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Anne Elisabeth Osbourn FRS[1] is a professor of biology and director of the Norwich Research Park industrial biotechnology alliance at the John Innes Centre,[2] where she investigates plant natural product biosynthesis. She recognised that in the plant genome, the genes involved with biosynthesis organise in clusters. She is also a popular science communicator, and founder of the Science, Art and Writing (SAW) Initiative.[3]

Anne Osbourn

Anne Osbourn - Mechanisms of chemical diversification in plants.jpg
Osbourn lectures on "Mechanisms of chemical diversification in plants" in 2015
Anne Elisabeth Osbourn
EducationBingley Grammar School
Alma materDurham University
University of Birmingham
Scientific career
FieldsNatural products
InstitutionsJohn Innes Centre
University of East Anglia
Sainsbury Laboratory
New Phytologist
ThesisHost adaptation and variation in septoria nodorum (1985)

Early life and educationEdit

Osbourn grew up in West Yorkshire.[4] Her parents both studied and lectured english literature[4] and her father served in the army during World War II.[4] She became interested in plants as a child and She attended Bingley Grammar School and graduated in 1979. She earned a bachelor's degree in botany at Durham University.[5] At the time, researchers worked out how to transform the Rhizobium nitrogen fixation genes into the bacterium Escherichia coli.[4] Osbourn moved to the University of Birmingham for her doctoral studies on host adaptation in Septoria nodorum, supervised by Chris Caten.[4] She has described the Salem State University educationalist Louise Swiniarksi as her 'anchor throughout my adult life'.[4]

Research and careerEdit

Osbourn moved to Norwich in 1985, working at the John Innes Centre and Sainsbury Laboratory.[6] As of 2019 Osbourn is a Professor at the John Innes Centre, where she is also Director of the Norwich Research Park Industrial Biotechnology Alliance. She looks at how natural products interact with natural organisms.[7] Her early work looked at saponins and their role in plant defence.[8][9] Osbourn studies natural product biosynthesis. In particular, she has worked on the biosynthesis of triterpene. She identified that metabolic pathways organise in operon-like clusters, which allowed her to develop a novel opportunity to discover natural product pathways through genome mining. The natural products include terpenes, which can be used in the pharmaceutical industry as well as food and manufacturing.[10][6] Her research has been funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).[11]

Public engagement and honoursEdit

She was appointed to the UEA Creative Writing Course as a Nesta dreamtime fellow in 2004. Here she wrote poetry about her life as a plant scientist.[12][13] Osbourn became a popular science writer, and founded the Science, Art and Writing (SAW) Initiative.[4][14][3][15] Young scientists from elementary schools in the UK and China take part in the SAW initiative.[4] In 2016 Osbourn took part in an international exchange with the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology.[16]

Osbourn was elected to AcademiaNet in 2014.[17] She is an editor of the New Phytologist.[12] She has won various awards and honours, including the medal of the University of Helsinki. In 2019 Osbourn was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).[18][19] She is the thirtieth research who has been elected Fellow from the John Innes Centre.[18]


  • 2011 Root-specific promoters[20]
  • 2008 Enzymes involved in triterpene synthesis[21]


  1. ^ "Anne Osbourn - Royal Society". Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  2. ^ Anne Osbourn publications from Europe PubMed Central
  3. ^ a b Osbourn A (2008). "SAW: breaking down barriers between art and science". PLoS Biology. 6 (8): e211. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060211. PMC 2525686. PMID 18752351.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Professor Anne Osbourn". John Innes Centre. 2018-11-21. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  5. ^ "Gazette, XXVII (ns) including supplement". Durham University. p. 45. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  6. ^ a b Anon (2005). "Multiple Campylobacter Genomes Sequenced". PLOS Biology. 3 (1): e40. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030040. ISSN 1545-7885. PMC 539341.  
  7. ^ "Anne Osbourn at the 2014 DOE JGI Genomics of Energy & Environment Meeting",, DOE Joint Genome Institute, 2014-04-23, retrieved 2019-04-19
  8. ^ Bouarab K, Melton R, Peart J, Baulcombe D, Osbourn A (2002). "A saponin-detoxifying enzyme mediates suppression of plant defences". Nature. 418 (6900): 889–92. Bibcode:2002Natur.418..889B. doi:10.1038/nature00950. PMID 12192413.  
  9. ^ Boutanaev AM, Moses T, Zi J, Nelson DR, Mugford ST, Peters RJ, Osbourn A (2015). "Investigation of terpene diversification across multiple sequenced plant genomes". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 112 (1): E81–8. Bibcode:2015PNAS..112E..81B. doi:10.1073/pnas.1419547112. PMC 4291660. PMID 25502595.
  10. ^ BBSRC author. "Portfolio Analyser". Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  11. ^ a b Osbourn A (October 2015). "Anne Osbourn". The New Phytologist. 208 (1): 23–5. doi:10.1111/nph.13616. PMID 26311283.
  12. ^ Osbourn A (January 2006). "The poetry of science". Nature Reviews. Microbiology. 4 (1): 77–80. doi:10.1038/nrmicro1321. PMID 16357863.  
  13. ^ "SAW antibiotics book launch, October 2017 » The SAW Trust". Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  14. ^ Osbourn, Anne (2009). "A meeting place: The Science, Art and Writing initiative". Current Science. 97 (11): 1547–1554. ISSN 0011-3891. JSTOR 24107294.
  15. ^ "Professor Anne Osbourn | Royal Society". Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  16. ^ "Prof. Anne Osbourn - AcademiaNet". Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  17. ^ a b Hill, Chris (2019). "Scientists honoured during 'golden age of discovery' at Norwich Research Park". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  18. ^ "Professor Anne Osbourn elected as Fellow of the Royal Society". John Innes Centre. 2019-04-17. Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  19. ^ "06.414 - Root-Specific Promoters | PBL Technology". Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  20. ^ "Enzymes involved in triterpene synthesis - Patent US8614369 - PubChem". Retrieved 2019-04-19.