School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Staff Profile

Dr Martin Edwards




March 2014 nominated by students in the Contribution to Outstanding Feedback category of the Teaching Excellence Awards (TEAs).

Roles and Responsibilities

Associate Director for Postgraduate Taught Studies

PhD supervisor

Module Leader


PhD, University of Durham “Enhancing Resistance of Horticultural Crops Towards Vine Weevil Through Plant Genetic Engineering”. The basis of the project is to identify the major digestive proteases used by the vine weevil, and then target these with plant derived protein inhibitors which can be introduced into susceptible crops via plant genetic engineering.
Awarded 2003.

MSc in Biomedical Sciences, University of Newcastle upon Tyne. This twelve-month course consisted of six months of lectures covering the principles of molecular genetics, protein engineering and microbiology. The second part of the course involved a laboratory based project in which I investigated the relationship between alternately spliced transcripts of the mdm2 gene and the severity of breast carcinoma, in the Department of Pathology at the Royal Victoria Infirmary.

BSc(Hons) in Genetics, University of Newcastle upon Tyne. This undergraduate degree course contained the usual intensive lecture courses, along with a ten week laboratory research project which gave me sound basis in many molecular biological techniques.


Research Interests

Expression of novel enzymes in bioreactor systems, and optimising their expression levels
Utilization of plant expression machinery as bio-factories
To identify the differential regulation of plant genes in response to biotic and abiotic stress
Ectopic expression of endogenous defense genes to increase a crops resistance to insect attack
Identification of novel insecticidal proteins for the use in crop protection strategies
Combining and comparing marker assisted breeding and traditional plant breeding strategies with GM technology

Other Expertise

The work that I have been involved in throughout my studies and recent research post have open the door to the world of molecular biology. Initially I learnt many of the classic and everyday techniques needed to carry out traditional molecular biology such as; RNA/DNA extraction, PCR analysis and cloning, protein purification and analysis, radiolabelled and non-radiolabelled hybridisation techniques. My current position as a Post Doctoral Research has allowed my to take these skills forward in keeping with the fast paced advances we are currently enjoying in the post genomic era.

My PhD has also allowed me to develop some more intricate techniques, for example; generation of a cDNA library from the guts of larval vine weevils, 5’ RACE to confirm the extreme 5’ ends of cDNA clones and agrobacteria mediated transformation to introduce novel gene products into a plants species of interest, and their subsequent analysis.

Current Work


FP7 NUE-Crops. Utilising molecular techniques to investigate and understand the response mechanisms utilised by wheat growing under different nitrogen input regimes. Specifically transcriptome profiling was used to identify those genes switch on or off in field grown wheat in response to nitrogen availability. 


A founding member of the Molecular Agriculture unit in the School of Biology. Within this project we aim to use modern molecular biological techniques to investigate and understand the factors effecting the growth, development and yield of common crop species. The understanding that we hope to gain will be used to design intuitive regimes to develop “low input” agricultural practices as an aid to sustainable agricultural systems. Our aim is that this strategy will be acceptable to both organic and conventional farming regimes, allowing the selective breeding of crops that are ideally suited to their designated local environment.


Post Doctoral research post at the University of Newcastle supported by the BBSRC through it’s ongoing gene flow consortium. The project utilizes novel transgene fusion constructs to expand and extend the species targeted by and effectiveness of the Bt toxin Cry1Ac in two commercially important UK crops (Oilseed rape and Wheat). The project also focuses on the molecular responses of the crops to pest attack from chewing and sucking pest and how these responses and the phenotypic outcome may change in plants that have been genetically modified to express the fusion constructs.

Postgraduate Supervision

MSc Project Supervision

2002 - Generation of insecticidal fusion proteins using GNA as a delivery mechanism
2003 - Biochemical analysis of a cellulase of insect origin using recombinant expression systems
2004 - Studying differentially expressed genes in genetically modified wheat
2005 - Investigating the host killing range of S.florentina venom using Pichia based heterologous expression systems
2006 - Are endogenous defence mechanisms compromised in GM plants?
2007 - Identification of Bt receptors in Asian Corn Borer

2008 - Protein engineering for enhance cellulase activity

2009 - Natural insecticidal compounds from Actinobacteria

2009 - Optimisation of fermentation for enhance protein production using the methyltrophic yeast Pichia pastoris

2010 - ROS enzymes in wheat stress response

2010 - Sea anemones as a novel source of potent insecticidal bioactive molecules

2011 - Expression studies involving novel peptide-based biopesticides

2012 - Widening the scope of S.florentina based biopesticides

2012 - Targeting aphid transcription with gene specific know-down using dsRNA molecules to induce an RNAi response

2013 - Insecticidal activity of a peptide-based toxin against the flour beetle, Tribolium casteneum.


MRes Supervision

2009 - Sequence specific gene knock-down in insects using a RNAi

2013 - Rationale design and development of insecticidal biopesticides using cone snail derived neuroactive peptides

2014 - Differential expression of WRKY transcription factors in response to nitrogen availability and Septoria infection.

Esteem Indicators

2007 - Requested to lead the initiation of an International Summer School between several Indian Universities and the School of Biology
2007 - Invited to contribute a chapter discussing the Environmental Benefits of GM crops to the forthcoming book "Environmental Impact of Genetically Modified/Novel Crops" (N. Ferry, A. Gatehouse. CABI 2008)



BIO8046         Applied Bioinformatics (Module Leader)

BIO8043         Practical Techniques in Molecular Biology (Module Leader)

BIO3196         Biological Research Project

BIO3194         Biological Literature Review

BIO2030         Biotechnology: Principles and Practice (Module Leader)