markita landry in the lab

Research Expertise and Interest

nanomaterials, fluorescence microscopy, sensors, imaging, neuroscience, plant engineering

Research Description

The Landry Lab's work develops synthetic bio-mimetic nanocomposites to impart control over nanomaterial interactions with biological systems for two applications: 1) to exploit the intrinsic nanomaterial infrared fluorescence for molecular imaging, and 2) to exploit the highly tunable chemical and physical properties of nanomaterials for targeted delivery of biological cargoes. 

Molecular Imaging: The importance of monitoring neurotransmission is relevant to our understanding of neuropsychiatric disease, in which ‘neurochemical imbalances’ are at the core of many psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders such as depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and social autism spectrum disorder. Her lab develops optical probes for neuromodulators such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Aberrant neuromodulator signaling in the brain has been implicated in various psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, whereby many drugs target neuromodulator signaling. They implement their optical probes for neuromodulators such as dopamine (Beyene et al. Science Advances 2019) and serotonin (Jeong et al. Science Advances 2019) to study addiction, Huntington's Disease, and Parkinson's Disease, among others. 

Targeted bio-delivery: The Landry Lab also develops nanoscale particles that enable grafting and delivery of biomolecular cargoes (DNA, RNA, protein) to plants. Despite the importance of creating transgenic plants, plant systems remain difficult to genetically transform because of the unique presence of the plant cell wall, which poses the dominant barrier to exogenous biomolecule delivery. The lab develops nanoparticle-based platforms to enable delivery of gene vectors and RNA (Demirer et al. Nature Nanotechnology 2019), and RNA (Zhang et al. PNAS 2019; Demirer et al. Science Advances 2020; Goh, Zhang et al. Nature Nanotechnology 2021) to agriculturally-relevant plants such as arugula, wheat, and cotton. Biomolecule delivery to plants can assist in plant and crop genetic engineering can solidify the agricultural industry by conferring desirable traits to plants such as increased yield, abiotic stress tolerance, and disease and pest resistance. Production of transgenic plants with nanoparticle-based DNA delivery, without trasngene integration (Demirer et al. Nature Protocols 2019; Demirer, Zhang et al. Nature Protocols 2020), can address the need for sustainable and high-yielding crops without the need to cross out transgenes. Specifically, their platform for delivery of Cas9 DNA vectors represents a platform by which to genetically modify plants without DNA integration (when delivering a DNA vector coding for CRISPR), or without DNA altogether (when delivering an RNP), potentially enabling gene-edited crops to circumvent the process of regulatory oversight as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) (Landry and Mitter, Nature Nanotechnology 2020; Demirer et al. Nature Nanotechnology 2021; Goh et al. Nature Nanotechnology 2022).

Awards and Honors

  • 2023 Keck Foundation Award
  • 2023 Schmidt Polymaths Award
  • 2023 Bakar Prize
  • 2022 UNC Chapel Hill Distinguished Young Alumni Award
  • 2022 Philomathia Prize
  • 2022 McKnight Neuroscience Scholar Award
  • 2022 Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub Young Investigator
  • 2022 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science
  • 2021 Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub Young Investigator
  • 2021 Nature Research Awards for Inspiring Women in Science 
  • 2021 National Academies of Sciences Standing Committee on Biotechnology Capabilities and National Security
  • 2021 Dreyfus Foundation Teacher-Scholar Award
  • 2020 Cell Press 100 Most Inspiring Hispanic/Latinx Scientists in America
  • 2020 NSF CAREER Award
  • 2020 Frontiers of Imaging: CZI Deep Tissue Imaging Award
  • 2020 SfN Janett Rosenberg Trubatch Career Development Award
  • 2020 University of Illinois Alumni Association Young Alumni Award
  • 2020 Emerging Leader in Molecular Spectroscopy Award
  • 2020 ECS Nanocarbons Division Young Investigator Award
  • 2019 C&EN Talented 12
  • 2019 Bakar Fellow
  • 2019 Prytanean Faculty Award
  • 2018 Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Young Investigator Award 
  • 2018 DARPA Young Faculty Award
  • 2018 Sloan Foundation Fellow
  • 2017 Kavli Fellow, National Academies of Engineering FOE
  • 2017 FFAR New Innovator Award
  • 2017 Stanley Fahn Junior Faculty Award
  • 2017 Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub Young Investigator
  • 2016 Beckman Foundation Young Investigator
  • 2016 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface (CASI)
  • 2015 Brain and Behavior Foundation Young Investigator Award (NARSAD)

