Xiaohan Yang

Xiaohan Yang

Distinguished Scientist

Dr. Xiaohan Yang is a Distinguished Scientist in the Synthetic Biology Group in Biosciences Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). He obtained his PhD degree (Horticulture/Plant Molecular Biology/Plant Breeding) from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. He is an editor-in-chief of BioDesign Research (https://spj.sciencemag.org/journals/bdr/). His research covers plant genome editing, plant metabolic pathway engineering, plant-based biosensor, synthetic biology tool development, secure biosystems design, and plant genomics, with a focus on bioenergy crops and plant-microbe interactions to solve renewable energy and environmental challenges. He won an R&D 100 Award in 2018.

Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) is a biological innovation that allows plants to thrive in water-limited environments such as arid deserts and areas with a pronounced seasonal drought. The water-use efficiency of CAM plants is much higher than that of C3 and C4 plants. Transferring CAM machinery into existing crops holds tremendous potential for sustainable production of food and biomass on semi-arid, marginal, or degraded agricultural lands. Dr. Yang leads a research team at ORNL to engineer CAM using Synthetic Biology approach for the purpose of improving water-use efficiency of bioenergy feedstocks. Besides CAM engineering, he is interested in engineering plants for bioenergy, carbon sequestration, and bioeconomy (biomaterials, pharmaceuticals, and fine chemicals).

Dr. Yang’s team develops new tools for synthetic biology research, such as assembly of DNA parts into genetic circuits, multi-gene engineering in plants, high-throughput manipulation of gene expression, high precision genome-editing, efficient transformation in non-model plant species, and application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in synthetic biology. He is very interested in automated Design-Build-Test-Learn pipeline for accelerating plant synthetic biology research as well as synthetic genomics.

Dr. Yang has extensive experience in plant genomics research. He leads the effort to sequence the genomes of two important CAM models (Agave and Kalanchoe) and performs studies on the plant small proteins and non-coding RNAs involved in the interactions with microbes. His lab is applying genome-editing technologies to plant functional genomics research and genetic improvement of crop plants.

2022: The first prize of Cells 2021 Best Paper Awards for Anniversary Special Issues

2018: R&D 100 Award

2008: Distinguished Achievement Award for Post-Graduate Research in Environmental Science (In recognition of outstanding early career productivity, ability to collaborate effectively in a team setting, and ability to integrate bioinformatics and molecular biology to gain novel insights into evolutionary genomics).

2000: Liu Memorial Award in recognition of his excellent progress and high potential for a successful academic career.

  1. U.S. patent No. US 10,227,601 B2 (Issued: March 12, 2019): “PtDUF266 Gene Regulating Cell Wall Biosynthesis and Recalcitrance in Populus”. Inventors: Jin-Gui Chen, Sara Jawdy, Xiaohan Yang, Gerald A. Tuskan, Yongil Yang, Lee E. Gunter
  2. U.S. patent No. US 10,246,719 B2 (Issued: April 2, 2019): “Modulating Laccase Enzyme to Regulate Cell Wall Biosynthesis and Recalcitrance in Plants”. Inventors: Jin-Gui Chen, Lee E. Gunter, Sara S. Jawdy, Xiaohan Yang, Gerald A. Tuskan, Anthony C. Bryan
  3. U.S. patent No. US 11,028,404 B2 (Issued: June 8, 2021): “Methods of improving mycorrhization in plants and genetically modified plants with improved mycorrhization”. Inventors: Wellington Muchero, Jessy L Labbe, Lee E Gunter, Jin-Gui Chen, Sara S Jawdy, Xiaohan Yang, Gerald A Tuskan, Juan Wang, Olaf Czarnecki, Priya Ranjan
  4. U.S. patent No. US 11,041,164 B2 (Issued: June 22, 2021): “Genes for enhancing drought and heat tolerance in plants and methods of use”. Inventors: Xiaohan Yang, Gerald A. Tuskan, Degao Liu, Rongbin Hu, Jin-Gui Chen, Meng Xie
  5. U.S. patent No. US 11,535,860 B2 (Issued: December 27, 2022) “Genes for enhancing salt and drought tolerance in plants and methods of use”. Inventors: Xiaohan Yang, Degao Liu, Rongbin Hu, Gerald A. Tuskan.
  6. U.S. patent No. US 11,715,191 B2 (Issued: August 1, 2023) “Method and system for automated plant surveillance and manipulation”. Inventors: Udaya C. Kalluri, Andrzej Nycz, Lonnie J. Love, Vincent C. Paquit, Xiaohan Yang, Samuel C. Leach, Harold Walters
  7. US Patent No.: 11,725,211 B2 (Issued: August 15, 2023) “TNT Cloning System”. Inventors: Gerald A. Tuskan, Xiaohan Yang, Henrique Cestari De Paoli.