Plenary speakers

Prof. Dr. Christine Lang

Joachim von Braun is a Director of the Center for Development Research (ZEF) and Professor for Economic and Technological Change at University of Bonn, Germany. Since 2012 he has been the Chair of the German Bioeconomy Council and also Vice-President of the NGO “Welthungerhilfe”. From 2002 to 2009 he has been Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) based in Washington DC, the world's premier research institute addressing food, agriculture, nutrition and related development policies. Before these positions, von Braun was professor of Food Economics and Food Policy at Kiel University, Germany. He received his doctoral degree in agricultural economics from the University of Goettingen, Germany in 1978.

Jack Bobo serves as the Senior Vice President for Intrexon, a synthetic biology company developing solutions to the great challenges in food, energy and health. He joins Intrexon from the U.S. Department of State where he has worked for the past thirteen years, most recently as Senior Advisor for Food Policy following his positions as Senior Advisor for Biotechnology as well as Chief of the Biotechnology and Textile Trade Division. Through these key roles Mr. Bobo was responsible for global outreach to foreign audiences and senior foreign officials across a variety of issues and led or participated in bilateral trade discussions and negotiations. Prior to his position at the U.S. Department of State, he was an attorney at Crowell & Moring LLP.

Marc Palahi is the director of the European Forest Institute. Since 2013 in his post as a deputy director of EFI, he has been responsible for the overall coordination and integration of EFI’s strategic activities related to research and policy support. Previously he led EFI’s policy support activities and during this time was instrumental in launching ThinkForest, a European high-level science forum on the future of forests. He has also worked as head of EFI’s Mediterranean Regional Office, EFIMED. Mr. Palahi holds a PhD in forestry and economics and an MSc in forestry engineering.

Alice Kaudia is Kenya’s Environment Secretary at the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. She has extensive experience in the field of institutional capacity building, community-driven natural resources management and conservation, spanning close to three decades. She has coordinated Kenya’s National Climate Change Response Strategy, the Master Plan for Conservation and Sustainable Management of Water Catchment Areas and the National Environment Policy, among others. She is a founding member of the Kenya Professional Association of Women in Agriculture and Environment. Ms. Kaudia has published numerous papers on poverty, community participation and gender in relation to agriculture and forestry.

Ben Durham is Chief Director: Bio-innovation at theNational Department of Science and Technology inSouth Africa. His responsibilities included theimplementation of the South African Bio-economyStrategy, launched in January 2014, and he now isoverseeing implementation of the four themes ofAgricultural, Health, Industry and Environment, andIndigenous Knowledge, together with systemimplementation. Ultimately the purpose is to developand improve the efficiencies of the National System ofInnovation, ensuring socio-economic benefits to thebroader society.

Murray McLaughlin is the Executive Director of Bioindustrial Innovation Canada in Sarnia, Ontario. Since 2013, he has been responsible for generating business opportunities and building clusters for biobased products across Canada. In the course of his career, Mr. McLaughlin has held several high-level private and public sector positions in agriculture as well as the biobased industry. He was President of the Sustainable Chemistry Alliance, President of Ontario Agri-Food Technologies, Deputy Minister of Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, and President of Ag-West Biotech. Mr. McLaughlin is an expert in biobased and sustainable chemistry-based technologies, with a focus on advanced biofuels, biochemicals, biomaterials and bio-ingredients.

Glaucia Mendes Souza is the Chairperson of the SCOPE Bioenergy & Sustainability project. The SCOPE, published in 2015, details policy recommendations for the sustainable expansion of bioenergy in the world. The project involves contributions from 137 experts in 24 countries. Furthermore, Ms. Souza is the President of the FAPESP Bioenergy Program in Brazil (BIOEN). She is active in several scientific organizations, for example as the Vice- Coordinator of the National Institute of Science and Technology of Bioethanol, as leader of the Biomass Systems and Synthetic Biology Center São Paulo and as member of the Bioenergy and Sustainability Research Nuclei Council.

