Academic Profile : Faculty

Marek Mutwil.jpg picture
Assoc Prof Marek Mutwil
Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences
Marek received his Bachelor and Master degrees in biochemistry at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, where he studied the biosynthesis of polysaccharides in tip-growing cells in the group of prof. William G.T. Willats. He then joined the group of prof. Staffan Persson at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology (MPIMP), focusing on computational biology of plants. After a brief postdoc, he established a research group at MPIMP, where he used computational biology to study gene co-function networks, with the aim to understand how genes work together to express plant traits and to elucidate how plants evolve new pathways. His group at NTU was established in December 2017.
Dr. Marek Mutwil and his research group combine bioinformatics, machine learning, data science, and experimental biology to study the evolution of the plant kingdom from the perspective of gene expression.

More specifically, we ask the questions:
1) What are the functions of plant genes? To generate cutting-edge gene function predictions we utilize our own and publicly available large-scale biological data, together with state-of-the-art ensemble prediction algorithms. We make these predictions publicly available with our popular online databases.

2) How are biological networks evolving? Biological features (e.g. secondary metabolites or disease resistance) are encoded by polygenic gene modules, which often cannot be identified by genomics. To uncover them, we combine genomic and gene expression information to identify modules of functionally-related genes. By constructing and comparing the modules of green algae, mosses, vascular-, seed- and flowering plants, we will gain a systems-level, kingdom-wide understanding of when these modules appear and how they change in plant evolution.

3) Which gene modules biosynthesize high-value compounds found in plants? Co-function networks based on RNA sequencing data are a proven tool to identify genes involved in the biosynthesis of plant secondary metabolites. The group will focus on elucidating module-metabolite relationships with a special focus on plants of importance to Singapore and the bioprospecting of the rainforest. The functions of the elucidated modules, i.e. production of the secondary metabolites, will be tested by expression in heterologous systems, such as bacteria and/or yeast.
  • Characterization, in vitro and in vivo validation of local tropical herbs for colon cancer, stomach cancer and liver cancer prevention and treatment
  • From Plants to Antibiotics: Unlocking the Biosynthetic Pathways and Mode-of-Action of Antibacterial Compounds from Singaporean Flora
  • Gene Co-function Networks As Tools To Understand Plant Evolution And Secondary Metabolism
  • Improving yield, cultivating efficiency and nutrient quality of hydroponically-grown crops with rapid testing of growth conditions and gene expression analysis
  • Towards revealing biosynthesis of anti-tumor metabolites in Hedyotis diffusa
  • Towards stress-resilient plants: a comparative analysis of stress responses in the plant kingdom