NEWS: Dr Kostya Kanyuka joins NIAB as Head of Pest and Pathogen Research

22 Nov 2021
NIAB has appointed Dr Kostya Kanyuka to lead its pathogen and pest research programme.

Dr Kanyuka will manage NIAB’s strategic and applied research on the biology, detection, surveillance, epidemiology and management of diseases and pests of field crops. His role will include building on established programmes, and creating new opportunities, with a wide range of NIAB’s academic and commercial partners and customers.

His appointment is part of an ongoing process to attract the very best in plant science, further strengthening NIAB’s strategic ambition to be the UK’s most successful translational crop research organisation. Dr Kanyuka will also work closely with colleagues at the Crop Science Centre, NIAB’s partnership with the University of Cambridge that focuses on real world impact of its translational plant research.

Dr Richard Harrison, NIAB’s Director of Cambridge Crop Science said: “Kostya brings an enormous amount of expertise and knowledge in disease resistance, functional genomics, virology, and molecular aspect of plant-pathogen interactions and experience working with several model and crop plants including wheat, barley and potato. Well-known throughout the whole crop science community he will be a real asset to our pest and pathogen research programme.”

With a background in virology, Dr Kanyuka’s overall research interest is to understand how pathogens cause disease on plants and how plants resist pathogens at the mechanistic and molecular level with the aim of developing sustainable solutions for disease control in crops.

He joins NIAB from Rothamsted Research, where he focused on resistance to viral and fungal diseases in barley and wheat. Prior to that, following a PhD in plant virology at the Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology in Moscow, he did his postdoctoral study at The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich on the isolation of genes for resistance to viruses and nematodes.

Speaking about his appointment Dr Kanyuka highlighted the opportunities in being part of an organisation that has an international reputation for independence and innovation in applied science. These include working closely with geneticists, breeders, and cereal pathologists to explore the potential of NIAB’s resynthesised wheats as a new source of potentially broad spectrum and durable natural resistance to established diseases such as Septoria leaf blotch and the possibility of resistance to other important threats such as aphids and the viruses they vector.

“I am looking forward to working with colleagues across NIAB to exploit research synergies and explore new areas of research such as resilience to diseases under the predicted future climate change, emerging diseases of cereal and legume crops, and develop new biotechnology approaches including those based on RNAi for durable disease control of fungal and oomycete diseases in field crops,” finished Dr Kanyuka.