Janez Potocnik has been nominated Co-Chair of the UNEP International Resource Panel in 2014. Before, Mr. Potocnik was European Commissioner for ten years. Already a senior politician in Slovenia, he joined the European Commission first as Commissioner for Science and Research and than for Environment. In his earlier career, he was Director of the Institute of Macroeconomic Analysis and Development in Slovenia. He was appointed Head of the negotiating team for accession of Slovenia to the EU, Director of the Government Office for European Affairs, Minister Counsellor at the Office of the Prime Minister and Slovenian Minister responsible for European Affairs.

Frank Rijsberman was appointed CEO of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR Consortium) in May 2012, having previously held the position of Director General at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). Frank has also worked as the Director of the Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene initiative at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as Program Director at, Google's philanthropic sector. Thirty years of experience as a researcher and consultant in natural resources management have helped Frank drive CGIAR's focus towards improving food security, nutrition and health, reducing rural poverty and protecting the environment. Frank has worked in Africa, Asia and Europe, and has authored over 60 scientific articles and book chapters, including World Water Vision: Making Water Everybody's Business. 

Leena Srivastava is the Acting Director General of TERI, which is the largest developing-country institution working towards sustainability. Ms. Srivastava is a renowned specialist in energy and environmental economics. She is a member of several international advisory bodies, such as the Executive Committee of the “Sustainable Energy for All” (SE4ALL) initiative of the UN Secretary General and the Scientific Advisory Panel of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) of UNEP. Prior to her current role, Ms. Srivastava was the Vice Chancellor of the TERI University. She is on the editorial boards of various international journals.

Huanming Yang is the co-founder and Chairman of BGI-China (Beijing Genomics Institute). To date, BGI holds about half of the global capacity in genome sequencing. In the course of his outstanding career as a researcher and founder, Mr. Yang has studied and worked in Asia, the US and Europe. Mr. Yang and his partners have made a significant contribution to the international HGP, HapMap, and G1K projects. Their work in genome sequencing has been published in Science, Nature, and other most prestigious journals. Mr. Yang has been affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, TWAS, as well as to the National Academies of India, Germany and the USA.

Christine Lang is one of the founders and the Managing Director of ORGANOBALANCE GmbH. As a Doctor of Biology, she spent 10 years working in industrial research at Hüls Chemie Forschungsgesellschaft where, amongst other things, she established and ran the working group on genetics and molecular biology. Since 2012, she has been the Chairwoman of the German Bioeconomy Council. In 1993 she moved to the Technische Universität Berlin and was promoted to Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. At the TU Berlin she lectures on genetics in biotechnology. Mrs. Lang is active in various biotechnology associations. She is a member of the Management Board of the DECHEMA and member of the Management Board of the VCI/DIB.

John Bell is Director Bioeconomy, DG Research & Innovation. He has been a European Commission official since 1993. During his career he has worked on financial aid assistance programmes in the former Yugoslavia and in Albania, as well as public administration reform programmes in Central and Eastern Europe. Mr. Bell was also a member of the Cabinet of Commissioner David Byrne with responsibility for enlargement, public health and global health security issues, including bioterrorism, and Head of Cabinet for European Commissioner Meglena Kuneva on Consumer Affairs. He completed his Doctorate at St John's College, Oxford University in 1993.

Peter Bleser has been Parliamentary State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) since February 2011. A master farmer by trade, Peter Bleser has been committed to agricultural policy and consumer protection for twenty-five years. Over the years, he has been actively involved in several bioeconomy-related parliamentary groups. Since 2004, he has been the Chair of the CDU Federal Committee on Food and Agriculture in the German Bundestag. From 2007 to 2011 Mr. Bleser has further been a member of the Executive Board of the German Agency for Renewable Resources (FNR).

Francois Houllier is the Chair and CEO of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), one of the key players in the French bioeconomy. Mr. Houllier has extensive experience in multidisciplinary bioeconomy research. Prior to his current role, Mr. Houllier has held several management positions at INRA. During his early career he was Professor at the National College of Forestry in Nancy and Director of the French Institute of Pondicherry in India. For several years, he was a board member of the European Forest Institute (EFI) and Chairperson of the board, when EFI developed into an international organization in 2005.

