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Agnieszka Piatek

PhD Student

Research Group: Magdy Mahfouz

Research Interests

My research focuses on development of highly efficient and specific genome editing tools including the synthetic site specific nucleases TALENs and CRISPR/Cas9 system. TALENs, also known as "molecular scissors", are composed of an adaptable DNA binding module fused to a catalytic nuclease domain. The DNA binding module can be engineered to recognize any given DNA sequence, whereas the catalytic module introduces double stranded breaks on the DNA. The efficiency of this platform largely depends on the adaptability or customizability of the DNA binding module. The Cas9 system is directed by single guide RNA molecule to its genomic target and can be easily reprogrammed and customized to cleave any user selected DNA target. The easy programmability and customization of the RNA molecule, which directs the Cas9 nuclease, holds significant potential for improving the quality and yield of current crop varieties. Using both technologies, novel genes can be identified, crop trait development can be accelerated, and the range of possible traits can be expanded.

Selected Publications

  • Li L, Atef A, Piatek A, Ali Z, Piatek M, Aouida M, Sharakuu A, Mahjoub A, Wang G, Khan S, Fedoroff NV, Zhu JK, Mahfouz MM. “Characterization and DNA-binding specificities of Ralstonia TAL-like effectors.” Mol Plant. 2013 Jul;6(4):1318-30. doi: 10.1093/mp/sst006. Epub 2013 Jan 8.

  • Li L, Piatek MJ, Atef A, Piatek A, Wibowo A, Fang X, Sabir JS, Zhu JK, Mahfouz MM. “Rapid and highly efficient construction of TALE-based transcriptional regulators and nucleases for genome modification.” Plant Mol Biol. 2012 Mar;78(4-5):407-16. doi: 10.1007/s11103-012-9875-4. Epub 2012 Jan 22

Education Profile

  • February 2011 – present  PhD Student, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia.
  • 2009    MSc in Microbial and Plant Biotechnology, University of Silesia, Poland.
  • 2008   BSc (Hons) in Molecular and Cellular Biology, 1st Class, University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom.
  • 2006    BSc in Microbial and Plant Biotechnology, University of Silesia, Poland.

Professional Profile

  • 2011  Cutting-edge Bioinformatics workshop, BGI, China
  • 2009  Research Intern at Cranfield University, United Kingdom
  • 2008-2009  Member of Association of Biotechnology Students at University of Silesia, Pol Silesia, Poland
  • 2003  Volunteer at the Maria Sklodowska-Curie Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Poland    


  • 2001  KAUST Provost Award
  • 2009  Socrates Erasmus Scholarship
  • 2007  Scholarship for academic performance at University of Silesia, Poland
  • 2004  Scholarship for academic performance at University of Silesia, Poland