Salim Al-Babili


Professor of Plant Science



Research Interests

Prof. Al-Babili has a longstanding expertise in engineering biofortified crops, e.g. Golden Rice, and elucidating metabolic pathways. His group is currently working on basic and translational aspects of hormone research, focusing on strigolactones and novel small molecules regulating crop resilience and performance. He is heading an international consortium on combating the parasitic plant Striga (witchweed), a major threat to global food security in sub-Saharan Africa, by using novel hormone-based chemistries, genetic and modern gene editing approaches. 

Selected Publications

  • Zaxinone, a natural apocarotenoid, regulates growth and strigolactone biosynthesis in rice. J.Y. Wang, I. Haider, M. Jamil, V. Fiorilli, Y. Saito, J., Mi, L. Baz, B., Kountche, K.P. Jia, X. Guo, A. Balakrishna, V. Ntui, B. Reinke, V. Volpe, T. Gojobori, I. Blilou, L. Lanfranco, P. Bonfante, S. Al-Babili. Nature Communications, 2019.
  • Anchorene is a carotenoid-derived regulatory metabolite required for anchor root formation in Arabidopsis. K.P. Jia, A.J. Dickinson, J. Mi, G. Cui, T.T. Xiao, N.M. Kharbatia, X. Guo, E. Sugiono, M. Aranda, I. Blilou, M. Rueping, P.N. Benfey, S. Al-Babili. Science Advances, 2019.
  • Implementing suicidal germination strategy for sustainable witchweed control in sub-Saharan Africa. B. Kountche, M. Jamil, D. Yonli, P. Nikiema, T. Asami, B. Zwanenburg, S. Al-Babili. Plant People Planet, 2019.
  • Strigolactones, a novel carotenoid-derived plant hormone. S. Al-Babili, H.J. Bouwmeester. Annual Review in Plant Biology, 2015.
  • The path from β-carotene to carlactone, a strigolactone-like plant hormone. A. Alder, M. Jamil, M. Marzorati, M. Bruno, M. Vermathen, P. Bigler, S. Ghisla, H.J. Bouwmeester, P. Beyer, S. Al-Babili. Science, 2012.
  • Engineering the provitamin A (beta-carotene) biosynthetic pathway into (carotenoid-free) rice endosperm. X. Ye*, S. Al-Babili*, A. Klöti, J. Zhang, P. Lucca, P. Beyer, I. Potrykus. Science, 2000.


  • venia legendi and Habilitation in Cell Biology, Albert-Ludwigs Universitaet Freiburg, Germany, 2007

  • Ph.D., Biology, Albert-Ludwigs Universitaet Freiburg, Germany, 1996

  • Diploma, Biology, Albert-Ludwigs Universitaet Freiburg, Germany, 1992 

    Professional Profile

    • Since 2019: Full Professor, BESE Division, KAUST 
    • 2013-2019: Associate Professor, BESE Division, KAUST, Saudi Arabia
    • 2008-2013: „Akademischer Rat auf Zeit“, Albert-Ludwigs Universitaet Freiburg, Germany
    • 2002-2008: Hochschulassistant (C1, Assistant Prof.), Albert-Ludwigs Universitaet Freiburg, Germany 
    • 1998-2002: Research Associate, Institute for Bio.II, Albert-Ludwigs Universitaet Freiburg, Germany
    • 1996-1998: Post-Doc Fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation „Golden Rice“ project, Germany/Switzerland


    • Elected Vice Chair of the Gordon Conference on Carotenoids (2020);
    • Ventura, CA; and Chair of the Gordon Conference on Carotenoids (2023)
    • Awarded with an Arab-American Frontiers Fellowship (seed grant application for collaboration) 
    • The Rockefeller Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship
    • University of Damascus Scholarship for undergraduate study of Biology in Germany

    KAUST Affiliations

    CDA - Center for Desert Agriculture 

    BESE - Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering 

    Research Interests Keywords

    Plant metabolic engineering Plant hormones Carotenoids and Apocarotenoids Root Parasitic Plants Plant Biotic Interactions Small Molecules Plant Growth Regelators