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Benedict (Ben) Long – RIPE Project

Ben works on the RIPE Project (Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency). RIPE is a multi-institutional research project that aims to engineer plants that more efficiently turn the sun’s energy into food to sustainably increase worldwide food productivity. The RIPE project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Ben has a keen interest in the physiology and biochemistry of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), completing a PhD on the toxic cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa in La Trobe University School of Botany under Dr John W. Anderson.

Ben then went on to work on secondary metabolite (antibiotic) production in streptomycetes, gaining experience in microbial bioreactor culture and metabolic flux analysis at the University of Surrey (UK) under Prof. Mike Bushell.

In 2003, Ben returned to cyanobacterial research and began working at ANU in Canberra, focusing on cyanobacterial carboxysome structure and function. During this time, working in close collaboration with Prof. Murray Badger and Prof. Dean Price,  he determined underlying protein interactions which are essential for ß-carboxysome formation. Carboxysomes are microcompartments which are best described as bacterial organelles, capable of isolating specific biochemical processes from other parts of the cell. In cyanobacteria they enable the CO2-fixing enzyme, RubisCO, to operate at its maximal rate under low CO2 and high O2 which prevail under normal atmospheric conditions.

As part of the Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis, his current research involves the incorporation of carboxysomes and their sub-complexes into plant chloroplasts for the enhancement of photosynthesis, which is part of Program 1.