Charlie Johnson

Charles Johnson is director and founder of the Texas A&M AgriLife Genomics and Bioinformatics Service (TxGen), a multimillion-dollar agrigenomics research unit within Texas A&M AgriLife Research, part of the Texas A&M System. The center conducts next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics research with collaborators in 42 countries, working with hundreds of different groups including other universities and companies. His current internal research is centered around low-cost high throughput genotyping methods supporting AgriGenomics.

Dr. Johnson grow up on a farm in Northern Michigan, receiving his PhD from Texas A&M University and has worked for more than two decades in genomics and bioinformatics research, leading highly successful research teams in both industry and academia.

Renee Lafitte

Renee Lafitte is Deputy Director for Crops R&D in the Agricultural Development group at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She has a background in crop physiology, agronomy, and agro-ecology, with experience in technology discovery and product development for both intensive agriculture and resource-limited cropping systems. Prior to her current appointment, Renee was a Research Fellow at DuPont Pioneer and then at DowDuPont, where she focused on application of new phenotyping and remote sensing technologies for crop improvement, gene discovery, and the evaluation of new microbial and crop protection products. Previously, Renee worked for 20 years in the CGIAR system, based at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, and at the Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico.

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Nathan Lakey

Nathan Lakey is President and Chief Executive Officer of Orion Genomics, a company bringing cutting edge scientific expertise, innovation, proprietary technologies and commercial and academic partnerships throughout the globe to change how the world approaches feeding, fueling and healing itself. Lakey was awarded the top 40 under 40 award (2004 St. Louis), presented the governor’s top technology award (2005 Missouri), and he currently serves as Chairman of the Investment Advisory Committee, Biogenerator, and on the Patient Care Committee of the Board of Missouri Baptist Hospital. He has more than 20 years of experience in genomics. Prior to the founding of Orion Genomics, he was Director of DNA Sequencing at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc., in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1994-98), where he built and operated Millennium’s DNA sequencing platform, and helped form three strategic business units – Millennium Predictive Medicine, Millennium Biotherapeutics and Cereon Inc. Before joining Millennium, Mr. Lakey held various positions with Molecular Dynamics (Sunnyvale, CA), Ambion Inc (Austin TX) and Harvard Medical School, Department of Genetics, in George Church’s laboratory. Mr. Lakey received a B.A. in Biochemistry from the University of Texas (Austin), and an MBA from Washington University Olin School of Business (St. Louis) where he received the C. William Emory Executive MBA Award. Mr. Lakey holds multiple issued patents in the U.S. and abroad.

Susan McCouch

Susan McCouch is the Barbara McClintock Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics in the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University. She also serves as Director of the Cornell Initiative for Digital Agriculture. She received her PhD from Cornell in 1990 and spent 5 years with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines before joining the Cornell faculty in 1995. She is known for developing the first molecular genetic map of rice and for her key and sustained role in turning rice into a model for genetics and breeding research. Her work provides a critical foundation for rapid trait identification and cultivar development, and her contribution to the development of databases and software tools has facilitated the sharing of data and accelerated rice breeding worldwide. In collaboration with USDA colleagues, her group released the first red-pericarp rice variety in the US in 2018. She currently serves as founding member and Chair of the Board of Directors for the DivSeek International Network, a not-for-profit member-driven organization dedicated to the characterization and use of genetic variation in crop improvement.  She has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Presidential Award from the Crop Science Society of America (2016), an Honorary Ph.D. from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in India (2015), the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities (2012), the Golden Sickle Award for the advancement of international rice research (2007), and the Outstanding Faculty Award from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell (2006), and has contributed extensively to educational initiatives and international outreach. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a recently elected member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Len Pennacchio

