Team members Clismaban

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Prof. Godelieve Gheysen is the UGent director of IPBO. She takes care of the daily government of the institute and is responsible for all biodiversity related projects.
She is professor of molecular genetics at the Department of Molecular Biotechnology – Faculty of Bioscience Engineering of Ghent University. She teaches the courses Molecular Biology and Genetics, Gene Technology and Plant Biotechnology. G. Gheysen is a member of the scientific comittee for transgenic plants, advising the Belgian biosafety council.
Godelieve Gheysen has studied biology and did her Phd at the Laboratory of Genetics on the mechanism of T-DNA integration in plant chromosomes. Her current research is focused on the molecular interaction between plants and endoparasitic nematodes and on the use of DNA markers for the analysis of plant breeding and biodiversity.


Team Marc Heijde

Dr. Marc Heijde was trained as a plant molecular biologist and bio-technologist. After a PhD at the Ecole Normale Supérieure (Paris, France) deciphering light responses in microalgae, he went to University of Freiburg (Germany) and University of Geneva (Switzerland) to unravel the molecular responses of plants to UV-B light. In 2013, through a Marie Curie fellowship he combined the best of these two worlds to start a research project at the VIB_Plant Systems Biology Department in Ghent. In 2015, with the strong conviction that science and innovation can have more impact on the development of a sustainable agriculture and agribusiness he decided to exchange lab work for a position at VIB_International Plant Biotechnology Outreach (IPBO). With a global network of stakeholders involved in Plant Biotechnology, breeding and related biosafety, Marc develops partnerships for research, innovation, and capacity building with the ambition to further encourage the set-up of a more sustainable and science based agriculture with a focus on Sub Saharan Africa.
Marc is currently the IPBO program manager and is also administrator of the Marc and Nora Van Montagu fund.


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Dr. Rony Swennen obtained his PhD at KU Leuven, Belgium in 1984. After a brief research stay in the Canary Islands, Spain, he joined IITA in 1979 as the first scientist at IITA’s High rainfall substation, Onne, Nigeria. There he started plantain research initially focusing on physiology in support of agronomy, and taxonomy. He became Associate Scientist (1982), Research Coordinator (1985), and in 1987 Core Scientist. He initiated and run the plantain breeding program that resulted in black sigatoka-resistant plantain for which IITA was awarded the International King Baudouin Award. He collected worldwide banana and plantain varieties that laid the basis for the International Transit Centre of banana, Leuven, Belgium. In 1990 he became Senior lecturer at KU Leuven and by 1997 full professor. His Laboratory of Tropical Crop Improvement hosts the world banana collection, Bioversity International, with collaborations in 103 countries. Cryopreservation techniques were developed for banana and later for another 27 plant species. His group also developed the first transgenic bananas in the early 90s with field tests in two locations. He is a strong believer in phenotyping and therefore initiated a proteomics and transcriptomics platform. In 1995 he became a member of the Royal Academy, Belgium, and Honorary Research Fellow of Bioversity International. He is a member of the Global Musa Genomics Consortium (since 2002). He was a member of several scientific committees of international conferences on banana and organized two international conferences in Leuven (on Cryopreservation and on Molecular Biology of Bananas). He received several international awards and a chieftancy in Nigeria.


Prof. Sebastien Massart obtained his PhD in plant pathology in 2005. He has worked during 6 years (2008-2013) in a private company developing high throughput sequencing (HTS) services for diagnostics and for microbiome studies. He started his academic position in 2015 and is currently managing a research team of 13 scientists in plant pathology and, more specifically in diagnostics improvement, plant virology and plant microbiome research.. He is also the manager of the Germplasm Health Unit of Bioversity International Genebank, ensuring virus testing before international distribution. He has co-authored more than 60 peer-review scientific papers


Dr. Mary Mwangi is a PhD Fellow, Lecturer and researcher in the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Biotechnology at Kenyatta University (KU), Kenya. She holds an MSc in Botany (Genetics) and BEd (Science) Honours, both of Kenyatta University. She has over 20 years’ experience in Plant biotechnology, specifically banana breeding and tissue culture technology transfer. She has successfully implemented several multidisciplinary projects focusing on plant biotechnology for poverty alleviation, food/nutritional security, and climate change. They include: SIDA/VICRES grant 2007: “Banana tissue culture and nutrient enhancement for food security and income generation among people living with AIDS in the Lake Victoria basin. (Collaborator); Developing capacity for participatory and marker assisted plant breeding to mitigate low crop productivity and food security (EU-ACP -CAPACITATE East Africa S&T Project FED /2009/218788 (Kenyatta University Project Leader); National Council for Science and Technology Grant 2011- Establishment of Integrated on Farm Nurseries of Tissue Culture (TC) Bananas and Multipurpose Trees (MTPs) For Sustainable Food Security and Wealth Creation in Kenya (Principal Investigator). Currently, Mary is a collaborator in two projects, the CLISMABAN project funded by the Long-term EU-Africa Research and Innovation Partnership on Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture (LEAP-Agri) 2017 and a project titled “Bioprospecting cellulases for bioethanol production on organic wastes in Kenya” funded by the National Research Fund (NRF), Kenya. She has also published in plant biotechnology and made presentations in international conferences. She is also a recipient of several training fellowships for Science communication, Stakeholder mapping, leadership, negotiation, research management and participatory plant breeding among others. Mary is a member of several professional bodies including the Association of African Women in Science and Engineering (AWSE) where she serves as secretary, the African Women for Biosciences Network (AWfB-Kenya), and the International association of Women in Science and Engineering (INWES). She is also actively involved in Biotechnology outreach activities through the International service for Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA) and the Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB).  She has participated in curriculum development initiatives key among them, the mainstreaming of HIV AIDS in African Universities. Mary has experience in organizing international Conferences including 3 INWES/AWSE regional meetings in Africa (2004 and 2013 in Kenya and 2015 in Uganda).


