ITbM continues its research into creating 'transformative bio-molecules' that change the way we do science and we live through the dynamic cooperation of synthetic chemists, plant/animal biologists and theoreticians. ITbM has been developing new research fields at the interface of biology and chemistry to create transformative bio-molecules that will have a great and positive impact on society. From 2020, ITbM reset its prioritizing research areas under the title of 'ITbM 2.0', and tackles to the five challenges; "parasitic plants", "chemistry-enabled plant adaptation", "clock diseases", "chemistry-enabled bioimaging", and "nanocarbon chemistry and biology".
From April 2022, under the leadership of the new Director, ITbM will open up new frontiers with the power of molecules through curiosity-driven interdisciplinary research.
ITbM developed SPL7, a molecule to control the germination of the parasitic plant Striga. SPL7 is expected to be a long-awaited technology to pursue future food security on the African continent. In 2019, field trials of SPL7 started in Kenya in collaboration with the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).
Chemistry-enabled plant adaptation
Plants have inherent stress tolerance systems that enable them to adapt to environmental changes. However, recent global climate change has exceeded the tolerance of the current abiotic stress response. ITbM aims to develop molecules to overcome such environmental stress to maximize the adaptive power of plants via an interdisciplinary approach.
The circadian clock regulates virtually all physiological processes. Disturbances in the circadian system have a profound impact on health, and have been linked to several pathologies, including obesity, psychiatric disorders, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. ITbM will endeavor to develop transformative bio-molecules to understand and regulate the biological clock to combat global climate and environmental changes.
ITbM has been working to develop new bioimaging molecules and tools that overcome many drawbacks of current fluorescence molecules and applicable to wide ranges of biology and medical sciences. A series of fluorescent molecules with chemical stability and super photostability developed by ITbM are being applied to various fields.
Nanocarbon chemistry and biology
ITbM has conducted the precise and bottom-up synthesis of various new forms of nanocarbons and had a significant impact in the field of nanocarbon science. Representative achievements are the first selective synthesis of carbon nanorings, representing the shortest sidewall segments of carbon nanotubes, a carbon nanobelt as one of the most difficult problems in chemistry for the last 60 years, and a warped nanographene as a three dimensionally curved nanocarbon. These unique nanocarbon entities are expected to be applied to new materials and also to biological applications.