Our Invited Speakers

Maria Jose Aranzana
Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG) – Research Institute of Agriculture, Food Research and Technology (IRTA), Spain

Maria Jose Aranzana is a Senior Group Leader and the Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG) and appointed as Head of the Genomics and Biotechnology group at the Research Institute of Agriculture, Food Research and Technology (IRTA) in Barcelona. After graduating with a degree in agronomy and earning her PhD in 2002, where she studied genetic diversity in peach and its application in breeding, she secured a postdoctoral research position at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles. There, she participated in the pioneering studies of GWAS in plants. Since 2005, Dr. Aranzana has been conducting research on various aspects of Rosaceae genome organization, variability, and evolution, contributing to the understanding of the genetics of important agricultural traits. Her research aims to apply this knowledge to develop advanced tools such as high-quality markers for markers assisted selection (MAS), genetic materials (including collections of introgression lines), and innovative methodologies to enhance plant breeding efficiency.

Fred Brouns
Maastricht University, The Netherlands

Emeritus Prof Dr Fred Brouns graduated (PhD) in physiology and nutrition metabolism at the faculty of Medicine, Maastricht University, Netherlands in 1987. He is a registered Biomedical Researcher and past president of the Dutch Academy of Nutritional Sciences and obtained fellowships of the American College of Sports Medicine, European College of Sports Sciences and became invited member of the British Nutrition Society. He headed leading R&D functions at Wander Dietetics (NL), Sandoz Nutrition (CH), Novartis Nutrition (CH), Eridania Béghin Say-Cerestar Ltd. (Be) and Cargill Inc. (USA). From 2008- 2015 he was initiator of a 2 years master program and full professor of “Health Food Innovation Management” within School of Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism (NUTRIM), Maastricht University, Netherlands. In 2016’ Curitibe, Brasil, he was awarded ‘Research Fellow of the year for his work on gluten sensitivity and health by ICC. In 2016, he established the intl. research consortium “WellonWheat?”, addressing effects of wheat components on adverse gastrointestinal reactions and self-reported wheat sensitivity. He published over 300 science papers and performed over 200 key-note lectures world-wide. His current research interests concern effects of all steps in the food processing chain on the composition of wheat types, flour, dough and bread and impact thereof on health. Year 2024- Citations 15,379, h-index 70.

Edward Buckler
Cornell University, USA

Edward S. Buckler is a USDA-ARS Research Geneticist located at Cornell University. He is recognized as a leader in the integration of quantitative and statistical genetics with genomic approaches, applying these tools to maize and other crops. This work has provided insights into how complex traits are controlled, and he has identified genetic variation useful for crop improvement. Dr. Buckler’s group has also helped lead in the development of the largest public genetic mapping resources for any species. Their research has provided insights into the genetic diversity of species, the genetic architecture of complex traits, hybrid vigor, and the genes controlling numerous traits related to plant flowering, development, starch, and pro-Vitamin A. His research now focuses on using plant genetics in combination with researchers across the agricultural system to tackle its impact on climate change. He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and has numerous leadership positions within the crop genetics community. He is the recipient of the inaugural NAS Food and Agriculture Award.

Julia Engelhorn
Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Germany

In 2007-2011 Dr Julia Engelhorn earned her PhD in the Group of Franziska Turck at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, Germany. In 2012-2015 she was a Marie-Curie postdoctoral fellow in the Group of Christel Carles at the Plant and Cell Physiology Laboratory in Grenoble, France. In 2016-2019 she was research fellow in the Group of Jose Gutierres Marcos at the University of Warwick, UK. In 2019-2024 she was project leader for the FIND-cis project in the Group of Thomas Hartwig at the University of Duesseldorf and the MPI for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne. Since 04/2024 Dr Engelhorn is Junior Professor at the University of Montpellier and Researcher at the the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), Montpellier, France, where her research focuses on understanding how genomic features contribute to climate resilience in crop plants.

Fabio Fiorani
Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany

Fabio Fiorani received the B.S. degree in agricultural sciences from the University of Milan, Italy, and the Ph.D. degree in plant ecophysiology from the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands. He held post-doctoral positions at Duke University, NC, USA, and at the Flemish Institute of Biotechnology, Plant Systems Biology, Ghent, Belgium, from 2001 to 2007. From 2007 to 2010, he was a Senior Scientist with Crop Design, BASF Plant Science in Ghent, Belgium. Since 2010, He led a multi-disciplinary group at the Institute of Plant Sciences (Jülich Plant Phenotyping Center – JPPC), Forschungszentrum Jülich, focusing on development and application of screening methods for quantifying plant growth dynamics nondestructively. He currently continues research on plant acclimation to environmental stresses as a senior scientist at FZJ-IBG-2 in the JPPC research group.

Stefania Giacomello
KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden

Stefania Giacomello is Associate Professor in Spatial Biology at KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Group Leader at SciLifeLab (Stockholm, Sweden). Her research group develops new approaches for different spatially resolved modalities to study how cell localization influences biological processes across kingdoms. Dr. Giacomello developed a multidisciplinary set of skills by studying Biotechnology at the University of Udine (Italy) and working in Plant Genomics at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB, Cambridge, UK) before moving back to conduct her Ph.D in Plant Genomics. In 2013, she started a postdoc at SciLifeLab where she contributed to the development of Spatial Transcriptomics, a technology that allows to generate 2D gene expression maps of tissue sections, and extended it to plants. Between 2016 and 2018 she was a Senior Bioinformatician at the National Bioinformatics Infrastructure of Sweden and specialized in the analysis of single-cell and spatial transcriptomics data before starting her research group in 2019.
Among the projects of her lab, there are the development of spatial methods to study spatial host-pathogen interactions in plants and animal tissues, the spatiotemporal study of the reproductive development in Norway spruce cones and the spatial analysis of the impact of spaceflight on mouse brain.

