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johnathan napier


Prof. Johnathan Napier

Omega-3 Camelina Development

Plant Sciences for the Bioeconomy

Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, AL5 2JQ
+44 (0) 1582 938 136


Johnathan is a leading pioneer in plant biotechnology and an advocate for the power of GM plants to deliver for the public good. He has made the key discoveries in understanding the biosynthesis of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (aka, omega-3 fish oils). He was the first to identify the N-terminal cytochrome b5-fusion desaturase family now recognised, from his further work, as central to this pathway. He was also first to identify the other key biosynthetic activity for omega-3 fish oils, the microsomal elongase. He has reconstructed this complex heterologous pathway in transgenic plants, providing a sustainable terrestrial source of fish oils, and representing the most sophisticated plant metabolic engineering to date to undergo environmental release. This work is also among the most significant GM field trials in the UK. Johnathan is a passionate advocate for both the science and the impact (more sustainable aquaculture, better human nutrition) of his GM omega-3 project, and engaged in many public and media activities.

Strategic Programme

  • Tailoring Plant Metabolism (TPM)

Science Projects

  • Can oils derived from genetically-modified plants replace fish oil as a source of long chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the human diet?
  • Validating the commercial potential of genetically modified plant oils in aquaculture via full life-cycle replacement of marine feed ingredients
  • Transgenic oilseed crops as novel,safe and cost effective sources of EPA and DHA for salmon feed
  • Algal oils by design: a new biotech platform for high-value lipids


  • 2006 - Doctor of Science, University of Nottingham, UK
  • 1990 - PhD, King's College, University of London, UK
  • 1984 - BSc (Hons), University of Nottingham, UK

Measures of Esteem

  • Associate Editor, Plant Biotechnology Journal
  • Affiliated Lecturer, University of Cambridge
  • BBSRC "Great British Biosciences pioneer" 2014