Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Jan 1, 2015
Project End Date
Dec 31, 2015
Grant Year
Project Director
Maliga, P.
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
Waksman Institute Microbiology
Non Technical Summary
The 2015 Gordon Research Conference on Chloroplast Biotechnology will present cutting-edge research by scientists interested in experimental approaches to probe chloroplast structure and function and to exploit plastome engineering for biotechnological applications. The meeting will bring together a growing community of scientists combining fundamental studies on chloroplast molecular biology with applications in agriculture, industrial biotechnology and healthcare. Plastid engineering is routine in tobacco, tomato, potato, lettuce, cabbage and soybean, but thus far has not been successful in major monocot food crops. Technical advances needed to extend the technology to new crops will be addressed. Microalgae and photosynthetic bacteria that serve as model systems for applications in crops will also be covered at the meeting. Speakers will provide an update on all aspects of chloroplast gene expression, including transcription, mRNA processing, mRNA editing and degradation, mRNA translation, and protein processing, assembly and turnover. Nuclear-encoded, organelle-targeted RNA-binding proteins, the functions of which are largely unknown, will also be discussed. Organelle genome evolution and how natural diversity may guide the design of synthetic organelle genomes will be covered. Applications of plastid engineering to improve plant productivity and boost biofuel production, and the introduction of novel biosynthetic pathways through engineering of polycistronic operons will be addressed. Production of vaccines, industrial enzymes, and human therapeutic proteins in chloroplasts will be covered. Finally, synthetic biology approaches in prokaryotes with potential applications in crops, such as improving the efficiency of photosynthesis and moving nitrogen fixation from microbes into crop plants will be discussed.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Knowledge Area
206 - Basic Plant Biology;

Subject Of Investigation
7410 - General technology;

Field Of Science
1040 - Molecular biology;
Goals / Objectives
The Chloroplast Biotechnology Gordon Research Conference (GRC) is a newly approved, biannual conference, to be held for the first time January 18 - 23, 2015, at Ventura Beach Marriott, Ventura, CA, USA. The objective of the conference is to create a forum where advances in chloroplast genome structure and function are reviewed together with applications. Because of its relatively small size and the availability of speakers during the entire conference the GRC format provides an unprecedented access for students and postdocs to senior investigators. GRC fosters an open spirit of sharing and actively promotes the dissemination of new information among all attendees of its meetings. All speakers are expected to convey unpublished and cutting edge information to their colleagues with the objective that this disclosure will stimulate expansive discussion among all attendees and progressively advance the field.
Project Methods
Conference preparation: The core conference program was assembled by chair, based on input from the invited speakers. Chair provides periodic updates to speakers, giving an update about the state of financial support and is asking for input by email. The current program of the 2015 Gordon Research Conference on Chloroplast Biotechnology includes 40 invited Speakers and Discussion Leaders, including the chairs. 18 of these are from the USA. Twelve of the invited speakers are woman, providing a positive role model for students and researches in the field. One approach to support participation of students in underrepresented groups in science and engineering will be awarding registration fees to qualified applicants to cover part of, or the entire registration fee. The GRC Board of Trustees has established several funding programs, which are available to eligible attendees. The Carl Storm International Diversity (CSID) Fellowship and Predominately Undergraduate Institution (PUI) Fund are Chair-nominated and will be pursued. Conducting the conference: Gordon Research Conferences has the time-tested template of 3.5-hr morning and 2.5-hr evening sessions, separated by a break providing ample opportunity for informal one-on-one interaction. Most participants are expected to present posters; therefore the 2-hr poster sessions will be additional catalysts for interaction scheduled for the afternoons. Conference evaluation: Program direction and organization of future conferences will be discussed at the Business Meeting. Participants will provide feedback in their written evaluation at the end of the conference.

