The members of the IICI team represent a broad range of product development and delivery expertise, including regulatory affairs, project coordination, biosafety, nutrition and communication. Nigel Taylor, Ph.D., Interim Director, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center Senior Research Scientist and Principal Investigator
Nigel Taylor is the Dorothy J. King Distinguished Investigator and Senior Research Scientist at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. He currently serves as Interim Director of the Institute for International Crop Improvement and is principal investigator of the Virus Resistant Cassava for Africa (VIRCA) project. Prior to joining the Danforth Center, Nigel worked at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. His expertise centers on the plant tissue culture and the genetic transformation technologies required to deliver genetically improved cassava to famers in East and West Africa. A native of Scotland, Nigel received his bachelor’s degree in botany from University of Glasgow and his Ph.D. in plant tissue culture from the University of Bath, United Kingdom.
Mark Halsey, Ph.D., Director of Product Development
In October of 2008, Mark Halsey returned to the Danforth Center as the Director of Product Development for the Office of International Programs. Mark's professional career includes experience in teaching research, technical development, biosafety, and project management. Mark began his career at Oregon State University, where he coordinated a state-wide cereal disease research program and taught graduate and undergraduate level classes. In his 21 years at Monsanto, Mark worked in fungicide discovery and technical development and managed regulatory trials for pesticides and biotech products. From 2004 to 2006, Mark was the Danforth Center's PBS Biosafety Advisor. In this role he advised African scientists and regulators on biosafety for agricultural biotechnology and authored the "Integrated Confinement System" manual, a turnkey approach to management of confined field trials with regulated biotech crops. Before returning to the Center, Mark was Research Director for the United Soybean Board, where he coordinated technical research programs funded by USB. Mark earned his Ph.D. and B.S. degrees in Plant Pathology at Oregon State University.
Hector Quemada, Ph.D., Director of the Biosafety Resource Network
Hector Quemada accepted the position of Director of the Biosafety Resource Network at the Danforth Center in November of 2008. Before joining the Danforth Center, he was the manager of the Biotechnology and Biodiversity Interface grant program, a component of the Program for Biosafety Systems, led by the International Food Policy Research Institute and funded by USAID. He was also the founder and principal consultant for Crop Technology Consulting, Inc., an agricultural biotechnololgy consulting firm offering services in technical assessment, product development, project management, and regulatory affairs. Hector has conducted biotechnology risk assessment research funded by the US Department of Agriculture, and under contract to private companies. His consultancies have included technical and biosafety assessment for national biotechnology programs in India, Philippines, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, and Indonesia. For eight years, Hector worked at Asgrow Vegetable Seed Company as Associate Director of Biotechnology, where he led a group developing commercial transgenic crop varieties. Hector earned a Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Utah, an M.A. in Botany and a B.S. in Biology at the University of Kansas.
Jeff Stein, Biosafety Advisor, Program for Biosafety Systems
Jeff Stein is a plant pathologist and highly experienced expert in all dimensions of biosafety, including food and environmental safety issues for biotech crops. He joined the International Programs team in April 2006 as the Biosafety Advisor for the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS). For the previous seven years he served as the Director of Regulatory Affairs at Syngenta Biotechnology, where he led an international team of regulatory managers developing and supporting safety dossiers in North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia. From 1981 to 1994, Jeff served as a research scientist at Syngenta's seed company in North Carolina and at Allied-Signal Corporation in Syracuse, New York. Prior to this private sector experience, he worked for five years in the public sector as a researcher in the Department of Plant Pathology at Cornell University. Jeff is an experienced teacher and public speaker, actively involved in biosafety communication and outreach activities in North America, Brazil, Argentina, Africa, and Europe, including the intergovernmental committee of the Cartagena Protocol. Jeff has an M.S. in Plant Pathology from Cornell University and a B.A. in Biological Sciences from Ithaca College.
Getu Beyene Duguma, Ph.D., Cassava Pipeline Research Manager
Getu Duguma has been with the Danforth Center since January 2012. As the Cassava Pipeline Research Manager, his responsibilities include managing molecular and trait characterization of transgenic lines for the VIRCA and BioCassava Plus projects; and supervising production and quality control of genetic constructs in both projects and the technical staff performing plant analysis in the IICI Trait Improvement Laboratory. He also provides mentoring and technical support to visiting scholars. Before joining the Danforth Center, Getu worked at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa as a postdoctoral fellow on the African Biofortified Sorghum (ABS) Project hosted by Pioneer Hi-Bred/DuPont; and previously at Texas AgriLife Research (Part of Texas A&M University Systems) where he worked on the development of abiotic stress tolerant Saccharum spp. Getu obtained his B.S. and M.S. degrees in plant sciences from Alemaya University, Ethiopia where he served as a lecturer. He earned his Ph.D. at the Forestry Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) of the University of Pretoria, South Africa.