Ashok Khosla is the founder and Chairman of the Development Alternatives Group, a consortium of social enterprises based in India. The group’s mission is to create technologies, businesses and markets for large scale generation of sustainable livelihoods. Mr. Khosla is an inspiring leader in sustainable development. He has been President of the Club of Rome, a Member of the Governing Bodies of the World Economic Forum in Davos, IUCN, WWF, IISD, the Stockholm Environment Institute and WETV, among others. He was Special Advisor to the Brundtland Commission and Chairman of the NGO Forum at the ‘92 Earth Summit in Rio.

Mauricio Lopes is President of the Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), a leader in bioeconomy research and innovation in Brazil. Mr. Lopes has held different research and management positions at Embrapa since 1989. He was the deputy head for R&D at Embrapa Maize and Sorghum and at Genetic Resources and Biotechnology. More recently, he was a member of the Scientific Council of the Agropolis Foundation (Montpellier, France), the coordinator of Embrapa's Labex in South Korea, and Embrapa's Executive Director for R&D. Mr. Lopes is an agronomist with a MSc in plant genetics, a PhD in molecular biology and a post-doc in sustainable genetic resources use.

Christian Patermann is a former member of the German Bioeconomy Council. Over the years, he has held numerous top positions in the international science and technology policy world. He was the Director of Biotechnology, Agriculture and Food Research and the Director for Environment and Sustainable Development at the European Commission's Research Directorate-General and he was Deputy Director-General at the German Federal Ministry for Research and Education. Earlier, he worked at the European Space Agency and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. Since his retirement in 2007, Mr. Patermann has been an independent consultant for public and private institutions and companies.

Gunter Pauli is a Belgian entrepreneur, activist, author and lecturer. He made Ecover a pioneering company in sustainable detergents.  Over the years, he has promoted sustainable approaches in business, culture, science, politics and the environment. He contributed to the development of the Kyoto Protocol and founded the Zero Emissions Research Initiative (ZERI) and the Global ZERI Network, which uses science and publicly available information to find and develop sustainable business solutions. Mr. Pauli has been visiting lecturer and professor at universities around the world, and a board member of NGOs and private companies in Asia, USA and Latin America.

Jeffrey Sachs is the Director of The Earth Institute, Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. He is Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals, having held the same position under former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He is Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and also co-founder and Chief Strategist of Millennium Promise Alliance and Director of the Millennium Villages Project. Furthermore Mr. Sachs is one of the Secretary-General’s MDG Advocates, and a Commissioner of the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Development.

Her Excellency Tumusiime Rhoda Peace is the Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union. Prior to assuming this portfolio, H.E Tumusiime held various senior positions in the Government of the Republic of Uganda, including Commissioner for Agriculture Planning and Commissioner for Women and Development. She is a holder a Bachelors’ Degree in Agricultural Economics, a Masters Degree in Economics, Planning and Managing Rural Development, and a Diploma in Women and Development. Throughout her career, she has demonstrated leadership in the empowerment of women, poverty eradication, agricultural development, strategic planning and partnership building, among others.

Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo is an Argentinean Bishop and the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, based at the Vatican. He has intimate knowledge of the Pontifical encyclical Laudato Si, which he presents worldwide. Mr. Sánchez has held positions as Lecturer at the Lateran University Rome and as full Professor at the Libera Università Maria SS. Assunta. He received several honors for his work, including the Legion d’Honneur of France. In 2001, His Holiness John Paul II consecrated him titular Bishop of Vescovìo.

Georg Schütte has been State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research since December 2009. Prior to this, he was Secretary General of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn. Mr. Schütte worked as Executive Director of the German-American Fulbright Commission in Berlin. During this period, he was also a member of the EU Commission's expert group on 'Benchmarking Human Resources'. Among other things he is a member of the Founding Supervisory Board of the Berlin Institute of Health and the Supervisory Board of the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research.

