public engagement with biotechnology has provided an overview of the societal considerations around the use of gene editing technologies and the establishment of social media platforms will enable us to engage a wider audience with PhotoBoost research.