Travel grants to go - Francesco Valente

01 October 2018 - By: Francesco Valente

Travel grants to go - Francesco Valente

Francesco Valente
Francesco Valente. Photo: Matthias Naets


Francesco travelled to Montpellier, France this summer to attend the “International Plant Molecular Biology Congress 2018” and present his work entitled “Investigating sub-cellular dynamics during immune responses in wheat using advanced bio-imaging approaches”.

A food biotechnologist who developed an interest in host-microbe interaction during his honours MsC Degree at the University of Perugia in Italy, Francesco is currently doing his doctoral studies under the supervision of Dr. Mike Deeks and Dr. Stefano Pagliara in the Department of Bioscience at the University of Exeter.

“The Food and Agriculture Organisation published a report in 2009 suggesting that by 2050 agricultural production will have to increase by 70% to meet projected demand. In order to solve this issue, there is currently increased interest towards critical fields such as the investigation of early mechanisms of plant defence towards harmful phytopathogens” says Francesco.

Francesco’s resea rch focuses on understanding early mechanisms of plant resistance in wheat, using as a model the phyto-pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici, main causal agent of Septoria tritici blotch. “Capable to cause up to 40 % annual yield loss, Zymoseptoria tritici is a hemibiotrophic pathogen, devoid of the presence of appressoria or haustoria, and able to penetrate the host tissues via stomatal cavities following hyphae germination” explains Francesco. “Nonetheless, the role of the immune system in pathogen perception during the early phase of interaction is still uncertain. A detailed understanding of molecular mechanisms involved in fungal detection may lead me to the identification of the invasion strategy of the fungus and the key role of the early immune system in plant resistance.

The IPMB congress is a triennial meeting gathering 1000-1200 plant molecular biologists from all over the world since 1984 and represented the opportunity for great scientists, experts in the field, to share ideas, present the latest outcomes of their research and advertise opportunity in their laboratory.

The conference demonstrated the importance of developing multi-disciplinary approaches to face current issues such as climate changes and population increase and therefore the impact on food demand. Climate change and fungicide resistance represent a critical aspect to Food Security and the IPMB2018 congress gave me the great opportunity to increase my interest in Molecular Plant Pathology, identifying the key role of plant receptors involved in early mechanisms of pathogen detection” says Francesco. “This increased my interest towards the field leading me to enhance my hunger for knowledge in plant biology.

Travelling alone gave me the opportunity to engage with other students and staff and expand my network and connections. I had the great opportunity to meet international group leaders in Plant Pathology such as Dr. Barbara De Coninck from Division of Crop Biotechnics, KU Leuven, Belgium and Prof. Jonathan Jones from The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich, UK.

France has a high reputation for its cuisine and indeed the food and beverages during the conference were absolutely great. The gala dinner also gave me the opportunity to meet international Ph.D researchers and postdocs and combine oysters with a glass of champagne.”

Category: Cell Biology
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