Dr. Len Pennacchio is a Senior Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL), Deputy Director of the Joint Genome Institute, and Adjunct Professor at the University of California Berkeley. He received his PhD in Genetics from Stanford University and served as an Alexander Hollaender Distinguished Fellow at LBL. He has authored over 140 publications and received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from the White House for his contributions to the Human Genome Project and understanding mammalian gene regulation in vivo. Dr. Pennacchio has an extensive background in mammalian genetics and genomics as well as with DNA sequencing technologies and their application to address outstanding issues in both the biomedical, energy, and environment sectors. He serves in numerous advisory roles such as NHGRI’s Genome Sequencing Program and the Centre for Genomic Research at the University of Liverpool and is an Instructor for the Leena Peltonen School of Human Genomics. He also is an Organizer and Co-Chair of both annual Advances in Genome Biology & Technology (AGBT) meetings as well as a “Systems Biology of Gene Regulation and Genome Editing” meeting hosted by Cold Spring Harbor Asia. Currently his research is heavily focused on understanding the spectrum of DNA mutations that contribute to human disease through in vivo functional studies.

Bruce Walsh

Bruce Walsh if a professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona.  He is coauthor (with Mike Lynch) of the two leading graduate textbooks on quantitative genetics (Lynch & Walsh 1998 Genetics and Analysis of Quantitative Traits; Walsh & Lynch 2018  Evolution and Selection of Quantitative Traits).

Susan Wessler

Susan Wessler is Distinguished Professor of Genetics and the Neil and Rochelle Campbell Chair for Innovation in Science Education at the University of California Riverside. In 2011 she was elected Home Secretary of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the first women to hold this position in its 150-year history. She is a plant molecular geneticist known for her contributions to the field of transposon biology and plant genome evolution. A native of New York City, she received a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Cornell University (1980) and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Institution of Washington (1980-1982). She began her career at the University of Georgia in 1983 where she remained until moving to UC Riverside in 2010.

Wessler has contributed extensively to educational and diversity initiatives.  As a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor (2006), she adapted her research program for the classroom by developing the Dynamic Genome (DG) Course where incoming freshman can experience the excitement of scientific discovery. The DG course is currently taken by over 500 students/year.  As NAS Home Secretary, she has spearheaded initiatives that have led to a 40% increase in the number of women elected to membership in the NAS.

She is the recipient of several awards including the Stephen Hales Prize (2011) from the American Society of Plant Biologists, the Excellence in Science Award from FASEB (2012) and the McClintock Prize for Plant Genetics and Genome Studies (2015). She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (1998), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2007), the American Philosophical Society (2013), and a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (2017).

Lisa Ainsworth

Lisa Ainsworth is the Research Leader of the Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit. She received her BS in Biology at UCLA and PhD in Crop Sciences from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Her research aims to improve crop responses to global atmospheric change, including rising atmospheric carbon dioxide and ozone pollution. She has held leadership roles in the American Society of Plant Biologists, the International Society for Photosynthesis Research and the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. In 2019, Lisa was awarded the National Academy of Sciences Prize in Food and Agricultural Sciences and was an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2020.

Julia Bailey-Serres

Julia Bailey-Serres is a plant biologist known for her research on mechanisms of plant adaptive responses to environmental stresses. She is recognized for the in-depth dissection of the function of SUBMERGENCE 1A gene, responsible for survival of rice plants under prolonged submergence as evidenced by its successful use in breeding programs that has led to stabilizing rice grain yield in flood-prone regions of Asia. In addition, she established technologies to uncover the activity of genes in specific cell types of multicellular organisms, through the capture of ribosomes and the associated mRNAs.

Edward S. Buckler

Edward S. Buckler is a USDA-ARS Research Geneticist and adjunct professor in Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University with an educational background in molecular evolution and archaeology. His group’s research uses genomic, computational, and field approaches to dissect complex traits and accelerate breeding in maize, sorghum, cassava, and a wide range of other crops. With these technologies applied to over 2000 species, now the Buckler group focuses on exploring ways to re-engineer global agricultural production systems to ensure food security, improve nutrition, and respond to climate change.