Ann Kruse, Administrative Coordinator
Ann Kruse came to the Danforth Center in October of 2007 after working in administrative roles with Webster University and the University of Missouri-Extension. As administrative coordinator, she organizes the multitudinous activities of the IICI and provides logistical support to the various projects. Ann has an MTS from Eden Theological Seminary, a B.A. in English from Stephens College and a Certificate in Paralegal Studies from St. Louis Community College. Pat Cosgrove, Administrative Assistant
Pat Cosgrove began working at the Danforth Center in April 1999. She provides administrative support to IICI Trait Improvement Lab members and to the IICI. Previously, she worked in the Government Documents Department of the Thomas Jefferson Library at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Pat holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
International Programs Extended Team Members
Blythe Burkhardt, J.D.
Blythe Burkhardt currently serves as the Associate General Counsel of St. Louis University. Ms. Burkhardt is licensed to practice law in Missouri and is a volunteer with the St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts. Blythe earned her J.D. from the University of Iowa--College of Law, an M.S. in Educational Policy and Administration from the University of Minnesota, and a B.S. in Anthropology from Iowa State University.
Scott Shore, Ph.D.
Scott Shore has twenty years US and international experience in government and industrial regulatory affairs with emphasis on biotechnology products and policy. He currently works as an independent regulatory consultant as part of the Biosafety Resource Network supporting the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded projects for the development of nutritionally improved crops. He also is working with commercial and government clients on other agricultural and industrial biotechnology regulatory projects. Previously, Scott has designed, developed, administered, and implemented strategies, plans, and procedures for regulatory compliance and approval of genetically modified crop plants and enzyme products for Syngenta, Vector Tobacco, and Novozymes. Scott was the Biotechnologist for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and was responsible for the development and administration of the regulations to implement the North Carolina Genetically Engineered Organisms Act. Scott received his B.S. in cell biology from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, his Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and was a USDA-ARS postdoctoral research plant pathologist at Purdue University. He taught microbiology, molecular genetics, biotechnology, and cell biology at North Carolina State University and continues as an Adjunct Associate Professor with the Microbiology Department.
Peter Raymond brings a unique blend of experiences into the International Institute of Crop Improvement. His strengths include a seasoned and diverse field R&D background working with various technology platforms involving crop health management with pathosystems in wheat, rice, potato, soybean, cotton, and peanuts. He has worked as a field principal investigator and as sponsor representative in regulated, transgenic product development programs and has provided his expertise and leadership in creating biotech product development strategies for regulatory and market approvals. He currently works as a consultant providing technical, strategic, and regulatory support in the commercialization of emerging technologies in the agriculture. Peter joined Monsanto in 1983 as a research plant pathologist serving cereal crop improvement. During two decades of service, his roles and experiences included technical and managerial roles with ever- increasing responsibilities both in and outside of St. Louis. His tenure includes working in Field Product Development, Environmental and Regulatory Sciences, and advancing into Regulatory Affairs as a manager supporting specialty crops globally (potato, sugarbeet, and turfgrass products).
In 2004, Peter was asked to join ArborGen, LLC. to assist in the development of their transgenic pipeline. ArborGen is a forestry R&D JV company with biotech interests in improving the productivity and sustainability of pine, aspen, eucalyptus, and cottonwood in the US and Brazil.
In 2009, Peter founded AG SCI Consulting, LLC., where he currently serves as a crop healthcare and agricultural biotechnology consultant.
Peter earned a M.S. in Soil-borne Plant Pathology from Kansas State University and a B.S. in Plant and Soil Sciences from the University of Vermont.
John Steffens, Ph.D., Biosafety Advisor
John Steffens has a unique background in management of public and private sector research, as well as experience in business and product development, regulatory affairs, and project management. His strengths include developing and launching product concepts and working with regulators and scientists to meet regulatory guidelines for a wide range of crops and traits for global market approvals. In the public sector, John was on the faculty at Cornell University for 12 years where his research and teaching interests were in biochemistry, molecular biology and plant breeding. In the private sector he has led trait development groups while managing strategic research collaborations, technology assessment and open innovation programs. He earned his Ph.D in biology and chemistry and a BA in biology from the University of Virginia. He is an active board member of the Lake Forest Association and the Biofuels Center of North Carolina. As an author of more than 70 publications and patents, he is a well-known expert in plant biochemistry and molecular biology.
Dimuth Siritunga, Ph.D.
Dimuth Siritunga is a professor of Plant Molecular Biology at the University of Puerto Rico--Mayaguez (UPRM). An expert in conducting field trials with transgenic plants, his experience includes working with crops such as cassava, cowpea and sweet potato. Dimuth obtained his Ph.D. in Plant Biology from Ohio State University (OSU) in 2002. He also obtained a M.S. in Agronomy from OSU after completing a B.S. in Biology at Hobart College (NY). After a post-doctoral fellowship at OSU, he joined the Biology Department at UPRM in 2004. Dimuth manages research and field laboratories in Puerto Rico, which employ a staff of approximately twelve. His laboratories have received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Dimuth has been a co-PI of the BioCassava Plus project since 2005 and has conducted 20+ transgenic cassava trials, adhering to all USDA-AHPIS regulations.