Ari Sadanandom obtained his undergraduate degree from the National University of Singapore, where he studied molecular genetics. However Ari knew that he wanted to do a PhD and pursue a scientific career abroad (although in another life he would have been a professional footballer!).
He moved to the UK where he completed a Master’s degree at the University of East Anglia and, in 1999, a PhD at the John Innes Centre for Plant Science research. Progressing rapidly through two postdoctoral positions at The Sainsbury Laboratory for Plant Pathology at Norwich, Ari eventually took up lecturer positions at the University of Glasgow in 2003, and then as senior lecturer at Warwick University in 2009. Ari moved again to Durham at 2011 where he is currently Professor of Plant Molecular Sciences.
Ari has built a research group around the topic of protein modification and how these modifications control how plants grow and interact with their environment. Proteins can be modified by the addition of chemical groups and this can change the way they work. An example is the DELLA protein, which underpins dwarfism in wheat. The stability of the DELLA protein is controlled by ubiquitination (a type of protein modification). Increased DELLA protein stability is what gives wheat a dwarf phenotype – the essence of increased yields during the green revolution. The current focus of Ari’s research is to understand how protein modifications influences how plants respond to pathogen attack. When plants are under pathogen attack, lots of processes are halted and the plant stops growth and development. This has a big impact on productivity. If we understood more about how regulatory mechanisms like protein modification influence this growth arrest, this would enable us to develop crops with better yield without compromising crop immunity.
As chair of the N8 AgriFood programme in Durham, an association of eight northern UK Universities (N8), he is also overseeing research projects into resilience and sustainability of food production. Ari is also director of the Durham Centre for crop improvement technology (DCCIT) since 2014. DCCIT is a cross-disciplinary research centre that has multiple links with Agriculture industry to develop solutions that are more effective in field conditions.