About us

Despite the great efforts invested by seed and agrochemicals companies, diseases caused by phytopathogenic fungi such as powdery mildew or botrytis, continue to be a major threat.

Despite the great efforts invested by seed and agrochemicals companies, diseases caused by phytopathogenic fungi such as cucurbit powdery mildew (Podosphaera xanthii) or botrytis (Botrytis cinerea), continue to be a major threat to horticultural production throughout world level.

The use of fungicides is essential to control both diseases; however, these synthetic agrochemicals are under pressure due to the rapid emergence of resistance by these pathogens. Considering that the diversity of fungicides available to growers will be increasingly restricted, not only by the current European legislation on pesticides but also by the European Green Pact, it is essential to develop new crop protection tools that are compatible with an increasingly sustainable agricultural environment. Our research line aims to provide solutions for the control of both diseases by identifying new targets, essential proteins for the development and/or pathogenicity of these fungi, and the design of new molecules with fungicidal action such as antifungals and polynucleotides.

To do this, from genomic and transcriptomic information, and using protein modeling and gene silencing techniques, we identify potential targets. The design of new antifungal compounds inhibitors and fungicidal oligonucleotides (dsRNAs and aptamers) are being carried out by virtual screening of chemical libraries using topological descriptors and suppressing the gene expression or the direct blocking of the selected targets, respectively. In this way, we hope to be able to lay the foundations for the development of new phytosanitary products and increase the number of tools available for the integrated control of these and other diseases of fungal origin.

The team

Fotografía de Alejandro Pérez

Representative icon of pipette and test tube Alejandro Pérez

University of Malaga (UMA)

Career

Alejandro Pérez García (Málaga, 1968) has a degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Malaga (1991) and a PhD from the same University (1996). He completed a three-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Phytopathology Laboratory of Wageningen University (The Netherlands), under the direction of Professor Pierre de Wit. Since October 1999, he has been working at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Malaga, where he has been Professor of Microbiology since November 2017. He is currently carrying out his research activity focused on the protection of vegetable crops, within the framework of the IHSM-UMA-CSIC “La Mayora”. With 25 years of experience in Plant Pathology, he is an international expert in diseases caused by filamentous fungi called powdery mildew. To date, he has published more than 80 research articles with impact factor and a similar number of book chapters, research articles not included in SCI and popular articles, as well as more than 200 communications to national and international conferences and a patent.

He has directed 13 doctoral theses and as many undergraduate theses and master’s theses. He has been a researcher responsible for 7 research projects, autonomic and national ones, and various collaboration contracts with companies. Currently, his main line of research is the study of the molecular bases of powdery mildew biotrophy and pathogenesis, using the powdery mildew of the cucurbits Podosphaera xanthii as a model system, the purpose of which is to identify targets for the development of new fungicides. In addition, he also collaborates in the development of biological control products based on resistance-inducing systemic bacteria and antagonists of the Bacillus genus that have been effective in controlling these diseases both in the laboratory and in the greenhouse.

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Fotografía de Dolores Fernández

Representative icon of pipette and test tube Dolores Fernández

University of Malaga (UMA)

Career

Dolores Fernández Ortuño has a Bachelor’s Degree (2002), Master Degree (2005), and a PhD (2007) in Biology from the University of Malaga. She is an international expert in the chemical control, using fungicides, of important phytopathogenic fungi such as Botrytis cinerea, Podosphaera xanthii or Fusarium spp. Her scientific career has been completed with two long-term stays at Rothamsted Research (United Kingdom; 34 months) and the University of Clemson (United States; 40 months). These stays were financed through competitive programs from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation or the European Union. In 2015, she returned to Spain and obtaining a project about monitoring resistance to fungicides in strawberry pathogens that was financed through the competitive program COMFUTURO (focused on keeping the best young research talent in our country). In 2018, she joined the Department of Microbiology at the University of Malaga as a researcher in the Ramón y Cajal program, obtaining a permanent position as Contracted Professor (2020) and Associate Professor (2022).

In summary, she has participated in 30 research projects generating a total of 51 publications with JCR impact factor, 6 book chapters and 92 presentations to national and international conferences. Her research work is very applied and with great interest for the agriculture, being reflected in 96 dissemination and scientific transfer activities to through articles, guest lectures, interviews, news and several prizes (Manuel Losada Villasante 2022 or Meridiana 2019). She was Editor of the journal Plant Disease (2016-2018) and Guest Editor of the special edition “Fungicide Resistance in Plant Pathogens” of the Microorganisms journal (MDPI publisher). She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Spanish Society of Phytopathology (SEF) and the founder of the SEF Specialized Group “Chemical Control of diseases and development of resistance to phytosanitary products (FITORES)”, being also secretary of the Board of Directors. Lastly, she is the only Scientific Advisor of the Fungicide Action and Resistance Committee (FRAC) Spain since 2017.

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