Key elements: Multiple research projects + PhD & postdoc funding + Adjunct Professor

Predictable tomatoes 

Since 2008, researchers at Imperial College’s Systems Biology University Innovation Centre (UIC), in partnership with Syngenta, have been using predictive modelling to understand crop behaviour.

The objective of this project is to build a predictive model of tomato ripening and fruit quality, which will allow Syngenta to identify the main genetic control points in this process.

Syngenta’s goal is to exploit this knowledge through conventional breeding programmes to develop tomato breeds with quality traits meeting both retailing requirements (e.g. tomato texture) and customer satisfaction (e.g. taste).

The Systems Biology University Innovation Centre (UIC)

Syngenta and Imperial established the Syngenta University Innovation Centre (UIC) to develop methodologies for modelling and predicting “unknown” data in projects aligned with Syngenta’s commercial interests, as well as to facilitate further interactions.

Imperial offered Syngenta expertise in mathematical modelling and machine learning that could exploit incomplete and complex experimental data. The UIC undertook two pioneer projects; ‘Tomato Ripening’ and ‘Predictive (cancer) Toxicology’. A third project on ‘ecosystems modelling’ was created. ‘Eco-modelling’ will apply the mathematics of the small scale (cells, genes and metabolites) to that of the large-scale organisms and fields.

The UIC has enabled us to evaluate hypotheses in key business areas that would have been impossible without predictive systems biology. It has also strengthened the relationship with Imperial across the Board"

Dr Stuart Dunbar

Senior Syngenta Fellow & Group Leader

As part of the UIC, Syngenta funds a number of doctoral and post-doctoral research associate posts and Imperial and Syngenta personnel undertake lectures, tutorials and seminars at both Jealott's Hill (Syngenta) and in South Kensington (Imperial). Syngenta gain exposure to the global talent pool of Imperial's students and academics, and allow them insight into the commercial world.

You can read more about the Syngenta University Innovation Centre here.