New IGI member Markita Landry is a recipient of the second annual New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research award. The annual set of early career grants to outstanding food and agriculture research faculty members is a program of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a nonprofit established through bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill.
Landry, an assistant professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UC Berkeley, received a FFAR grant of $300,000 over three years. Matching funds from the Landry laboratory discretionary funds will double the Foundation’s investment for a significant award totaling $600,000. The New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research program supports promising scientists who demonstrate not only a commitment to catalyzing innovation in food and agriculture, but also a dedication to mentoring students.
The Landry Lab leverages their expertise in nanomaterials to understand and control plant function. Unlike their human counterparts, plant cells have a protective layer known as the cell wall. This additional barrier makes delivery of biomolecules especially challenging in plants. Landry aims to develop a nanoparticle platform to bypass the cell wall in any plant species, enabling genome editing and other useful manipulations. She eventually hopes to create robust plant varieties to meet intensifying food and energy needs.
“Markita brings a fresh perspective to plant engineering that will surely lead to big developments in precision agriculture,” says Susan Jenkins, managing director of the IGI. “We’re thrilled to hear that FFAR is supporting this important interdisciplinary work.”
As part of the award, Landry is participating in a scientific communications workshop in Washington this week. The day-long workshop will equip the early career leaders to promote the importance of their own work and ultimately, attract young scientists to the food and agriculture research workforce. New Innovator awardees will also have the opportunity to discuss their work with members of Congress and staff while in Washington.