Meet our new president: Prof. Ann Depicker

Friday, August 3, 2018

A word from your president Prof. Ann Depicker

After the 2-year presidencies, first of Prof. Julian Ma, followed by Prof. George Lomonosoff, it is with great pleasure that I have accepted the presidency of ISPMF for the coming 2 years from July 2018 till June 2020.

It is my wish to promote, coordinate and support the molecular farming scientists whom explore the creative use of plants for the production of valuable compounds for the benefit of our society.

Therefore, a broad range of many different expertises have to be integrated, extending from fundamental understanding of the biological systems involved, protection of the acquired intellectual knowledge and a feeling for translational aspects and tech transfer to bring a product to the market. That is why I am pleased that the management committee now brings together academic and industrial scientists. My sincere gratitude goes to the input and voluntary help of the committee members.  Marc-André D’Aoust accepted to be the Secretary of the society, after Joachim Schiemann stepped back with the following words: “I wish you great success in future molecular farming. It was always a pleasure to meet all of you, to work together with you, to have fun!”. Thank you Joachim. Julian Ma as founder of the ISPMF society keeps track of our financial situation, and as Treasurer, he is following up on the membership in a very responsible way. Kirsi-Marja Oksman-Caldentey, knowing from experience how important funds are by organizing the great 3rd ISPMF conference in Helsinki in June 2018 (see 12th Newsletter), will be the society Awards Manager. Inga Hitzeroth and Penny Hundleby have been from the start our Communications Officers, and they have done a fantastic job! Heribert Warzecha is our Website Manager, and we are all very grateful to him. Finally, I especially want to highlight our new member Eugenio Benvenuto who volunteered to organize the 4th ISPMF conference in Rome in 2020 (and I know he can organize very nice meetings). Moreover, besides the great representation of these experienced scientists, the contributions of the bursary students and postdocs to the report of the 3rd ISPMF conference in Helsinki inspired us to integrate young people in the ISPMF management committee, stimulating in this way innovation and integration of new technologies. Soon, you may expect a call for volunteers.

Below, you can find a narrative of my CV, the only purpose being that it might help you to identify in which fields I could advise and help you in your research. I have been teaching genetics, epigenetics and plant biotechnology to a generation of biologists and biotechnologists, and of October first 2018, I will retire as emeritus professor, giving me the opportunity to advise and consult.       

During my scientific carrier from 1973-2018, I witnessed the history and all exciting developments in plant biotechnology: the discovery period why and how Agrobacterium makes tumors in plants, the insight that Agrobacterium can be used to make transgenic plants, the phenomenal advances that were made subsequently in plant science, the euphoria about the potential for plant biotech industries, and the disappointment about the public’s opposition against GMOs.

In the late 90’s, the research of my group was concentrated on understanding processes such as integration of transferred DNA into plant cell chromosomes, and the epigenetic regulation of the transferred DNA. In parallel, production of antibodies in plants was evaluated for immunomodulation and for molecular farming. The last 10 years, my group was focusing on the development of biotherapeutics to treat infectious diseases, production of innovative vaccine fusions for mucosal immunization, and glycoengineering of the plant seed recombinant protein production platform. Therefore, I consider it as a culmination of my career that I can represent you and be your contact person as president of ISPMF. Let me know your suggestions and questions on my email address anna.depicker@UGent.be, and together with the management committee, we will discuss and follow up on those.

Very kind regards, Prof. Ann Depicker

President of the ISPMF