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Plant Biotechnology


Admission requirements

The course is open for all students that are enrolled in the minor Molecular Biotechnology.


Plants are photosynthetic eukaryotes belonging to the kingdom Plantae or green plants, which includes more than 300.000 species. Apart from being an important source of healthy food, fodder, building and other biomaterials, food additives or medicinal compounds, plants contribute significantly to our healthy environment as they purify the air and fix CO2, thus reducing global warming.
This course consists of two parts. The first part introduces students into the genetic, molecular and cell biology aspects of plant biotechnology. This includes an overview of important uses of plants and methods to improve plant/crop traits for more sustainable production or specific applications, either by genetic modification, directed genome editing or modern breeding. Methods in crop propagation with also be presented. As part of the course, students will visit a Dutch breeding company, and will be informed how intellectual property in plant biotechnology is protected either by a patent application or by plant breeder’s right. The second part of the course will focus on plant metabolites and their identification, purification, and applications. Like all organisms, plants synthesize small molecules (metabolites) that play important roles in functioning of the organism in its physiology and interacting with other organisms and environments. In the 2nd part of the course, chemistry, and biology as well as their applications to life sciences like pharmaceuticals will be covered.

Course Objectives

During this course, the students will learn to:
1) Describe and explain GM and nonGM methods for (genome editing in) crop breeding.
2) Describe and explain trait discovery and breeding for stress or disease resilience in crop plants, apply this knowledge in a research proposal (presentation)
3) Describe and explain breeding targets for propagation and more sustainable production of crop plants.
4) Describe and explain breeding targets for healthy food and plant-based medicines or products.
5) Describe the crop breeding business and the difference between a patent and breeder's rights.
6) Recognize the major groups of plant primary metabolites.
7) Explain separation and purification methods for plant natural products.
8) Explain separation and purification methods for plant natural products.
9) Understand spectroscopical methods for plant natural product identification.
10) Explain how bioactivity of plant natural products can be tested.

Final qualifications:
Students are able to describe and explain state-of-the art methods for (molecular) crop breeding, crop propagation and trait and breeding target discovery. They have gained knowledge about the crop breeding/plant biotechnology business and know the difference between a patent and breeder’s right. In addition, students have gained knowledge about several aspects of important metabolites from different sources including their synthesis, methods for their isolation and characterization, ecological function, and specific applications. Students have gained experience in preparing their presentations about specific natural products and their related applications, and in giving an oral presentation in English language.


A detailed timetable will be published on Brightspace.

You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

Staff lectures, student presentations, company visit, practical, self-study

Assessment method

Evaluation of individual oral presentations and participation and two written exams. The final grade will be calculated from the following partial grades:

  • Written exam for part 1 (breeding/trait discovery): 40%, minimum grade: 5.6

  • Summary of company visit: pass/fail

  • Research proposal and presentation part 1: 20%, minimum grade: 5.6

  • Written exam for part 2 (natural products): 40%, minimum grade: 5.6

  • Attendance/impression: round off grade
    The minimum final grade is 6.

Reading list

Course material will be supplied by the lecturers.


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information. Exemptions are minor students and fall semester for 1st year bachelor students: the student administration will enroll these groups for courses.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.


Coordinator: Kiki Spaninks, Dr. Y.H. Choi


Announcements, course information and course material will be communicated via Brightspace.