Professor Nicholas Talbot FRS

Nick Talbot is making significant contributions to our understanding of how fungi infect plants and cause disease. Nick focuses specifically on the rice blast fungus, Magnaporthe oryzae, which destroys up to a third of the annual global rice harvest — enough to feed 60 million people.

In rice blast disease, large disease lesions form on the leaves then spread to other parts of the plant and other plants in the crop. As a result, there is a severe decrease in the overall yield of rice. Nick’s research group is using cell biology and molecular genetics approaches to dissect the precise molecular and cellular events that occur during infection by the rice blast fungus, simultaneously uncovering potential targets for new fungicides and genetic means to control crop diseases.

To help control fungal diseases, rice growers can plant varieties that have been bred, or genetically modified, to contain resistance genes. Fungi, however, quickly evolve to overcome such tactics. Nick is therefore also searching rice genomes for fresh resistance genes in order to improve long-term prospects for controlling this devastating plant disease.

Nick is currently Executive Director of The Sainsbury Laboratory, a research institute focused on the study of plant disease control and plant immunity.

Professional position

  • Executive Director, The Sainsbury Laboratory, John Innes Centre
  • Plant Science Advisor, The Gatsby Charitable Foundation
  • Former Professor of Molecular Genetics, School of Biosciences, University of Exeter
  • Former Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Exeter
  • Former Chair of Board of Trustee-Directors, Rothamsted Research

Subject groups

  • Microbiology, immunology and developmental biology

    Developmental biology, General microbiology (incl bacteriology and virology)

  • Organismal biology, evolution and ecology

    Plant sciences / botany