Professor Ian Small’s research interests into the growth and development of living organisms is largely determined by the genes they contain, but converting the genetic information into biological activity requires intermediary processes involving ribonucleic acid (RNA) and proteins that bind to and process this RNA.
Professor Small aims to understand how the largest class of RNA – binding proteins in plants recognise their targets RNA’s and aims to develop custom – designed proteins for switching genes on and off at will. This technology will be used initially to create new hybrid cereal varieties, but holds promise for more general applications in the new field of synthetic biology including applications in human health.
Professor Small’s Phd at Edinburgh university, awarded in 1988, was followed by a career with France’s National Agronomy Research Institute (INRA), where he held the Vice-Director position at the Plant Genetics and Breeding Station in Versailles and the Plant Genomics Unit in Evry.
In 2005. he was awarded a WA State Premier’s Research Fellowship and moved to Perth to become the Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology from 2006 – 2014. He is currently an ARC Laureate Fellow and was elected to the Australian Academy of Science in 2015.
Professor Small’s early work on plant mitochondrial genomes and fertility restorer genes involved in cytoplasmic male sterility contributed significantly to the development.