Plenary speakers

Prof. Dr. Christine Lang

Thomas Videbæk is Executive Vice President & COO for Research, Innovation & Supply at Novozymes. Previously, he developed diverse key functions within the organization, spanning both the commercial and operational side of the business. Prior to joining Novozymes, Thomas worked for Novo Nordisk A/S, where he set strategy for the food and feed industries. Thomas holds a Ph.D. and an M.Sc. In Chemical Engineering from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), as well as a B.Com. in International Business from Copenhagen Business School. He currently serves as member of the board of Evolva SA, and he is Vice Chairman of the Board of Albumedix A/S. 

Jean-Francois Soussana is Vice-President for international affairs at INRA. Previously, he was Scientific Director for Environment at INRA (2010-2017). Since 1998, he is member of the Working Group II of IPCC and was Lead Author for the 3rd, 4th and 5th Assessment Reports and shared with all IPCC authors the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2007. He co-chairs the Integrative Research Group of the Global Research Alliance on agricultural greenhouse gases (46 countries) and the Steering Council of AgMIP, an international modeling program on climate change impacts on agriculture. Mr. Sousanna obtained his PhD in plant physiology at USTL Montpellier in 1986 after an engineer degree in agronomy.

Suvit Maesincee has been the Minister of Science and Technology of Thailand since 2017.  He received his Ph.D. in Marketing from Kellogg Graduate School of Management in the US.  Prior to his current appointment, Dr. Maesincee was the Director of the Sasin Institute for Global Affairs in Thailand during 2008-2014.  He was also Deputy Minister of Commerce in 2015, and Minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office in 2016.  He is very instrumental in driving Thailand 4.0, which is a long-term national strategy to transform Thailand's economy into one that is more value-based and innovation-driven through S&T and innovation.    

Maarten van Dijk is CEO at SkyNRG. He has been involved in the company right from the start in 2010. Before taking on the role as CEO, he was responsible for Business Development and Sustainability, focusing on regional supply chain development. Maarten facilitates SkyNRG’s independent Sustainability Board and is currently in the Board of Directors of the Roundtable of Sustainable Biomaterials. He holds various advisory and board positions in renewable jet fuel projects, across the globe. Maarten studied chemistry at Utrecht University, where he graduated with majors in renewable energy technologies and in business economics.

Ms. Gertrude Ngabirano is the Executive Secretary of the East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO) an institution of the East African Community. The Development Objective of EASTECO is to promote and coordinate the development, management and application of Science and Technology to support regional integration and socio-economic development. With EASTECO Ms. Ngabirano is at the forefront of coordinating multidisciplinary stakeholders from the East African Community (EAC) partner states to formulate and implement regional science and technology initiatives including regional strategy and policy development for socio-economic growth and regional integration. She is passionate about nurturing the innovation potential of the east African region.

Dirk Carrez is the Executive Director of the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC). BIC represents the private sector in a public-private partnership (PPP) with the European Commission, known as the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU). Dirk is Bioengineer and holds a PhD in Agricultural Sciences. He has worked at SOLVAY in the research department, at the Belgian Federation for the Life Sciences and Chemical Industry as Director Innovation & Product Policy and as Secretary-general of the Belgian Biotechnology Industry Association, and has been Director Industrial Biotechnology at EuropaBio. He is also the Managing Director of Clever Consult.  

Elspeth MacRae leads Scion’s bioeconomy related activities including biorefinery, bioenergy, biodiscovery and bioplastic, clean technology, wood and fibre and biotech/omics activities from discovery to commercialisation. She leads a Portfolio for the National Science Challenge in Science and Technology for Industry. She is Deputy Chair of the Biopolymer Network Ltd Board, and a member of the Bioprocessing Alliance and the New Zealand Packaging Council governance groups. She has represented Scion in biotechnology policy issues for 12 years, has sat on multiple grants panels and review activities, participated in governmental delegations and provided futures activities for the NZ government for 6 years. She is New Zealand’s representative on the EPSO committee 2008-2018.  