Born in Kortrijk, Belgium, on 03 January 1978
Dr. Sebastien Carpentier is currently group leader of the banana phenotyping team of Bioversity International and manager of the proteomics Mass Spec facility at KU Leuven (SYBIOMA; http://www.sybioma.be). His team focuses on phenotyping the biodiversity of crops by integrating abiotic stress physiology with omics technology. He obtained his PhD in 2007 and did a postdoc at the university of Wageningen (WUR), The Netherlands (2009-2011) in the framework of a mobility fellowship granted by the FWO. He has published 78 refereed publications with >2000 citations, a Research Gate score of 35.43 and an h-index of 22. He has reviewed for 28 journals (including Nature protocols, Nature climate, Proteomics, JPR, JOP, MS reviews, etc.) and serves on the editorial board of Journal of Proteomics and Frontiers in Plant Science. He was Member of the management and executive committee and representative for Belgium of the COST-action BM0702 and Coordinator of the Short Term Scientific Missions (2008-2011). He was chair of the COST action FA1306 (2014-2018, https://www.plant-phenotyping.org/home_costfa1306) and is currently vice chair of COST Action PlantEd (CA18111). He has organized and chaired several meetings and workshops including the National symposium of Applied Biological Sciences and the meetings of the Flanders proteomics and the Belgian Proteomics society (KVCV-P, BePa). He was president of the Belgian Proteomics Society from 2014-2017. He has given >50 lectures at international conferences, universities and companies and has supervised several junior scientists (9 PhD (6 finished, 3 ongoing); >30 MSc, BScs; visiting students/postdocs, research technicians).


Prof. Grace Wamue-Ngare is an Associate Professor of Gender and Development Studies, and Director, Centre for Gender Equity and Empowerment – Kenyatta University.  She is a renowned consultant and trainer in Gender and development. Prof. Ngare is a distinguished scholar, author and researcher who has received numerous grants and awards from major funding bodies-   European Union- LEAP Agri (Sustainable agriculture);  Norwegian Church Aid (Tamar Campaign Model in DRC);  Association of African Universities (AAU)( Micro-Finance),  National Council for Science and Technology (NCST)( Gender Responsive food production); Lake Victoria Basin Research Initiative and the Organization of Social Science Research in East Africa (OSSREA).  Grace is an alumnus of SOAS, Global Women Leadership Network (GWLN) and a celebrated Course Leader/trainer for the International program “Being a Leader and the Effective Exercise of Leadership, an Ontological/Phenomenological Model”.  Prof. Ngare is a recipient of the Leicester Institute for Advanced Studies Visiting Fellow 2018/2019


Dr. María José Grajal Martín obtained her PhD at WSU, Washington State University, in USA in 1992. She was incorporated to the Canary Institute of Agrarian Research (ICIA) in January 1993 where she continued to develop her research in the areas of Plant Breeding and Plant Genetic Resources mainly in Tropical and Subtropical Fruits. The beginnings of her research career were linked to the genetic breeding of grain legumes, where she worked in the location some of the genes of resistance to Fusarium oxysporum f.sp pisi. by means of molecular markers. Once incorporated to the Canary Institute of Agrarian Research (ICIA) in January 1993, she started to work with Tropical and subtropical species. She contributed to the identification of somaclonal variants of height in banana by means of morphological and molecular markers that were a serious problem for the massive propagation of the banana in the earlies 90´s. In the field of plant genetic breeding she has been developed a mango breeding program, for the selection of cultivars adapted to the subtropical conditions of the Canary Islands with good morphological and organoleptic characteristics. As a result of this work, two “cultivars” have been selected. In addition, she has developed tetraploids from polyembryonic cultivars, which are being evaluated and have new possibilities in the improvement of this species. Likewise, she has started a passion fruit breeding program that will allow her to develop the cultivation of this fruit in the Canary Islands with a good quality and homogenous material. In the field of phytogenetic resources, she is in charge of the banana and mango germplasm collection at the ICIA. She has participated as a guest, speaker, or as an organizer in numerous events (Congresses, seminars, technical conferences, courses) in tropical fruits. She has been a member of the ICIA the scientific commission.


Ir. Juan Cabrera Cabrera began his training in agronomy at the University of La Laguna in 1976. In 1980, he was awarded a scholarship to the Regional Center for Agricultural Research and Development-CRIDA of the Canary Islands (now the Canary Institute for Agrarian Research ICIA.) – a body at that time dependent on the Institute Nacional de Investigaciones Agrarias (INIA) -, where he has developed his research activity to date. He has participated as a researcher in numerous R + D + i projects related to the banana tree. Author / co-author of numerous research and dissemination works related to this crop. During more than three decades of uninterrupted work in the ICIA, I have participated as a guest, speaker, or as an organizer in numerous events (Congresses, seminars, technical conferences, courses) related to the cultivation of banana. Coordinator of the European project (MAC / 01/054) “Transfer of R + D + i for the sustainable development of the banana crop in the MAC RUPs. (BIOMUSA), within the Transnational Cooperation Program MAC 2007-2013. He is currently a career civil servant (Principal Investigator) of the ICIA, (Canary Institute of Agrarian Research) having held the position of Director of the Department of Tropical Fruit Production for the last ten years