Daniel Barben is director of the Institute of Science, Technology and Society Studies at Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, Austria. Prior to this he served as Chair of Futures Studies at the Institute of Political Science, RWTH Aachen University. Mr. Barben also taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Arizona State University. Since 2012, Mr. Barben has been a member of the German Bioeconomy Council and is head of the GBS2015 Conference Committee. In adition he holds memberships in several professional associations such as the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology and the German Political Science Association.

Klaus Töpfer is the founding Director and current Executive Director of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam. Over the years, Mr. Töpfer has held several high-level positions in national and international environmental policy. He was Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. He was appointed German Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety from 1987 to 1994 and subsequently Minister for Regional Planning, Housing and Urban Development. Since 2007, Mr. Töpfer has also been Professor of Environment and Sustainable Development at Tongji University in Shanghai.

Johanna Wanka has been appointed German Minister of Education and Research in 2013. Mrs. Wanka has a wealth of experience in higher education and research management and policy. She was Minister of Science, Research and Culture of the state of Brandenburg for nine years and subsequently Minister with the same portfolio in Lower Saxony for four years. Prior to her government roles, she was Professor for Engineering Mathematics and was elected Rector at Merseburg University of Applied Sciences. Subsequently she assumed responsibilities in the Rectors' Conference of the state of Saxony-Anhalt and in the German Rectors' Conference.

Ulrich Hamm is professor for agricultural and food marketing at the University of Kassel, Germany. He has more than twenty years of experience in consumer research and agricultural/food marketing. In recent years, he has specialized in organic food and ethically motivated consumption. In 2012, Mr. Hamm has been appointed to the German Bioeconomy Council. For five years, he has also been a member of the German Scientific Advisory Board for Biodiversity and Genetic Resources. Mr. Hamm serves on the world board of the International Society of Organic Agriculture Research (ISOFAR) and is an editor of the Organic Agriculture journal. 

Maria Helena Semedo is Deputy-Director General, Natural Resources of the FAO UN and has been working for it in various positions since 2003. Under her present role she coordinates the work of the 3 departments Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and two natural resources divisions. Ms Semedo former positions have included Minister for Fisheries, Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Minister for Marine Affairs, Minister for Tourism, Transportation and Marine Affairs. Furthermore she has served as Coordinator of the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in Sahel (CILSS), as Chairperson of the Ministerial Conference on Fisheries Cooperation among African States bordering the Atlantic Ocean and as Chairperson of the Ministerial Conference on Fisheries Cooperation among African States bordering the Atlantic Ocean.

Lucia Reisch is a professor for consumer behaviour and consumer policy at Copenhagen Business School, Department of Intercultural Communication and Management. Since 2011 she also hold a permanent guest professorship at the Zeppelin University of Friedrichshafen (Germany). Her main research focus is on behavioural economics and sustainable consumption. She is a member of the German Bioeconomy Council and since 2015 head of the new Advisory Council on Consumer Policy in Germany. Furthermore she has a membership of the German Council for Sustainable Development and the Ethics Commission for Safe Energy Supply. In 2012 she was elected to become one of the 400 lifelong members of Germany's Academy of Technical Sciences.

Newai Gebre-ab is the Executive Director of the Ethiopian Development Research Institute and the Chief Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister. Mr. Gebre-ab has extensive experience not only in formulating green growth and development strategies but also in macro-economic policy and international finance. He chairs the Ethiopian Government/Donors Committee on Governance and is the Chairman of the board of directors of the National Bank of Ethiopia. In the course of his career, Mr. Gebre-ab has been involved in many multi-lateral policy forums and negotiations, such as the World Bank, the IMF, the United Nations and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

Helge Braun has been Minister of State to the Federal Chancellor since December 2013. Four years before he held the position of the Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Education and Research. Since 2009, Mr. Braun has been a member of the German Bundestag (also from 2002 to 2005: Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment and Committee on the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety). Before starting his political career, Mr. Braun worked as a doctor.

Eduardo Trigo is currently Director of Grupo CEO and is Scientific Adviser for International Relations at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of Argentina, and as such he represents his country in the biotechnology platform of the MERCOSUR countries, BioTecSur. In the past he has served as Director of Science and Technology at the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, IICA, and as Director of Research at the International Service for National Agricultural Research, ISNAR. He was also active as consultant in the area of science and technology policy, with emphasis in biotechnology applications to the agricultural and food sector.

