Zhengyu (Allen) Wen is a plant molecular biologist. Currently, he is trying to improve maize lethal necrosis (MLN) resistance using CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing approach. Since 2011, MLN has seriously reduced maize yields in eastern Africa. By directly editing susceptible genes in local commercial hybrid parental lines, the timeframe for developing MLN resistant maize varieties can be significantly shortened, and Wen is hoping to deliver MLN resistant seeds to African farmers as soon as possible.
Wen obtained his PhD in plant physiology from the University of Adelaide and later held a postdoctoral position at the University of Sydney. During this time, he functionally characterized a pair of nitrate transporters in maize and discovered the key amino acid residue that influences nitrate/chloride specificity, which can potentially be applied to increase maize nitrogen-use-efficiency or salinity tolerance.