Karen McDonald

University of California, Davis


Dr. McDonald is a Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of California at Davis. Her research is focused on synthetic biology in plants, as well as bioprocess engineering technologies to produce recombinant proteins using whole plants, harvested plant tissues, or plant cells grown in bioreactors. She serves as the Food and Pharmaceutical Synthesis Division Lead for the NASA-funded Center for the Utilization of Biological Engineering in Space, which supports biomanufacturing for deep space exploration.

2023 ACS Fall POLY: CME NASA Symposium Abstract

Plant Molecular Farming To Support Human Life On The moon, Mars, and Beyond

Plants are important resources for space exploration life support – they are capable of harnessing light, producing food and oxygen, purifying water, recycling waste streams, and buoying the mental health of crew members. But plants can also be used as living molecular foundries, engineered to produce a broad range of mission-critical compounds including biomaterials, nutraceuticals, food additives, enzymes, diagnostic reagents, and biopharmaceuticals. This presentation will provide an overview of the technologies involved and potential space applications of plant molecular farming.