Plant Synthetic Biology and Cell Walls

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Our Glycan Mission

Glycans densely cover the surface of all life forms. Polysaccharide-rich cell walls enable plants to thrive in a remarkable range of environments and are the most abundance source of renewable materials on Earth. Although they are essential for the health and energy needs of our civilization, carbohydrate polymers remain challenging to make and modify compared to other classes of molecules such as proteins. To uncover the genetic blueprints for plant glycans, Dr. Cătălin Voiniciuc and the Designer Glycans team apply innovative synthetic biology tools in several model systems.

Research overview

The mission of the Designer Glycans group is to design new paths to control the function, synthesis, and modification of plant Cell Wall Polysaccharides. Mechanistic insights in these areas, coupled with advances in Plant Synthetic Biology, will enable the assembly of sugar units into tailor-made polysaccharides with desirable agricultural or industrial properties.

The Designer Glycans lab uses several approaches (natural variation, reverse genetics and synthetic biology) to discover enzymes and chemical mediators that establish and modulate cellulose-hemicellulose networks in plants. We primarily focus on heteromannan, an ancient class of hemicellulose that is found throughout the plant kingdom. Polymers built of β-1,4-linked mannose units are particularly abundant in algae, legumes, and conifers. From ice cream to cosmetics, many products contain legume-extracted galactomannans as stabilizers.

Mailing Address

Dr. Cătălin Voiniciuc
2550 Hull Road, PO Box 110690
Gainesville, Florida 32611
United States of America

Laboratory Address

Building 885, Lab 003
2432 Hull Road
Gainesville, Florida 32611

cvoiniciuc [at] | (352) 273-4782

  • Summer Updates
    May 2023 highlights: undergraduate student farewell, new arrivals and upcoming positions
  • Four #SynBio Positions 4 You
    The Designer Glycans group is delighted to have funding for several new positions. Apply by May 15, 2023 for full consideration. Choose your own adventure: The latter three positions will be co-supervised with Dr. Andrew Hanson ( to set up … Read more

Yum! Can't wait to make my latte with Hydrocow milk and try some Air Meat for dinner. "Unlike crops, which rely on free sunshine to grow, CO2 food producers need to invest in expensive equipment [...] to help reap power." I better start saving up.

Next Tuesday, Oct 3, we are pleased to welcome Dr. Scott Lenaghan from the University of Tennessee to talk about "Expanding the Toolbox for Plant Synthetic Biology"

LEGO "tried making pieces from corn, but that resulted in bricks that were too soft. A wheat-based brick didn’t look right." If you are passionate about #sustainable biomaterials, join us on the quest to customize plant cell walls

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