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Symposium: Genome Editing – Changing Agricultural Research in Latin America

October 17, 2017 @ 8:00 am - October 18, 2017 @ 5:00 pm

DuPont Plant Sciences Symposia series

Greetings from sunny Palmira, Colombia! The DuPont Plant Sciences Symposia series has been reaching the next generation of plant scientists since 2008. This year CIAT, in collaboration with Colombian partner institutions, are pleased to host this distinguished symposium geared towards exploring genome editing and its potential for transforming agricultural development in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).

The symposium will bring together national and international speakers who will address applications of genome editing in agriculture during their presentations. The symposium will be open to the public but aims to attract particularly students and experts from across LAC.

One week before the Symposium there will be a Webinar for registered attendees that may want to get basic information on Genome Editing (People who register for the symposium should also commit to participate in the webinar).


See the livestreaming of the event here:
Starts 17 October 9:00 a.m.
(Colombia Time GMT-5)

Why genome editing

Genome editing, using DNA nucleases that allow mutations to be accurate, planned, permanent, and inheritable, with minimum probability of error and without leaving foreign DNA sequences behind, is the most modern technology to fast-track basic research and plant breeding. The technology not only makes possible precise genome editing to achieve desirable traits, but also allows us to question the genome to assign or discover gene functions. The following are concrete examples from ongoing work by CIAT’s research team, who started experimenting with rice, cassava, and bean genome editing back in 2014.

  • Rice: resistance to viruses and bacteria, nutritional quality, hybrid seed.
  • Cassava: starch quality, resistance to herbicides.
  • Beans: nutritional quality.
  • Diagnosis: early detection of pathogens.

What is the symposia series of DuPont Plant Sciences?

  • It is an opportunity for the next generation of scientists interact with the public and private sectors through student events promoted and organized in different academic institutions.
  • Events and presentations facilitated by leading plant scientists, poster sessions, panel discussions and countless opportunities for networking.
  • The symposium is free and accessible to the general public.

Over 50 Dupont Plant Series events have been conducted worldwide reaching over 8,000 participants since 2008. These knowledge exchanges have provided several students with the opportunity to gain vital skills while expanding their understanding of plant science.

One week before the Symposia there will be a Webinar for registered attendees that may want to get basic information on Genome Editing (People who register should commit to participate in the webinar).

Registrations for this Symposium were closed on 22 September.


Kevin Hayes, DuPont Pioneer

Kevin Hayes is the leader of the Genomic Operations and Protein Structural Analysis team at DuPont Pioneer. Kevin is currently engaged in data management and analytics of large data sets, mainly Next Generation Sequencing. In this role, he works with building and growing techniques within DuPont Pioneer and through collaborations ranging from novel data architectures to algorithm design and implementation in support of research and development activities. Kevin holds a Ph.D in Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with fellowships in Neurobiology and Translational Medicine (Scripps Florida and the University of Pennsylvania). His varied experiences have led him from Toxicogenomics to Circadian Rhythms to High Throughput Screening and into the realm of Informatics and Plant Sciences. Kevin’s breadth of experiences across science lead to contextually varied solutions to problems within the agricultural research sphere.

Joe Tohme, CIAT

Joe Tohme is Lebanese national who received a BSc and MSc. from the American University of Beirut and a PhD in Crop Sciences from Michigan State University. He works at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture since 1987 as a plant geneticist. He is currently the research director of CIAT Agrobiodiversity teams that include the Genetic Resources Unit, the biotechnology, bean, cassava, forages and rice projects. In addition, Joe coordinates the biotechnology activities of HarvestPlus, an international, research program that seeks to reduce micronutrient malnutrition by harnessing the powers of agriculture and nutrition research to breed nutrient- dense staple foods.

Joe Tohme’s research involves integrating genomics-molecular-assisted selection with breeding and germplasm conservation activities. Setting up a microarray-gene expression and SNP facilities, coordinating genome editing at CIAT and conduct gene discovery and analysis for abiotic and nutritional traits. In 2016, he has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Matt Begemann, Benson Hill

Matt Begemann has been with Benson Hill Biosystems for over three years and is currently the Associate Director of Molecular Technologies. He leads the genome editing program at Benson Hill, where his team has developed a proprietary portfolio of CRISPR-based genome editing nucleases. Benson Hill’s genome editing research also enables predictive product development by leveraging Benson Hill’s CropOS™ computational platform.