Luis Almagro Lemes was elected Secretary General of the Organization of American States in 2015. Before that Mr. Almagro was Foreign Minister of Uruguay from 2010 to 2015. In addition he was appointed Senator in the national elections in Uruguay in October 2014. Mr. Almagro, a career diplomat, was also Ambassador to China for five years, after occupying senior diplomatic posts in the Foreign Ministry of his country, and in the Embassies of Uruguay in Germany and Iran. In 2014 Foreign Policy magazine named him a Leading Global Thinker, one of ten decision-makers in the region granted this international distinction.

Mohd Nazlee Kamal is the CEO of the Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation, a government agency responsible for implementing the national bioeconomy strategy. Mr. Kamal has a proven track record as an innovator and manager in the biotechnology sector. He was the founding CEO of Inno Biologics and the Group Managing Director of Inno Bio Ventures. He also has six years of business development experience with multinational companies, for example Amersham Biosciences and Sartorius. Mr. Kamal invented the ‚External Spinfilter’, which has been marketed by Sartorius BBI Systems. Mr. Kamal is a member of several associations, for instance the Malaysian Molecular Biology Society.

Li Brian Zhang is Founding Partner of Atelier TeamMinus in Bejing, which envisages to developping an alternative modernity in Chinese architecture. TeamMinus has earned international recognition, e.g. for the China Pavilion roof gardens at the Expo in Shanghai. Mr. Zhang is also Chair and Professor of Architecture at Tsinghua University. He is Board member of the Society of Chinese Architects and Editor-in-chief of the World Architecture Magazine. Mr. Zhang has taught in a number of reputable international institutions, including Syracuse University, National University of Singapore, Harvard Graduate School of Design and Barcelona School of Architecture.

Maximo Torero is currently the Division Director of the Market, Trade and Institutions Division at International Food Policy Research Institute, IFPRI Coordinator for Latin America, and also a leader of the Global Research Program on Institutions and Infrastructure for Market Development. In addition he is a professor on leave at the University of Pacific, Lima. Mr. Torero's major research work lies particularly in analyzing poverty, inequality, importance of geography and assets (private or public) in explaining poverty, and in policies oriented towards poverty alleviation based on the role played by infrastructure, institutions, and on how technological breakthroughs (or discontinuities) can improve the welfare of households.

Ning Li is the Chief Business Officer of Beijing Genome Institute and Executive Director of BGI-Hongkong, BGI-Europe and BGI-America. Mr. Li has led his group to successfully establish lots of forward NGS-based epigenomic platforms in BGI-Shenzhen, and also to develop the bioinformatics analysis tools specifically for the epigenome data analysis. Ning Li has published in most reputable international journals, Nature Genetics, Journal of Autoimmunity, PNAS, PLoS Biology, Plant Cell, Methods, PLoS ONE among others. Mr. Li is member of the Steering Committee of Genome Denmark and of the executive committee of International Rare Disease Research Consortium (IRDiRC) on behalf of BGI.

Adrian Rodriguez is currently Chief of the Agricultural Development Unit at the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean in Chile. He has recently organized the Latin America and the Caribbean Bioeconomy 2015 conference in Chile. Mr. Rodriguez has been involved in the bioeconomy-related activities in the interregional ALCUE NET. Before moving to ECLAC, he was a Rural Development Specialist at the Inter American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture in Costa Rica. In the course of his career, Mr. Rodriguez has advised numerous projects and international organizations throughout Latin America.

As Dean (Distance & Short Term Education), Amit Kumar is responsible for development and outreach of the University’s online courses, management & faculty development programmes, and other skill enhancement initiatives. Before he moved to TERI University, Mr Kumar was leading research activities in the fields of renewable energy and resource efficient process technology applications in TERI. He has been working on the development and diffusion of cleaner and renewable energy resources based technological solutions in India for over 32 years. His experience ranges from policy and programme formulation, through project implementation, to the design and development of renewable-energy technologies, as well as manufacturing of solar energy devices.