Renu Swarup is presently Sr. Adviser for Department of Biotechnology (DBT). She also holds position of Managing Director, Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), a Public Sector Company incorporated by the Government to nurture and promote innovation research in the Biotech Enterprise with special focus on Start‐ups and SMEs. A PhD in Genetics and Plant Breeding, RenuSwarup completed her Post Doctoral at The John Innes Centre, Norwich UK, and returned to India to take up the assignment of a Science Manager in the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, GoI, in 1989. Renu Swarup has also been closely involved in Programmes and activities related to Women and Science.

Jim Philp is a microbiologist who has worked as a policy analyst since 2011 at the OECD, specialising in industrial biotechnology, synthetic biology and biomass sustainability. He spent some 16 years as an academic researching industrial and environmental biotechnologies. He worked for 8.5 years with Saudi Aramco in Saudi Arabia as an oil biotechnologist. He has authored over 300 articles. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2015, and a Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers in 2016. 

Mohamed Ait Kadi is presently President of the General Council of Agricultural Development. This Council is a high level policy Think Tank of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Rural Development and Forestry in Morocco. He was also Secretary General of the Ministry. He is resident member of King Hassan II Academy of Sciences and Techniques. He has been a member of the Board of the Central Bank of Morocco, the CGIAR Consortium Board, IFPRI’s Board of Trustees and the Board of Advisors of the World Agricultural Forum. He has served in many high level international assignments.

Dr. Frank Rijsberman leads the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in supporting governments transition towards a model of economic growth that is environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive. He was appointed as the Director-General of the Institute, on October 1, 2016. Prior to joining GGGI, Dr. Rijsberman was CEO of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Consortium in Montpellier, France. He was the first Director of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, USA and also worked as Program Director at, the philanthropic arm of Google. Mr. Rijsberman holds a PhD degree in water resources management and planning from Colorado State University (US).  

Ms. Keabetswe Tebogo Ncube, a PhD student in Genetics at Agricultural Research Council, Biotechnology Platform, South Africa and is registered with University of Kwa-Zulu Natal for her PhD. She is on a research exchange program at the USDA-ARS Animal Genomics Improvement Lab in Beltsville. Ms. Ncube’s work with ARS enhances ongoing work by the ARS lab on the USDA-USAID Feed the Future Livestock Improvement Project, as well as advancing ARS cattle genomics research. She has been named a Top Outstanding Young Person in academic Excellence by Junior Chamber International South Africa (2017), and Next Einstein Forum Ambassador (NEF) for South Africa.    

Dr. Rob Carlson is a Managing Director of Bioeconomy Capital, which invests in startups working at the interface of biology, engineering, and manufacturing. Dr. Carlson is best known for developing technological and economic metrics for biotechnology; The Economist deems these “Carlson Curves” as important for biology as Moore's Law is for semiconductors. Carlson's book Biology is Technology received the PROSE award for Best Engineering and Technology Book of 2010 and was named to Best of 2010 lists by writers at The Economist and Foreign Policy. Carlson earned a doctorate in Physics from Princeton University in 1997.   

Dr. Linda Kahl focuses on legal frameworks governing ownership, access, and use of biotechnologies in the United States and internationally. She counsels clients on a variety of biotechnology-related issues, including patenting, open source technologies, and leveraging the public domain.  
Prior to becoming an attorney, Dr. Kahl trained as a research scientist. She received her BS in biology from UCLA, her PhD in biochemistry and cell biology from Princeton, and completed postdoctoral studies in genetics at UC Berkeley. Dr. Kahl received her JD, magna cum laude, from Santa Clara Law School, and is admitted to practice in California and before the USPTO.

John Schramski is a mechanical engineer and ecologist with 28 years’ experience in industry and academia focusing on mechanical design and thermodynamic modeling.  He currently leads UGA’s Energy Systems Modeling and Engineering Laboratory where his funded research includes theoretical ecology, complex systems analysis, and the thermodynamics and energetics of the natural biosphere, civilization, and industry.  He completed his BSME at the University of Florida in 1989, his MSME at the University of Cincinnati in 1993 in conjunction with General Electric’s Advanced Courses in Engineering, and his PhD in Ecology at the University of Georgia in 2006.  He teaches undergraduate and graduate engineering thermodynamics and biosphere energetics.    