He is also actively involved in the biotechnology trait discovery and product development programs. Matt is experienced in improving photosynthesis, plant molecular biology, synthetic biology and metabolic engineering, and the development of new enabling technologies. Prior to joining Benson Hill, he received his PhD in Microbiology from the University of Wisconsin where he worked on metabolic engineering and synthetic biology. Matt also has a BS in Biochemistry from the University of Missouri.

María Andrea Uscátegui, Agro-Bio

Executive Director of the Association of Agricultural Plant Biotechnology, Agro-Bio, for the Andean region.

She completed her professional studies in Industrial Microbiology at the Pontificia Javeriana University in Bogotá, and later she completed a Master’s degree in Biotechnology at the Technical University of Hamburg (Germany). She has more than 10 years of experience in the field of biotechnology and has worked as a researcher in validation of immunological tests at IBL Hamburg – Germany, project coordinator at Seeds Iceland – Iceland and researcher at the Molecular Biology Laboratory of the Aquaculture Research Center in Colombia, Ceniacua.

She has been involved as a specialist and adviser in agricultural and biotechnology sector committees, as well as lecturer in different academic events and congresses at national and international level.

María Fernanda Álvarez, CIAT

Biologist, PhD. in Genetics and breeding of the National University of Colombia. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the CIAT rice program, working in the improvement and production of rice hybrids. Her research is focused on accelerating the hybrid breeding program using molecular tools and anthers breeding for introgression of genes and heterosis determination. She has also researched the genetics of cross-pollinated characters in rice to increase the production of hybrid seed. Her doctoral work was done at the National University of Bogotá in cooperation with the Max Planck institute for plant breeding in the city of Cologne-Germany and with the James Hutton Institute of Dundee-Great Britain, where she worked with Genetic Association in the search of genes resistance to Phytophthora infestans in Solanum Phureja. She also worked at CIAT in the development of CSSLs (Chromosome segment substitution lines) for genetic mapping in interspecific crosses of rice.

Masaki Endo, NARO

Senior Researcher, Plant Genetic Engineering Research Unit, Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO), Japan.

Ph.D. in Agricultural Science, the Graduate School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Tsukuba, March 2007. Supervisor, Prof. Hirokazu Handa .

Master of Agricultural Science, the Graduate School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Tsukuba, March 2004. Supervisor, Prof. Shigeo Nishimura.

Bachelor of Agrobiological Resource Sciences, University of Tsukuba, March 2002.

She has received the following awards and honors:

  • Japan Society of the Promotion of Science Research Fellowship for Young Scientist DC1 for doctoral course student (2004-2007).
  • Japan Society of the Promotion of Science Research Fellowship for Young Scientist PD for Posdocs (2008-2009).
  • Student Poster Prize, 8th International Congress of Plant Molecular Biology (2006).
  • The JSPCMB Student Award, Japanese Society for Plant Cell and Molecular Biology (2006).
Elizabeth Hodson de Jaramillo, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana

Professor Emeritus at the School of Sciences of the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (Bogotà, Colombia); member of number of the Academia Colombiana de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales; Honorary Fellow for the Scientific Committee in Fondazione Scuola Medica Salernitana (Italy), Visiting Professor for the Doctorate in Bioethics at Universidad del Museo Social Argentino and at Universidad El Bosque (Colombia);member of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on Risk Assessment and Risk Management under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (Convention on Biological Diversity); member of UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST).

Ph.D. from the University of Nottingham in the areas of Botany and plant genetic manipulation. International consultant for Biodiversity, Bioeconomy, Agrobiotechnologies and Biosafety of GMOs. Has edited more than 19 books, 26 scientific chapters in books and more than 50 scientific articles.

Ximena Serrano , Colombian Association of Scientific Journalism.

Social communicator from the Autónoma de Occidente University. She has more than 20 years of experience covering science, technology, environment and innovation. From 2006 to the present she is president of the Colombian Association of Scientific Journalism.

Kevin Diehl, DuPont Pioneer

Director Regulatory Strategy and Industry Affairs, DuPont Pioneer. He received a PhD in Plant Physiology / Weed Science from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. BS in Agronomy / Agricultural Studies from Iowa State University. Cardinal Key Leadership Honorary, Golden Key Honor Society, Outstanding Ag Service Award, Phi Kappa Phi, Gamma Sigma Delta, President Farm Operations Club, WSSA Outstanding Undergraduate Award.

