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Seeds of acceleration: Lessons from COVID-19 vaccine development to advance crop breeding

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Event description

To continue to produce food sustainably and profitably, in the volume required to feed the world, the agrifood sector needs to embrace rapid innovation in the way we grow that food.

The Agrifood Innovation Institute invites you to participate in a unique forum which will bring together insights from the COVID-19 vaccine development and apply them to crop breeding.

Led by AFII Deputy Director, Associate Professor Alison Bentley, the event at the Australian National University in Canberra on 26 June will bring together stakeholders with broad expertise in vaccine development, the use of platform technologies, open data, enabling policy and regulation, and prioritisation of future trait targets.

The event aims to identify how the new knowledge and processes supporting rapid COVID-19 vaccine development can provide a blueprint for focusing international cooperation towards the accelerated breeding of future-ready crops.

Your participation is welcomed as we seek to harness collective expertise and experience to ensure the ongoing security and resilience of our food systems.

Agenda now available here.


Darcy Allen 

Dr Darcy Allen is a Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Director at the RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub in Melbourne. He is an applied economist focusing on frontier technologies including blockchains and generative AI. He’s published widely in journals including Research Policy, the Harvard Negotiation Law Review, Journal of Institutional Economics and the Journal of Business Research. He is the author of four books including Cryptodemocracy (2019) and When Entrepreneurs Meet (2020). He works closely with a range of industry partners and has appeared as an expert witness before parliamentary inquiries in Australia 7 times, including on the regulation of new technologies. X: @DrDarcyAllen. Website: 

Katherine Cullerton 

Dr Katherine Cullerton is a Senior Lecturer in Global Health and Health Policy at the School of Public Health, University of Queensland. Her research focusses on why evidence doesn’t translate into policy, increasing the agency of advocates to effectively influence policy and exploring whether it is ever acceptable for population health researchers to engage with the food industry. Katherine is also a qualified dietitian and has worked in a range of settings including with Aboriginal communities, schools, tobacco control and as a national policy officer. 

Creina Day 

Associate Professor Creina Day is an award-winning and renowned academic economist. Day has contributed to the fields of R&D-based growth, house price determination, gender wage inequality, fossil fuel extraction, climate change, pensions, population, voting, and macroeconomic policy. Day received multiple teaching awards including the 2023 Vice Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence. Day has published seminal papers in leading international journals and been recognized with the JG Crawford Award for best original research and top 10 downloaded Special Issue papers of the Economic Record. She is noted for proposing the fertility J-curve in 2004 which would be confirmed empirically in 2009. 

Katherine Delbridge

Katherine Delbridge leads the Australian Seed Federation (ASF), the peak industry body for the seed supply chain in Australia. Under her leadership, ASF is focused on ensuring Australia has a thriving seed industry that adds value to the world through high-quality seed for sowing. Before joining ASF, she served as the Director of Government & Strategic Relations at CropLife Australia where she was part of the team that secured legislative change to allow GM farming practices in South Australia. Katherine has worked for over a decade as a political campaigner and communications professional in the disability sector; and her extensive experience in government relations, strategic communications, and advocacy continues to drive the ASF’s mission.

Shannon Dillon 

Dr Shannon Dillon a Principal Research Scientist in CSIRO’s Agriculture and Food, Crops Program and leads the Breeding Innovations Group. Her expertise and interests sit at the interface of statistical and landscape genomics, quantitative genetics, bioinformatics and machine learning delivering genomics based analytical tools for improved decision making in crop management and breeding. She is passionate about, and actively leads and supports research extending innovative methods including ML&AI to advance crop productivity gain, including the integration of environment and domain understanding into genomic prediction, and multi-‘omics platforms for gene discovery and prediction. Her group more broadly delivers a range of analytical solutions targeting improved biological understanding and gene identification, genomic prediction and selection, molecular breeding and mutation platforms, and integration of crop phenomics and sensing technologies for breeding applications.  

Robyn Hall 

Dr Robyn Hall is a passionate, curious and driven scientist with a diverse knowledge base spanning across veterinary science, virology, genomics, epidemiology and data science. From a young age, she dreamed of becoming a veterinarian. In clinical practice, she developed a keen interest in infectious diseases and the complex, intricate interactions between agent, host and environment. She then undertake a PhD in molecular virology, and subsequently worked as a diagnostic virologist at the NSW government veterinary laboratory. Robyn then moved to CSIRO for 8 years, with a secondment to the Epidemiology team of the COVID-19 Department of Health National Incident Room during the pandemic. Robyn also worked with the Schwessinger lab, ANU RSB, to implement SARS-CoV-2 genomic epidemiology locally in the ACT. Robyn now works in industry as a consultant epidemiologist at Ausvet where she brings together her broad experiences to support OneHealth projects across research, biostatistics, modelling, policy, and information management systems.  

Terry Nolan 

Professor Terry Nolan AO  is Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Melbourne, and former head of the Vaccine and Immunisation Research Group (or VIRGo) at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. He was the Foundation Head of the Melbourne University School of Population and Global Health between 2001 and 2019.  Prof. Nolan is a pediatrician and clinical epidemiologist, graduated in medicine and in medical science from the University of Western Australia, trained in paediatrics at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne and at the Montréal Children's Hospital, and received a PhD in epidemiology and biostatistics from McGill University in Montréal. His expertise relates to immunisation, pandemic vaccine planning and response, and clinical trials of new vaccines. He has authored more than 260 publications in scientific journals. He has provided advice and expertise to many of the world’s leading vaccine manufacturers and their scientists on the development and clinical evaluation of several new vaccines. He was Chair of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) for a decade. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences, and a former member of SAGE, the World Health Organization’s main advisory group on vaccines and Immunisation.   

John Noel Viaña 

Dr John Noel Viana is a research fellow at the Justice and Technoscience Laboratory (JusTech) of the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) at the Australian National University. He is also a visiting scientist at the Responsible Innovation Future Science Platform at CSIRO. He has a background in bioethics, social studies of science, science communication, and molecular biology. His current work focuses on diversity and justice in health research. He has led various projects related to COVID-19, including science communication with racial minorities, scientists’ responsiveness to changing COVID-19 policies, and scientists’ perspectives on diversity in COVID-19 molecular research. 

Christina Zorbas 

Dr Christina Zorbas is an Early Career Researcher passionate about strengthening equity considerations in food policy. She leads projects to identify how food policy processes can include more diverse community voices, whilst also working to streamline food and beverage price monitoring systems. Christina works closely with partners like the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth), UNICEF, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the media, with a view to strengthen policy networks and inform the prioritisation of policies that support healthy, culturally appropriate and affordable diets for everyone. 

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