Research Plant Pathologist
The unifying concept of my research program is the development and use of plant viral-based vectors as tools for expression of nucleic acids and genes in plants as a means of studying plant/pathogen interactions, and for controlling diseases caused by plant and animal pathogens. Experiments are designed to optimize expression and cellular targeting of foreign genes and their protein products in order to test their efficacy in controlling specific plant pathogens. Viral-based vector constructs will be used to dissect host/pathogen interactions and modulate plant biochemical pathways proposed to be involved in membrane-associated, lipid signaling, and protein phosphorylation, specifically in viroid/host interactions. Increasing problems with pathogens impacting food safety and infecting livestock will demand use of larger quantities of functionally active and/or protective molecules at reduced cost with no risk to humans, animals or the environment. We are developing methods to produce antimicrobial and therapeutic proteins, vaccines, and improved diagnostic reagents in plants. These methods include transient gene expression from virus-based vectors and displaying molecules on the surface of plant virus-like particles (VLPs).