Yanran Li, an assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering, has received a New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program for a project to discover plant natural products of potential medicinal value and their biosynthesis through reprograming the plant innate immunity.

Li’s research seeks to engineer and redirect plant immune signaling to activate secondary metabolic pathways that are silent under normal conditions, in order to more efficiently discover novel plant natural products.

“I was first introduced to plant immune receptors during a lunch discussion with Wenbo Ma from plant pathology back in 2016 when I first joined UCR. We came up with the idea to reconstruct and engineer plant immune complexes in yeast,” Li said. “A generous collaborative seed grant from UCR’s Office of Research and Economic Development in 2018 helped me to extend the idea toward discovery of plant natural products in this successful proposal.”

Li’s project is one of the 50 High-Risk, High-Reward awards given by NIH in 2020 to exceptionally creative early career scientists proposing innovative, high-impact projects.

The research will be supported under NIH grant number DP2 AT011445-01. Read more about these awards and the recipients on the NIH website.

This UCR News article was written by Holly Ober and can be read in full here.