Haroon Butt

Research Scientists

Research Scientist



Research Interests

Haroon Butt's research interests are focused on developing novel genome-engineering technologies. Advances in genome engineering technologies are helpful to study the function of genes and modify plant traits for high-quality, disease resistance, and stress tolerance in crop species. His team has developed a targeted directed evolution platform to produce new traits by programming the CRISPR/Cas9 system to generate sequence diversification at the target site under selective pressure. Further, they are focusing on the role of RNA alternative splicing in the regulation of gene expression. These technologies could be used to engineer crop plants for improved agricultural traits. 

Selected Publications

  • Overlapping roles of spliceosomal components SF3B1 and PHF5A in rice splicing regulation, Butt H, Bazin J, Alshareef S, Eid A, Benhamed M, Reddy ASN, Crespi M, Mahfouz MM, Communications Biology, 2021, 4(1):529.
  • Engineering herbicide resistance via prime editing in rice, Butt H, Rao GS, Sedeek K, Aman R, Kamel R, Mahfouz M. Plant Biotechnol J., 2020, 18(12):2370-2372.
  • CRISPR-based directed evolution for crop improvement, H Butt, SSA Zaidi, N Hassan, M Mahfouz, Trends in Biotechnology, 2020, 38 (3), 236-240 1.
  • Multiplex CRISPR mutagenesis of the serine/arginine-rich (SR) gene family in rice, H Butt, A Piatek, L Li, A SN Reddy, M M Mahfouz, Genes, 2019, 10 (8), 596.
  • CRISPR directed evolution of the spliceosome for resistance to splicing inhibitors, H Butt, A Eid, AA Momin, J Bazin, M Crespi, ST Arold, MM Mahfouz, Genome Biology, 2019, 20 (1), 73.
  • Engineering plant architecture via CRISPR/Cas9-mediated alteration of strigolactone biosynthesis, H Butt, M Jamil, JY Wang, S Al-Babili, M Mahfouz, BMC Plant Biology, 2018, 18 (1), 1-9.
  • RNA virus interference via CRISPR/Cas13a system in plants, R Aman, Z Ali, H Butt, A Mahas, F Aljedaani, MZ Khan, S Ding, M Mahfouz, Genome Biology, 2018, 19 (1), 1.
  • Efficient CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing using a chimeric single-guide RNA molecule, H Butt, A Eid, Z Ali, MAM Atia, MM Mokhtar, N Hassan, CM Lee, G Bao, ...Frontiers in Plant Science, 2017, 8, 1441.


  • PhD (Doctor rerum naturalium technicarum), Department of Applied Genetics and Cell Biology, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria, 2012
  • MSc (Honors), Plant Breeding and Genetics, Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan, 2006
  • BSc (Honors), Agriculture, Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan, 2004

Professional Profile

  • 2021-present: Research Scientist, Center for Desert Agriculture, KAUST, Saudi Arabia 
  • 2016-2021: Post-doctoral Fellow, Center for Desert Agriculture, KAUST, Saudi Arabia 
  • 2014-2015: Research Consultant, Center for Desert Agriculture, KAUST, Saudi Arabia 
  • 2012-2014: Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Forman Christian College (A Chartered University), Lahore, Pakistan 
  • 2012: Assistant Professor, Agricultural Biotechnology Division, National Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, Faisalabad, Pakistan 


  • 2012 PhD Passed with distinction
  • 2008 Overseas PhD Scholarship Phase II Batch I HEC Pakistan
  • 2004 BSc (Honors): University merit scholarship

Research Interests Keywords

genome engineering directed evolution RNA splicing