Progress 01/01/15 to 12/31/15

Target Audience:98 participants attended the 1st Chloroplast Biotechnology GRC (1st CB GRC): 88.2% of the participants were affiliated with academic institutions, 9.2% with industry and 2.6% with government. Most from academia were professors (36.4%), postdoctoral scientists (23.4%) and graduate students (14.3%). Unexpected and welcome was the significant participation from industry, including the major US agricultural biotechnology companies (Monsanto, Bayer Crop Science, DuPont, J.R. Simplot), companies involved in biotech R&D (Agrisera, Synthetic Genomics, Reliance Industries) and national research organizations represented by USDA, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, CNRS (France) and Rothamsted Research (UK). The number of female participants at the CB GRC was slightly higher (37.5%) than the GRC average (36.3%). Higher female participation is also reflected in the selection of speakers: 34.1% at the CB GRC as compared to the 30.5% overall GRC average. Changes/Problems: Nothing Reported What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?A major goal was to encourage participation of student and postdocs at the conference. In the USDA grant proposal, the stated objective was to cover the registration fee for all invited speakers and six graduate students or postdoctoral scientists. At the end, the registration fee was covered for all invited speakers, and partially (50%; 8) or fully (100%; 9) for 17 students and or postdocs. The awards were made by a Fellowship Committee based on a cv, a letter of recommendation by the advisor (in case of students) and contribution to the conference. Funds for the support of US participants came from the USDA and NSF grants. Payment of the registration fee of foreign participants was covered from GRC and industry funds. In addition, two of the students were partially supported by a Carl Storm Underrepresented Minority Fellowships and one participant was partially supported by the GRC Predominantly Undergraduate Institution Fund. It was conference policy not to support speaker travel, except in case of exceptional need. 46.8% of the participants attended a GRC for the first time, and were impressed by the opportunity for interaction with fellow researchers and senior colleagues. The enthusiastic response to the GRC environment is reflected by the answers to the question: what was "The Best Aspects of the Meeting". A few representative examples: (1) "The best thing about the conference was the ability to discuss research with PIs, grad students, post docs and company employees. I felt all attendees were forth coming and very helpful. " (2) "Some unpublished break through stuff, great!! Established two new collaborations thanks to this conference!" (3) "I like the atmosphere of this meeting. All the "big bosses" came and exciting talks. I received a lot of useful information." How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest?Given the GRC format, participants benefit from attending the scientific sessions, participating in discussions at poster sessions and from networking during breaks and free time. It is the GRC policy to not publish abstract books and treat all information presented in the conference as confidential. However, as documented by the comments in the conference evaluation sheets, the intense discussions of the participants with the speakers and poster presenters stimulated new interactions and collaborations between research groups in the field. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals? Nothing Reported

What was accomplished under these goals? The conference addressed topics with relevance to a number of different constituencies. The area of specialization for the Chloroplast Biotechnology Conference was "Reengineering Photosynthetic Organelles", with focus on higher plants. Accordingly, the meeting was designed to provide a forum for researchers working on various aspects of photosynthesis in higher plants, and in microalgae and photosynthetic bacteria, where research in these model systems is applicable to higher plants. Presentations on boosting CO2 fixation efficiency by engineering the photosynthetic machinery (primarily Rubisco) and adopting prokaryotic designs to CO2 fixation in higher plants formed the core of Engineering Photosynthesis and Synthetic Biology sessions. A unique feature of the conference was that, in several instances, the same problem was addressed by direct engineering the chloroplast genome or by nuclear engineering of genes targeted to chloroplasts. Another target group was biotechnologists, interested in development of new biotechnology tools, optimization strategies for the expression of recombinant proteins in chloroplasts, addressing problems in human healthcare, veterinary science, and biofuel production. The third target group was researchers exploring the basic science on which the technology platform is built: transcriptional, translational and post-translational regulation in chloroplast gene expression. Because of its focus on a specialized technology tying diverse fields together, the conference is having a major impact in multiple fields. The meeting received a High-Performance Rating, and Pal Maliga (Chair) and Ralph Bock (Vice-Chair) were commended by the GRC Board that 85% of conferees rated this meeting "above average" on all evaluation areas (science, discussion, management, atmosphere and suitability). The final conference program can be viewed at the GRC website at . The 2017 GRC-Sponsored Meeting on Chloroplast Biotechnology has been approved and scheduled for January 8-13 at Ventura Beach Marriott, Ventura, CA. The 2017 conference will be organized by Ralph Bock (Chair) and Maureen Hanson (Vice-Chair).