In the News

Markita Landry receives Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholars award

Markita Landry, Asst. Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, has been named a 2021 Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar. This award recognizes faculty within the first five years of their academic careers, who have created an outstanding independent body of scholarship, and are deeply committed to education.

Nano-sized sensors learn new biological tricks

Christopher Jackson, a graduate student in the Landry Lab at QB3-Berkeley, explores how a better understanding of nanotechnology interactions with biological systems can improve neuroimaging and COVID-19 testing.

A Nano Strategy Overcomes Barriers to Plant Genetic Engineering

It’s like a Trojan horse on an incredibly small scale, a vehicle designed to slip through the tough defensive wall of plant cells and deliver the potent gene editing system, CRISPR-Cas9. Once inside, CRISPR- Cas9 can snip out a targeted gene to boost crop yields. The delivery vehicles are nanotubes, developed by Markita Landry. With support as a Bakar Fellow, Landry is now refining the technique and working with experts in agricultural science, business and other fields needed to reach the marketplace.

Seven new Bakar Fellows already are making an impact

Seven University of California, Berkeley, faculty scientists with novel ideas and an entrepreneurial spirit have been named to the 2019-20 cohort of Bakar Fellows, an honor that gives the fellows the money and time to translate their laboratory breakthroughs into technologies ready for the marketplace.

With nanotubes, genetic engineering in plants is easy-peasy

Inserting or tweaking genes in plants is more art than science, but with a new technique developed by University of California, Berkeley, scientists could make genetically engineering any type of plant—in particular, gene editing with CRISPR-Cas9—simple and quick.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
March 13, 2019
Jill Kiedaisch
A new way of genetically engineering plants using nanotubes and CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology promises to make the modification of plants far easier and quicker than any strategy to date. The technique works consistently -- unlike prior strategies -- and it is accomplished by grafting a gene onto a carbon nanotube that can easily slip through the plant's cell wall, delivering the desired gene into the nucleus as well as the chloroplast. In addition to protecting the DNA from being degraded, the nanotube prevents insertion into the plant's genome, and that means the process is not considered a genetic modification, or GMO. "In agriculture, genetic enhancement of plants can be employed to create crops that are resistant to herbicides, insects, diseases, and drought," the team, led by assistant chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Markita Landry, wrote in their report. For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News. Other stories on this topic have appeared in dozens of sources, including Science and Technology Research News, Extreme Tech, Floral Daily, and Tech Times.
March 11, 2019
Joe Palca
Berkeley scientists have developed a new way of genetically engineering plants using nanotubes and CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology, and the method promises to make the modification of plants significantly easier and quicker than any strategy to date. The technique works consistently -- unlike prior strategies -- and it is accomplished by grafting a gene onto a carbon nanotube that can easily slip through the plant's cell wall, delivering the desired gene into the nucleus as well as the chloroplast. Assistant chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Markita Landry, the study's lead author, came up with the idea. Explaining the nanotubes' purpose, she says a strand of DNA is small enough to get through a plant cell wall, but it's not stiff enough. "You can kind of think of it like a floppy string," she says. "If you try to push a floppy string through a sponge, it's not really going to work, but if you take a solid needle and try to push it through a sponge, that will work much better." Link to audio. For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News.
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