2020 Speakers

Dr. Kevin Esvelt

Kevin M. Esvelt is an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he leads the Sculpting Evolution Group in exploring evolutionary and ecological engineering. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University for inventing a synthetic ecosystem to rapidly evolve useful biomolecules, and subsequently helped pioneer the development of CRISPR, a powerful new method of genome engineering. An inventor of CRISPR “gene drive” systems to alter wild populations of organisms, he defied tradition by calling for open discussion and the use of safeguards before demonstrating the technology in the laboratory. At MIT, his laboratory invents novel localized drive systems and alternatives, works with communities to develop humane solutions for ecological problems, and develops new approaches to prevent the misuse of biotechnology. An outspoken advocate of open and responsive science to accelerate discovery and improve safety, Esvelt seeks to use gene drive as a catalyst to reform science.

Dr. Yinong Yang

Yinong Yang is a Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology and the Huck Institutes of Life Sciences at the Pennsylvania State University. He received a BS in biology from Hangzhou University in 1982, an MS in botany from University of South Florida in 1990, and a PhD in plant molecular and cellular biology from University of Florida in 1994. After a postdoctoral position in Waksman Institute at Rutgers University, he became an assistant and associate professor at the University of Arkansas. He joined the faculty at Penn State in 2006 and has been working in the areas of molecular plant-microbe interactions and functional genomics. His recent studies focus on improving CRISPR/Cas genome editing technology and its broad applications in genome engineering and precision breeding of agricultural crops.

Dr. Christine Shyu

Trained as a plant molecular biologist at Michigan State University’s Plant Research Laboratories (PRL), Christine’s career has been centered around utilizing different genome engineering technologies to study gene function and improve crop performance.  She joined Monsanto (now Bayer Crop Science) in 2017 as a genome editing scientist to develop tools and technologies for genome editing, and recently transitioned to a Global Pipeline Strategy Manager role where she influences, shapes and develops regulatory strategies for innovative gene editing products and technologies.  In addition to gene editing, Christine is passionate about signaling mechanisms, ways to uncouple growth and defense responses in crops, and bridging cultures through scientific communication and outreach.

Dr. Markita Landry

Markita Landry is an assistant professor in the department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.  She received a B.S. in Chemistry, and a B.A. in Physics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics and a Certificate in Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and completed an NSF postdoctoral fellowship in Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Landry Lab develops synthetic nanoparticle-polymer conjugates for imaging neuromodulation in the brain, and for the delivery of genetic materials into plants for plant biotechnology applications. The Landry lab exploits the highly tunable chemical and physical properties of nanomaterials for the creation of bio-mimetic structures, molecular imaging, and plant genome editing. She is also on the scientific advisory board of Terramera, Inc, and on the scientific advisory board of Chi-Botanic.  She is a recent recipient of 18 early career awards, including awards from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, the DARPA Young Investigator program, the Beckman Young Investigator program, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, is a Sloan Research Fellow, an FFAR New Innovator, and is a Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator. 

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