Epigenetic Regulation as a Driver of Adaptive Plant Growth

A Missouri leader in the agricultural biotech sphere, Thomas Tom Brutnell consults and serves as vice president at Gateway Biotechnology, Inc. For his thesis research at Yale University, Thomas Brutnell undertook a molecular genetic analysis of transposable elements in plants and focused on the epigenetic regulation of the transposable maize Activator/Dissociation (Ac/Ds) elements.

Not limited to plants, epigenetic regulation of genes is a process where their activity is controlled by the structure of chromatin (a material made up of protein, RNA, and DNA). However, epigenetic regulation in plants differs in important ways from animals. With mammals, most tissue and organ formation occurs during embryonic development. By contrast, plants continuously generate new organs from meristems (self-sustaining stem cell populations), enabling growth. This exposes the plant germline to many more challenges over time that a typical mammalian system. For instance, the meristems of a 200 year old tree are experiencing CO2 concentrations today that are nearly double the levels when it germinated and the associated extreme environmental variation associated with climate change!

Plants cannot leave their environments and must cope with variable and unfavorable conditions. Epigenetic regulatory mechanisms enable metastable alterations in gene activity and influence gene expression patterns, allowing plants to survive and reproduce in diverse environments. Polyploidization is one key aspect that contributes to epigenetic regulation. It expands the plant’s sets of chromosomes, strengthening gene families and enabling functional specializations among duplicated genes.

The Differences between Hiking and Trekking

A Yale University PhD graduate, Dr. Thomas “Tom” Brutnell is a scientist with over 25 years of experience in plant molecular biology, genetics, and genomics. He currently serves as a vice president at Gateway Biotechnology, a drug development company in St. Louis, Missouri. He also serves as a visiting scientist at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing, China. In his free time, Thomas Brutnell is an avid walker and occasional runner.

Given the extensive amount of time many of us now spend behind a computer screen, it is important to incorporate some daily standing, stretching and walking breaks into the daily work schedule. This is particularly relevant to those of us who now work from home and spend even less time walking to and from our cars into the office in the morning or routinely skip heading out to lunch for a break. Incorporating a short 10 to 15 min walk between a morning and afternoon meeting is a great way to rest your eyes, wrists and fingers from the screen and keyboard. It is also important to be intentional in standing at least every hour. Just one or two minutes of standing and walking around the living room every hour can actually benefit your metabolism and provided a break for your eyes.

In addition to taking short breaks during the day, incorporating 20 min or more of strenuous exercise two or three times a week is not only good for the body but good for the mind. A 20 min run through the woods or even on a treadmill will do more to help relieve stress if you don’t think about work and instead focus on your breathing, your posture or on the rhythm of your pace. The time spent on these activities will more than make up in productivity (and longevity!) for time lost behind the screen.

Gateway Biotechnology Selected for MassChallenge Boston

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The vice president of drug development startup Gateway Biotechnology, Inc. in St. Louis, Missouri, Thomas Brutnell draws on more than 25 years of experience in plant molecular biology, genetics, and genomics to conduct research into preventing and treating hearing loss. During Thomas Brutnell’s tenure with the company, Gateway Biotechnology was selected to participate in the 2019 MassChallenge Boston.

A prestigious accelerator program, MassChallenge is a network that operates in Boston, Austin, Houston, and Rhode Island, as well as internationally in Mexico, Switzerland, and Israel. Participating startups receive access to coworking space and mentoring, as well as the potential to connect with venture investors. Gateway was among just 9 percent of applicants selected for the program, giving the company a chance to compete for over $1 million in cash prizes.

MassChallenge Boston marks a significant opportunity for Gateway Biotechnology, which has previously received funding from Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology. Gateway Biotechnology was also part of a $10 million Army grant to study hearing loss.

About the BIO Investor Forum Digital

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With a Ph.D. in biology from Yale University in Missouri, Thomas Brutnell serves as vice president of Missouri-based Gateway Biotechnology focused on preventing noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus. In 2020, Thomas Brutnell attended the international biotech investor conference, the BIO Investor Forum Digital.

An international biotech investor conference BIO Investor Forum Digital is an annual event that dedicates its focus to realizing the growth of startups and emerging companies. Some featured sessions in the events include business roundtables and therapeutic workshops, plenary sessions, BIO One-on-One Partnering meetings, and plenary sessions. The event can be attended by members of the BIO committee, who are individuals with interests in public outreach and career growth acceleration among other motives.

The 2020 BIO Investor Forum Digital, featured 974 attendees from 697 companies, 2300 scheduled meetings, and 952 delegates from 32 countries. The forum provides an excellent opportunity for investors and small companies to connect and quickly explore opportunities.