Institute of

Forest Genetics

Junior Research Group "Genetic Technologies"

The "Genetic Technologies" Group is an independent junior research group at the Thünen Institute of Forest Genetics, funded by the Agency of Renewable Resources ("Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe", FNR).

This group is focused on genome editing of trees. So-called new breeding technologies, in particular CRISPR/Cas, are developed and adapted for forest plants so that this method - originally derived from bacteria - works in complex plants.

In addition to this method development, the Genetic Technologies Group also conducts research in the field of climate adaptation. Poplars serve us as model organisms on which the genetic background of drought stress tolerance is investigated. By experimentally modifying the genes involved, we aim to draw conclusions about their function. The results will be transferred to the most important German deciduous tree species, the European beech Fagus sylvatica.


Dr. Tobias Brügmann (group leader)
Alexander Fendel (PhD student)
Virginia Zahn (PhD student)
Alice-Jeannine Sievers (scientific assistant)
Susanne Jelkmann (technical assistant)

Thalia von Nethen (Bachelor student, since November 2021)
Inka Stange (Bachelor student, since January 2022)
Rose Becker (Technician trainee, since January 2022)

Blog: News from the junior research group

December 2021
In the ARTE TV documentary "42 - The answer to almost everything", Tobias Brügmann presented some approaches of our research work. The video of the episode "How do we save the trees?", also with Thünen colleague Hilke Schröder, is available in the media library (in German): Video here!

November 2021
A new bachelor student has started in our research group: Thalia von Nethen from Emden-Leer University of Applied Sciences will be working on an exciting topic over the next few months. She will be working on DNA-free genome editing methods. With this topic she follows up on the work from the project "aProPop".
In the Laborjournal (Page 24) there is an interview with group leader Tobias.

October 2021
We participated in the section meeting of the Society for Plant Breeding in Geisenheim: Virginia and Alexander gave a presentation on the goals of their work. Tobias gave a comprehensive overview of the status of genome editing in trees.

September 2021
Conference Month: Virginia, Alexander, and Tobias presented their work at the Society for Plant Biotechnology's Molecular Breeding Workshop. In addition, Tobias was at an EU meeting in Lecce, Italy, to report on DNA-free genome editing and special applications beyond simple CRISPR/Cas knockouts, among other topics.

Study & Training

Bachelor's and master's theses as well as university internships can be carried out in our laboratory. Furthermore, we participate in the training of biological-technical assistants. The trainees are integrated into our research activities in four-month blocks. If you are interested or have any questions, please contact the head of the junior research group.

Accomplished theses:

Stefan Zebbedies (2021) Etablierung der Nickase-Genomeditierung in Pappeln.
Bachelorarbeit, Studiengang Nachwachsende Rohstoffe, Hochschule Hannover
[Establishing the nickase-mediated genome editing in poplars]

Oliver Sulkowski (2020) Molekularbiologische Untersuchung auf erhöhte Salz- und Trockenstresstoleranz in SCL4- und SCL7-überexprimierenden Pappelhybriden (Populus x canescens).
Bachelorarbeit, Studiengang Bioinformatik/Schwerpunkt Biotechnologie, Hochschule Emden-Leer
[Analysis of salt and drought stress tolerance in
SCL4 and SCL7 overexpression poplar hybrids]


The Genetic Technologies Group interacts with scientists from several research institutions. These are in particular:

  • Genome Research, Thünen Institute of Forest Genetics (PD Dr. M. Fladung)
  • Resistance Research, Thünen Institute of Forest Genetics (Dr. B. Bubner)
  • Instytut Dendrologii Polskiej Akademii Nauk, Kornik, Poland (Prof. P. Chmielarz)
  • Istituto Biometeorologia IBIMET-CNR, Bologna, Italy (Dr. E. Gatti)
  • Provenance Research and Forest Tree Breeding, Thünen Institute of Forest Genetics (Dr. M. Liesebach)
  • Plant Ecology, FU Berlin (PD Dr. M. Forstreuter)
  • Competence Center Timber, Thünen Institute of Forest Genetics (Dr. B. Degen)
  • Molecular Plant Genetics, University of Hamburg (Dr. D. Becker + Prof. Dr. J. Kehr)
  • Plant Genetics, Albert-Ludwig-University Freiburg (PD Dr. R. Welsch)
  • Centre for Plant Genome Engineering, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf (Dr. G. Hensel)


The Genetic Technologies Junior Research Group is financially supported by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture through the Agency of Renewable Resources (FNR) (funding code 2219NR359).