Plant molecular biology is the study of plants at DNA, RNA, and protein level.
Using powerful molecular biotechnology techniques, plants can be analysed to elucidate their unique characteristics. Once this is understood, plants can be genetically altered to create ‘designer plants’ (i.e. GMOs) suited to specific needs, such as long-shelf-life tomatoes, and disease resistance. The extensive genetic diversity that exists in plant populations enables the identification of DNA changes (i.e. genetic mutations) responsible for quantitative and qualitative variation in traits of interest, information that will be useful in plant breeding programmes. It is however imperative that the physiology and biochemistry of the plant must also be understood.
Dr Nompumelelo Obokoh a South African born Plant molecule biologist from Mamelodi in Tshwane. She holds a PhD degree from the University of Cambridge, Magdalene College UK, is the Chairperson of the NRF Board and a Commissioner in the Presidential Commission on the 4th Industrial Revolution. Before joining the Companies & Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) as the head of the Innovation Support and Protection Division, she was the Chief Executive Officer of AfricaBio, a Biotechnology stakeholder association.
Dr Obokoh has worked in West Africa heading the first satellite office (in Abuja, Nigeria) of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), a non-for profit international organization, with headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. Her role was to manage the innovative public-private partnership programmes, which involve access to and the development of proprietary and regulated agricultural technologies for small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.
Dr Obokoh has local and international experience in Biotech research & development, management and advocacy. She has led a number of strategic agricultural biotech initiatives addressing food security, climate change & poverty reduction in sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on small-scale farmer (especially women and youth farmers) empowerment. She worked as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the Institute of Biotechnology, University of Cambridge where she deployed novel and high throughput technologies to decode the molecular mechanisms controlling plant growth in order to enhance agricultural productivity.
Dr Obokoh has received a number of awards and accolades, including the GDARD’s Biotech communicator Award, Topco Media – Top 1000 Woman in Business and Government, the Mandela Cambridge Scholarship, Mandela Magdalene College Award, Fellow of the Cambridge Commonwealth Society. She has also received competitive research grants from the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the NRF/Royal Society (UK) for the South Africa-UK Science Networks to establish and extend collaboration with UK partners. She also offered the Rothamstead International – African Fellowship that enabled her to foster mission-oriented research with world-renowned scientists in Aberystwyth, Wales.