Anne Osbourn has made distinguished contributions to both microbial and plant biology through her pioneering work on plant pathogenesis and operon-like gene clusters for the biosynthesis of natural products in plants. Her research integrates genomics and synthetic biology to synthesize and access previously inaccessible natural products and analogs for medicinal, agricultural and industrial applications. Osbourn grew up in the UK in West Yorkshire. She graduated from Durham University in 1982 with a first-class degree in botany, and from Birmingham University in 1985 with a PhD in genetics. She was a postdoctoral researcher at the John Innes Centre before moving to the Sainsbury Laboratory (Norwich, UK), where she established her own research group in 1999, before moving back to the John Innes Centre as a faculty member in 2004. She holds honorary professorships at the University of East Anglia (UK) and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China). She is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Member of the National Academy of Sciences, and an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE). She is also a popular science communicator, published poet, and founder of the Science, Art and Writing (SAW) initiative, a cross-curricular science education outreach programme (

Research Interests

Anne Osbourn's research focuses on plant natural products - function, biosynthesis, and mechanisms of metabolic diversification. Her demonstration that pre-formed specialised metabolites produced by plants as part of their normal programme of growth can protect against disease has had major impact for understanding of molecular plant-microbe interactions. Her subsequent discovery of biosynthetic gene clusters for natural product pathways in plants has revealed remarkable plasticity of plant genomes, and has opened up unprecedented opportunities for genome mining for the discovery of new metabolic pathways and chemistries. She has established a synthetic biology platform based on transient plant expression that provides rapid access to previously inaccessible natural products and analogs at gram scale. Together these step changes open up new routes to combine genomics and synthetic biology to harness plant metabolic diversity for medicinal, agronomic and other industrial applications.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 62: Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 25: Plant Biology