Dirk Inzé
Ghent University, Belgium

Dirk Inzé received his PhD at Ghent in 1984. In 1990, he was appointed Research Director of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), where he initiated highly successful research programs on the plant cell cycle and growth control. In 1995, he became Professor at Ghent University and he was the scientific founder of the biotechnology company CropDesign, which was established in 1998 and acquired in 2006 by BASF Plant Science. In 2002, Dirk was appointed Director of the Center for Plant Systems Biology of the VIB. Under his directorship, the Center – currently employing approximately 300 individuals – became one of the world leading centers for advanced plant sciences. In 2017, Dirk was awarded with the prestigious World Agriculture Prize. In 2019 he was elected to the rank of AAAS Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and in 2020 he was elected to be a member of Academia Europaea. In 2021, Dirk was appointed member of the Science Council of the ERC. He is the chairperson of EU-SAGE, a consortium of 158 European plant research institutes advocating for the use of Gene editing for a sustainable agriculture (www.eu-sage.com). His current, ERC funded, research deals with integrating high order, multiplex gene editing with breeding programs of crops.

Giulia Malacarne
Fondazione Edmund Mach- Research and Innovation Center, Italy

Giulia Malacarne is a Senior Researcher in Plant Biology and Physiology Unit of Research and Innovation Center (Fondazione Edmund Mach, San Michele a/Adige, Trento-Italy). After graduating and obtaining her PhD from the University of Agroindustrial Biotechnology in Verona in 2007, she started her research activities in grapevine, which has remained the fruit tree of investigation until now. Apart from a three-year post-doctoral period focused on the characterization of the regulatory and structural genes behind the synthesis of secondary metabolites in grape berry, she has dedicated to the functional characterization of the genes involved in the interaction of grapevine with its main fungal pathogens. The comprehension of the genetic mechanisms of resistance of grapevine to Plasmopara viticola, particularly those mediated by stilbenoid synthesis, has been the subject of her numerous publications, using quantitative genetic analyses coupled with transcriptomic and metabolomic approaches. Finally, she has focused on clarifying the role of the cell wall in the grapevine response to Botrytis cinerea, which causes bunch rot disease under certain meteorological conditions. In general, her research aims to functionally characterize genes using the most advanced approaches to provide new genetic markers for grapevine breeding programs for a more sustainable viticulture.

Keisuke Nagai
Nagoya University, Japan

Keisuke Nagai earned a PhD in Agriculture from Nagoya University in 2012. He has been working as an assistant professor at the Bioscience and Biotechnology Center of the same university since 2012. His research focuses on genetics and developent of rice.

Agnès Ricroch
Paris Saclay University, France

Agnès Ricroch is a senior lecturer in evolutionary genetics and plant breeding at AgroParisTech (Palaiseau, France) and Adjunct Professor at Pennsylvania State University, College of Agricultural Sciences (USA), she teaches biotechnology and bioethics since 2016. She is a researcher in IDEST laboratory at Paris-Saclay University, Faculty Jean-Monnet, Sceaux (France), where her research focuses on benefits-risk assessment and regulation of green biotechnology (GMO, New Genomic Techniques). She is a member elected in 2015 of the Academy of Agriculture of France, she is the head of the Life Sciences section since 2016. She was named to the International Directory of 23 women in biotechnology (Woman in Biotechnology Law and Regulation) in 2015. She published both in French and English seven books, and more than one hundred scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals and scientific journals and participated in one hundred and seventy scientific conferences on biotechnology. In the framework of the European PlantEd Cost Action, she was the editor in chief of the book ‘A roadmap for plant genome editing. A perspective from Europe and beyond’ with Eriksson, Miladinovic, Sweet, Van Laere, and Wozniak (editors) published by Springer Nature (2023).
She was invited as a keynote speaker at OECD on applications of genome editing in agriculture (2018) and at the European Commission (2022). She gives numerous interviews to national and international newspapers, radio and television.
She is a Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honour of France in 2019.

Sebastian Schornack
Cambridge University, UK

Sebastian Schornack is a Senior Group Leader at the Sainsbury Laboratory, Cambridge University (SLCU). He earned his PhD degree in 2006 in Plant Biology at the Martin-Luther University Halle, working on disease resistance genes and co-discovered the TAL effector DNA binding code. Sebastian’s postdoctoral research focused on Phytophthora effector proteins at The Sainsbury Laboratory Norwich. At Cambridge he studies molecular mechanisms underlying the colonisation of plants by Phytophthora pathogens and symbiotic arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi. His team has adopted and become experts in diverse plant systems from bryophytes to angiosperms. This enables them to pursue comparative and evolutionary approaches. Their work has provided insights into plant processes supporting and limiting plant-microbe interactions, providing inroads for crop protection and crop improvement.