Adrian Percy is the Head of Research & Development of Bayer Crop Science. He is also a member of the R&D Executive Committee of Bayer and a Member of the Board of Trustees for the Bayer Science & Education Foundation. He began his career in 1991 as a toxicologist with Rhone-Poulenc Agrochimie based in France. Since then, he has held numerous positions in the Crop Science division of Bayer and its legacy companies in France, Germany and the USA. Mr. Percy earned a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacology at the University of Liverpool, a Master’s degree in Toxicology and then a doctorate in Biochemistry at the University of Birmingham. 

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.

Joachim von Braun is Professor and Director of the Department for Economic and Technological Change at the Center for Development Research (ZEF), Germany. In 2017, he has been nominated President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences of the Vatican. Since 2012 he is the Chair of the German Bioeconomy Council and the Vice-President of the NGO “Welthungerhilfe”. From 2002 to 2009 he was Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) based in Washington DC. Before these positions, von Braun was professor at Kiel University, Germany. He received his doctoral degree in agricultural economics from the University of Goettingen, Germany.

Navi Radjou is an innovation and leadership thinker and advisor in Silicon Valley. A Fellow at Cambridge University's Judge Business School, he serves on World Economic Forum's Global Future Council on Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Previously, he was a Vice President at Forrester Research in Boston and San Francisco. A TED Speaker, he won the 2013 Thinkers50 Innovation Award. He is co-author of Jugaad Innovation (2012), From Smart To Wise (2013) and Frugal Innovation (2015), published by The Economist. Born and raised in Pondicherry, India, he holds French-American dual citizenship. He studied at Ecole Centrale Paris and Yale School of Management. 

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. 

Christine Lang is founder and Managing Director of Organobalance GmbH, which became part of Novozymes A/S in 2016. At the Technical University Berlin she lectures on genetics in biotechnology. Since 2012, she is the Chair of the German Bioeconomy Council. Mrs. Lang is active in biotechnology associations, for example as a member of the Management Boards of DECHEMA and VCI/DIB and Vice-President of VAAM . She received her doctoral degree from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany and then worked for 10 years in industrial research at Hüls Chemie. In 1993 she became researcher at the TU Berlin and consequently Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.

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.

Klaus Töpfer is the founding Director and former 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.

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. 

Juan Carlos Castilla-Rubio
Serial entrepreneur, founder and CEO of start-ups in artificial intelligence, biotech, fintech and cleantech. Senior executive leadership positions at Cisco, SABMiller, Oliver Wyman and McKinsey & Co. Former founding CEO, biotechnology start-up Bioingenieria Aplicada S.A. Founder and Chairman, Planetary Skin Institute, a Silicon Valley research and development corporation co-founded with NASA. Founder and Chairman, Space Time Ventures and Space Time Analytics. World Economic Forum: Member, Global Future Council on Environment and Resource Security; Member, Global Advisory Council for the last eight years designing and incubating innovation programs to address global critical issues in energy, food and water security, risk management, climate change and tropical ecosystem protection.

Marcelo Mena Carrasco - Biochemical engineer, MS and PhD at the University of Iowa. Postdoctoral Fellow at MIT Joint Program on the Policy and Science of Global Change. Distinguished Alumnus at Universidad Catolica de Valparaíso and the University of Iowa. In 2017 he received the Clean Air and Climate Honorary Award for working on developing air quality policies for Chile. In each of the years in government there were massive reductions in respiratory emergency room visits from obstructive crisis, and total air quality episodies in cities like Santiago were reduced in over 70% since 2013. He was minister during Michelle Bachelet’s award from UN Environment: Champions of the Earth. Dr Mena is also a cyclist, and a renewable energy enthusiast.

Maurício Lopes, a plant geneticist by training, received his BSc degree in Agronomy (1983) from the Federal University of Viçosa, Brazil, his MS degree in Plant Genetics (1989) from Purdue University, Indiana, USA and his PhD in Genetics (1993) from the University of Arizona, Tucson, USA. Dr. Lopes served in a number of national and international committees, missions, panels and working groups related to agricultural R&D. He started his activities as an Embrapa (Brazilian AgriculturalResearch Corporation) researcher in 1989. Since then, he has held several leadership positions in the company. Most recently,he was the R&D Director. Since 2012, he is the president of Embrapa.

