Van Leeuwenhoek Lecture (Leiden): Sarah O'Connor (John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK) on plant-derived alkaloids



start: 3:30 PM


Gorlaeus, Lecture Hall 1, Leiden


Plant-derived alkaloids – Understanding how natural product pathways work

Speaker: Sarah O’ Connor (John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK)

Sarah O’Connor performed her graduate work on protein glycosylation with Professor Barbara Imperial at both Caltech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and received her PhD from MIT in 2001. She was an Irving Sigal post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Professor Chris Walsh at Harvard Medical School from 2001 – 2003, where she studied the biosynthesis of microbial-derived natural products. After her post-doctoral work, she became assistant and then associate Professor of Chemistry at MIT. In 2011 she moved her research group to the John Innes Centre where she is a Project Leader in the Department of Biological Chemistry. She is also on the Faculty of the School of Chemistry at the University of East Anglia.

This talk focuses understanding how natural product pathways work, with a particular emphasis on plant-derived alkaloids. The organization of natural product pathways in plants pose many exciting research challenges that have only begun to be addressed. The O’Connor group has made inroads into the mechanistic study of some of the biochemical transformations observed in plant alkaloid biosynthesis, and, in parallel with these efforts, her group has also engineered the substrate specificity of alkaloid biosynthesis enzymes and implemented these enzymes in metabolic engineering efforts. This has led to the successful use of plant tissue for the production of “new-to-nature” compounds. Finally, her group’s research has also begun to address the challenging problem of elucidating the uncharacterized genes of plant metabolic pathways.


BioScience Initiative (http://

van Leeuwenhoek Lecture on BioScience/ TOP-Lecture

Thursday January 30th 2014 at 16.00 hrs.

Gorlaeus Laboratories, Seminar Hall 1

From 15.30 on: tea/coffee/biscuits

Drinks after the lecture


Upcoming lectures: 

Thursday February 27th 2014 at 16.00 hrs., Alexander van Oudenaarden (Hubrecht)

Thursday March 27th 2014 at 16.00 hrs., Erik Sahai (London)

Thursday April 24th 2014 at 16.00 hrs., Jeremy Harbinson (WUR)

Thursday May 22th 2014 at 16.00 hrs., Gene Stanley (Boston)

Thursday June 26th 2014 at 16.00 hrs., David Claessen (Paris)