Extracting the Cure from Flowers
Prof. Lee-Parson’s research is in biochemical engineering, specifically the area of metabolic engineering. Metabolic engineering embodies the principles, framework, and methodologies for understanding and manipulating the metabolic pathways in the cell for targeted and improved chemical transformations. Prof. Lee-Parson’s research group is applying metabolic engineering principles and methodologies to improve the production of important compounds from plants or plant cell cultures. The lab’s research relies heavily on understanding the complex network of biosynthetic reactions within the cell and the application of tools in analytical chemistry for unveiling the secrets of the cell. The outcome of this research is an understanding of how to rationally direct the resources of the cell (i.e. precursor and energy fluxes) for significant enhancements in the production of the desired chemical compound. Prof. Lee-Parson’s research is being applied to address:
Focus 1: the production of cost-prohibitive pharmaceutical compounds from cell cultures of plants.
Focus 2: the growing problem of antibiotic resistance using plant-derived compounds to inhibit bacterial defense mechanisms.
Focus 3: the efficient cultivation of plants with high nutritional quality for food, in environments with limited gas exchange such as those found on space stations
Prof. Lee-Parson’s main research focus is the production of valuable pharmaceutical compounds from plant cell cultures, specifically the production of important anti-cancer drug molecules from cell cultures of Catharanthus roseus. Plant cell culture is potentially a better route for supplying certain structurally complex drug molecules than chemical synthesis or extraction from whole plants. Moreover, plant cell culture can potentially produce these drug molecules at a faster and more consistent rate than whole plants. The overall vision of Prof. Lee-Parson’s research is to meet the needs and demands of important and cost-prohibitive plant-derived pharmaceuticals using plant cell culture, applying metabolic engineering strategies and ultimately developing an economically viable process using plant cell culture.