Our Invited Speakers

Yuling Bai
Wageningen University & Research, The Netherlands

Dr Yuling Bai is professor of Plant Breeding, Wageningen University & Research (NL). Since 2007 she has been leading the research group of “Breeding for Resistance”, with the aim to develop breeding strategies for durable resistance in different crops. The research focuses on the understanding of genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying disease resistances. Various genetic and genomics approaches are exploited to discover novel plant resistance (R) and susceptibility (S) genes. The strong point in her research is its translational feature: overarching strategically the fundamental research to applied breeding practices. Her research has led to great impact in breeding practice by developing novel breeding strategies, tools and prebreeding plant materials. She is associate/senior editor for several scientific Journals and Chairperson of the Vegetable Section of EUCAPIA (European Association for Research on Plant Breeding).

Anna Cereseto
University of Trento, Italy

Dr Anna Cereseto is Full Professor at the University of Trento where she serves as Deputy Director of the Department CIBIO. She started her scientific career as post-doc at the National Cancer Institute, NIH in Bethesda, and then moved to Cornell University (NY) and Mount Sinai School of Medicine (NY) as Instructor. She moved back to Italy as Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa before moving to her current position at the University of Trento. She is leading a research group that gave major contribution in advancing genome editing technologies based on CRISPR-Cas systems and proved their efficacy in reversing genetic defects causing one of the most frequent genetic disease, cystic fibrosis. Her research is supported by the European Community (Horizon 2020) and by the US and Italian Cystic Fibrosis Foundations (FFC and CFF). In 2019 she co-founded a start-up, Alia Therapeutics, working on genome editing treatments where she is currently chief scientific officer (CSO).

Véronique Decroocq
French National Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment (INRAE), France

Dr Véronique Decroocq is research director at INRAE at the Fruit Biology and Pathology research unit of Bordeaux, affiliated to the Plant Breeding division. She graduated from the ISA agricultural school of Lille and Leuwen University and then attended the Paris XI Orsay University obtaining her Ph.D (1994) in plant molecular and cellular biology. As a postdoctorate, she was recipient of a fellowship from CSIRO Plant Industry (Canberra, Australia) before being appointed permanently as scientist at INRA (1997). Since then, Véronique’s research focuses on the analysis of genetic data in fruit trees to investigate the determinants of response to pathogens and more recently, in population history and adaptation to biotic/abiotic stress.

Laura Dixon
University of Leeds, UK

Dr Laura Dixon is a lecturer in Crop Genetics and Physiology and UKRI Future Leader Fellow at the University of Leeds, UK. She received her PhD from the University of Edinburgh (understanding plant circadian rhythms) and her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Cambridge (Natural Sciences). Her research group works to understand how cereals respond to temperature signals and use this knowledge to adapt and increase the robustness of the plants developmental response to these signals. The group’s work combines fundamental discovery science at the molecular and genetic level with the translation of this into field trials. Their work focuses on reproductive plant biology including the vegetative to floral transition, floret formation and flowering time regulation.

Santiago C. González-Martínez
French National Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment (INRAE), France

Dr Santiago C. González-Martínez is Research Director at INRAE (UMR1202 BIOGECO), in Bordeaux (France). He has developed main studies on evolutionary processes explaining the distribution of genetic diversity in forest trees, from gene flow and fine-scale spatial genetic structure to research on candidate genes for adaptive responses, in particular to climate. Currently, he develops a broad research line on ecological genetics and genomics of local adaptation, including the investigation of selection gradients, the genomic architecture of adaptive traits and the role of negative selection in (mal)adaptation. He is currently Coordinator of IUFRO’s Division 2 (Physiology & Genetics), the EVOLTREE European Research Group (www.evoltree.eu), and the Horizon Europe project OptFORESTS (www.optforests.eu).

Antonio Granell
Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain

Dr Toni  Granell is Research Professor at the IBMCP, a joint institute of the National Research Council CSIC and the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain, since 2003. He is a strong advocate of facilitating the access to Genetic Resources and the use of Genome editing for crop improvement.   His most recent interests are the characterization of genetic resources and combining natural genetic diversity with genetic engineering and genome editing to understand and improve tomato fruit quality.

Massimo Iorizzo
NC State University, USA

Dr Massimo Iorizzo is Associate Professor of plant genetics at North Carolina State University. His research focuses on comparative structural genomics and genetics of traits associated with enhanced quality characteristics including health properties in blueberry, carrot, banana, pineapple, spinach, sweet potato, cranberry and potato. Milestones of his research on these crops includes development of six reference genomes and discovery of multiple genes involved in bioactive molecules biosynthesis and regulation. Through a transdisciplinary research approach he began efforts to understand the relationship among quality traits, bioactive accumulation, and their nutrigenomic properties (bioaccessibility). In the long term, his research will facilitate the selection of new fruit and vegetable cultivars with improved quality and health promoting characteristics.

Laurent Laplaze
DIADE, France

Dr Laurent Laplaze is Senior Researcher at the Institute of Research for Development, and Université de Montpellier, France. After a thesis on nitrogen-fixing symbioses, Laurent Laplaze worked as a postdoc on the genetic mechanisms of root development in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana at the University of Cambridge (GB). He then joined the IRD in 2001. His current work focuses on the genetic control of root and rhizosphere traits in tropical cereals (millet, rice, sorghum) and aims to develop new varieties and practices to sustainably improve the production and resilience of agricultural systems in West Africa and South East Asia.

Corné Pieterse
Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Dr Corné Pieterse is professor Plant-Microbe Interactions and scientific director of the Institute of Environmental Biology at Utrecht University. His research group investigates how the plant immune system protects plants against microbial pathogens and insect herbivores, and how beneficial microbes in the plant root microbiome stimulate plant growth and health. Current research is focused on plant-beneficial functions that are encoded by the root microbiome and the role of plant genes and metabolites (coumarins) that aid in maximizing profitable functions from the root microbiome. With his research he aims to contribute to grand societal challenges, such as food security and sustainable agriculture.

Daniel Zilberman
Institute of Science and Technology, Austria

Dr Daniel Zilberman is professor at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA). He obtained his PhD at UCLA in 2004, where he studied RNA-directed DNA methylation. He pursued his postdoctoral studies at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, focusing on genomic techniques for mapping DNA methylation and histone variants. Prof. Zilberman started his laboratory at UC Berkeley in 2007, moved to the John Innes Centre in the UK in 2017, and has been a professor at ISTA since 2021. His research has focused on the evolution of eukaryotic DNA methylation, regulation of DNA methylation by chromatin remodelers and histones, mechanisms of epigenetic inheritance, and epigenetic mediation of phenotypic diversification in natural populations.