Alix Zwane is a social entrepreneur and CEO of the Global Innovation Fund, a $200m fund that takes a venture capital approach to supporting entrepreneurs and the scaling of evidence-based innovation in global development. She has previously served as Executive Director at Evidence Action, a non-profit that leads the Deworm the World Initiative and develops business models for effective development programs. She was Senior Program Officer in the Global Development group at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a member of the inaugural team at Her stint in philanthropy was preceded by experience in management consulting and academia at the University of California, Berkeley. Alix holds a PhD in Public Policy from Harvard University and has published widely in environmental and development economics journals.

Dr. Yin Li received his PhD in Fermentation Engineering at Jiangnan University in China in 2000. He worked in the Netherlands, Ireland, and United States as a researcher. In 2006 he was appointed as Professor by the Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Dr. Li is a microbial biotechnologist with broad interest in bioeconomy. Currently he is the Deputy Director-General of Bureau of International Cooperation CAS, director of the CAS-TWAS Centre of Excellence for Biotechnology, and editor or editorial board member of Microbiology, Microbial Cell Factories, Biotechnology Journal, Industrial Biotechnology, and Food Bioscience.

Fan Shenggen (樊胜根) has been director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) since 2009. Dr. Fan joined IFPRI in 1995 as a research fellow, conducting extensive research on pro-poor development strategies in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. He is one of the Champions of Target 12.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals, dedicated to inspiring ambition, mobilizing action, and accelerating progress toward cutting global food loss and waste. He serves as a member of the Lead Group for the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. He serves as advisor to many national governments (including China and Vietnam) on agriculture, food security and nutrition.

Prior to LanzaTech, Dr. Holmgren was VP and GM of the Renewable Energy and Chemicals business unit at UOP LLC, a Honeywell Company. Under her management, UOP technology became instrumental in producing nearly all the initial fuels used by commercial airlines and the military for testing and certification of alternative aviation fuel. In 2015 Dr. Holmgren and her team at LanzaTech were awarded the U.S. EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Award and she was awarded the BIO Rosalind Franklin Award for Leadership in Industrial Biotechnology. In 2016 she was named the most influential leader in the Bioeconomy by Biofuels Digest.

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim is the president of Mauritius. She's been honored as one of Foreign Policy's 2015 Global Thinkers. Mrs. Gurib-Fakim has been, prior to joining the State House, the Managing Director of the Centre International de Développement Pharmaceutique (CIDP) Research and Innovation as well as Professor of organic chemistry with an endowed chair at the University of Mauritius. She has long been a leading biodiversity scientist studying one of the world's key biodiversity hotspots. As an entrepreneur at CIDP R & I and professor of organic chemistry, she analyzed the plants from the region for their health, nutritional and cosmetic applications.

Dieter Birnbacher, born 1946 in Dortmund, Germany, studied Philosophy, English and General Linguistics. He earned a B. A. (Cambridge), a Dr. phil. (Hamburg) and holds a Habilitation (Essen). From 1993 to 1996 he was professor of philosophy at the University of Dortmund, from 1996 to 2012 professor of philosophy at the University of Düsseldorf. Professor Birnbacher has published widely in applied ethics, such as bioethics, environmental ethics and future ethics. He is member of the Central Ethics Commission of the Bundesärztekammer (German Medical Association), Vice-President of the Schopenhauer-Gesellschaft, Frankfurt/M. and member of Leopoldina, National Academy of Sciences.

Mary E. Maxon is the Associate Laboratory Director for Biosciences of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). She has been integral to the strategic planning efforts and development of the Biosciences Area for four years. She earned her graduate degree in molecular cell biology from the University of California, Berkeley. Maxon has worked in the private sector, both in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, as well as the public sector, highlighted by her tenure as the Assistant Director for Biological Research at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in the Executive Office of the President, where she developed the National Bioeconomy Blueprint.