Keynote Speakers

Dr. Yuling Bai is professor holding a personal chair at Plant Breeding, Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands. She has been leading the research group of “Breeding for resistance in Solanaceae” since 2007. The strong point of her research is the translational feature: overarching strategically the fundamental research to applied breeding practices. Aiming at developing breeding strategies and tools, many of her research projects are oriented towards direct application of fundamental research in breeding programs. In 2011, she proposed to use plant susceptibility (S) genes in breeding crops with resistance to pathogens. In the last few years, she has carried out proof-of-concept researches and identified several tomato/potato S genes. Nowadays, the S gene concept in combination with mutagenesis and gene-editing techniques is opening a new way in breeding crops with resistance to pathogens.

Rodrigo Barba-Gonzalez is titular researcher at the Centro de Investigación y Asistencia del Estado de Jalisco A.C., Mexico. Research is conducted to breed novel ornamental plants for the cut flower and pot markets. In order to obtain new varieties we utilize interspecific and intergeneric hybridization through traditional breeding, combined with biotechnological tools, such as in vitro and cut style pollination and embryo rescue; polyploidy induction and plant cell tissue culture. Cytogenetics is an important tool in our breeding programs; we utilize molecular cytogenetics techniques in order to assure introgression and to trace chromosome segregation in the progeny. The main crops where we focus our research are Lisianthus, Lilies and species of the Amaryllidaceae family; however, native ornamental species are also an important resource to introduce novel crops, where research is also conducted.


Anne Britt is a Professor of Plant Biology at UC Davis.  She received her BS in Biology at MIT in 1981, and her PhD in Biochemistry at UC Berkeley in 1986. She is interested in many aspects of plant chromosome biology, including DNA repair, recombination, chromosome segregation, editing, and damage response.  Her laboratory is currently focusing on the manipulation of centromeric proteins to produce uniparental haploids, the effects of repair deficiencies on CRISPR mutagenesis, and the role of programmed cell death in plant recovery from the induction of DNA double strand breaks.



Fabrice Foucheris director of research at INRA (National Institute of Agronomic Research) in IRHS (Institute of Research in Horticulture and Seed, Angers, France). He is leading a team on the genetic and the diversity of ornamental plants (GDO team). His research focuses on the seasonality of blooming with the characterization of the continuous flowering process in rose. He is also interesting in resistance to foliar diseases in garden roses (mainly black spot) and in prickle development. In the framework of an international consortium, he is coordinating the rose genome sequencing initiative. He participated in interdisciplinary projects with historians, sociologists, geographers and economists to understand the process of rose selection during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Holger Puchta is professor of molecular biology and director of the Botanical Institute of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)´in Germany. Already more than twenty years ago he was the first scientist to show that by the use of site specific endonucleases different kinds of genomic changes can be induced in plant genomes. His current interest centres on one hand around the elucidation of the basic mechanisms of DNA repair and DNA recombination in plants and on the other hand on gene engineering. Here, funded by two consecutive ERC Advanced Grants, his group set up different CRISPR/Cas systems for plant use and is developing at the moment technologies for achieving sophisticated, complex changes of plant genomes.

M J M (René) Smulders (PhD 1989, Nijmegen, The Netherlands) is group leader and manager of Plant Breeding, Wageningen University & Research, The Netherlands. His research includes developing tools for genetic mapping in polyploid crops such as rose, the use of molecular markers in breeding, studying the opportunities of new plant breeding techniques, and using them to make wheat varieties that are safe for people with coeliac disease. He has authored over 170 scientific papers. He is associate editor of the Journal of Horticultural Science & Biotechnology.

   The research in the team of Johan Van Huylenbroeck at the Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food focuses mainly on (1) the development of efficient hybridization and selection strategies, (2) the creation of cultivars for sustainable agriculture and horticulture; (3) the use of DNA markers assisted breeding techniques for quantitative and qualitative traits and  marker-based analysis of genetic diversity and identity (4) application and development of advanced plant breeding methods. Our research is done in close collaboration with national and international research institutes and with the industry. In ornamentals we have own breeding programs in azalea, roses and woody ornamental plants.

Michiel Vandenbussche is a researcher at the CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research) working in the Reproduction and Development of Plants (RDP) laboratory at the ENS Lyon, France. Together with his colleagues of the Evo-Devo of the Flower team, he is addressing fundamental research questions aimed at improving our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying flower development and evolution. During the last 20 years, he has focused on elucidating the floral Gene Regulatory Network (GRN) in Petunia, demonstrating that the molecular basis of flower development is much more diverse than previously thought. By exploiting a natural Petunia transposable element system, he has created a semi-saturated sequence-indexed mutagenesis platform, allowing high throughput gene functional analyses in petunia. In combination with the now available genome sequence, this has turned petunia into a powerful research model both for applied and fundamental research.