Jane E. Parker is a Research Group Leader at The Max-Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research (MPIPZ) and Professor at The Institute of Genetics, University of Cologne in Germany. She has been a Principal Investigator of the Cologne-Düsseldorf Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences (CEPLAS) since its inception in 2013. Dr. Parker obtained her BSc degree in Applied Biology from The University of Bradford in the UK in 1983 and PhD in the Department of Plant and Microbial Sciences at The University of Wales, Swansea in 1987. Dr. Parker began studying plant – microbe recognition and disease resistance as a postdoctoral fellow at MPIPZ and then in 1990 joined The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich in UK as a Research Associate, and later as Junior Group Leader. In 2001, Dr. Parker moved back to the Cologne Max-Planck Institute where she leads a team in the Department of Plant-Microbe Interactions. She received an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation ‘Sofja Kovaleskaja’ award for excellence in science research in 2001. She was elected to The ‘Leopoldina’ German National Academy of Sciences in 2013 and became an EMBO member in 2016. She was elected as a Fellow of The Royal Society in 2023. Dr. Parker contributes to various science committees and is currently on the Board of Directors for The International Society for Plant-Microbe Interactions (IS-MPMI).

Research Interests

Dr. Parker studies plant innate immunity with the aim to understand mechanisms of pathogen recognition by plant hosts and how recognition is transduced inside cells and tissues for effective disease resistance. She’s especially interested in the dynamic relationship between plants and (hemi) biotrophic pathogens which infect and spread if they’re not intercepted by receptors monitoring microbial disturbance at the cell surface and inside cells. Families of NLR receptors have evolved in animals and plants which, upon pathogen detection, form large oligomeric complexes (respectively, inflammasomes and resistosomes) to promote a strong immune response. In contrast to mammals, plant depend on their innate immune system to combat disease. Accordingly, plant NLRs in plant genomes have expanded greatly in number and diversified pathogen recognition surfaces, driven largely by pathogen evolution to avoid detection. While each NLR ‘sensor’ is specifically activated by a particular pathogen strain or molecule, NLR post-activation signaling events are controlled by quite conserved protein machineries driving cellular reprogramming and localized host cell death. A defense wave then spreads between cells and to distal tissues. Determining the underlying genetic and biochemical principles for plant immune regulation, and vulnerabilities of the immune system to pathogen attack, creates important leads for the design of new resistance strategies in crops.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 62: Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 26: Genetics