Paul Chavarriaga, CIAT

Leader of CIAT’s Genetic Transformation and Genome Edition Platform. In May 2010, CIAT inaugurated the Genetic Transformation Platform to support agricultural research using genetic modification and, more recently, CRISPR / Cas technology to edit plant genomes. Today, the Platform has been consolidated as the first to produce genetically edited rice and cassava (and beans soon) in Latin America, and as a reference site for learning, regulation, safe use and dissemination of technological innovations for plant breeding (Plant Breeding Innovations).

Matthew R. Willmann, Cornell University

Director of Cornell University’s Plant Transformation Facility (PTF), which opened in January 2016. He received his undergraduate degree in General Plant Science in 1999 from Cornell University and his Ph.D. in Genetics from Harvard University in 2004. PTF is a service-facility that makes transgenic and CRISPR/Cas9 genome-edited plants (maize, rice, wheat, and apple) for Cornell and external researchers. Matthew’s research interests include developing transformation protocols for previously untransformed plants, developing transgene-free CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing methods, and understanding the genetic basis for the genotype-dependence of plant transformation and tissue culture.

Introductory Webinar program

Tuesday, October 10
10:10 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. 
(Colombia Time GMT-5)

  • Introduction to the webinar: Paul Chavarriaga
  • Introduction to genome editing: Alejandro Brand
  • Applications of Genome Editing:
    • Mónica Carvajal, CIAT – Detection and diagnosis of diseases
    • Pedro M. Hernández, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali – Errors in the human metabolism
  • Question and answers



Day 1 (17 October 2017)


7:30 – 9:00 Registration
9:00 – 9:15 Welcome remarks
9:15 – 10:00 Conference by Pioneer “Importance of plant breeding innovations”

Dr Kevin Diehl, Director of Regulatory Strategies and Industry Relations

10:00 – 10:45 Conference by CIAT

Joe Tohme, Research Area Director, Agrobiodiversity

10:45 – 11:15 Break
11:15 – 13:00 Applications of Genome Editing

  • “Development of genome editing technologies for functional genomics and molecular breeding in plants”: Masaki Endo, Senior Researcher (2014-Present) Plant Genetic Engineering Research Unit, Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, National Agriculture and Food Research Organization, Tsukuba, Japan.
  • “Transgene-free CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing methods”: Matthew R. Willmann, Ph.D., Director, Plant Transformation Facility, Cornell University.
  • Aplication of genome editing in CIAT crops: Paul Chavarriaga, Sandra Valdez, María Fernanda Álvarez, CIAT.
13:00 – 14:30 Lunch, booths and poster visits
14:30 – 16:00 Social perception of genome editing: Overcoming fears and myths: Panel discussion

Moderator: María Uscátegui, Executive Director Agro-Bio

  • Social perspective. Ximena Serrano, President, Colombian Association of Science Journalism
  • Scientific Integrity. Elizabeth Hodson, Professor Emeritus at the School of Sciences of the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana
  • Intellectual property rights: Carolina Roa, CIAT IP consultant
16:30     Coffee break

Day 2 (18 October 2017)

Knowledge Fair

8:00 – 11:00 Poster Session / Visits to the Genetic Transformation Laboratory
11:00 – 12:00 Gene Silencing and Editing: New Approaches
Jayme Nunes de Souza Filho, M.Sc. – Merck, Life Science
12:00 – 13:00 Characterization and Validation of a Novel Group of Type V, Class 2 Nucleases for in vivo Genome Editing.
Matt Begemann. Associate Director, Molecular Technologies at Benson Hill Biosystems
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 15:30 Roundtable with all speakers
Requirements for the preparation of the poster
  1. The official language for the poster is English.
  2. Use a readable font. Times New Roman is recommended.
  3. The Panel should not exceed the following dimensions: 100 cm wide, 90 cm high.
  4. The background should be white.
  5. It may contain diagrams, diagrams, charts, photographs or tables with an appropriate minimum size. The typography must be legible at a distance of 1.5 m.
  1. It should contain:
  • A title that refers to your research idea using CRISPR / Cas9 technology.
  • Affiliation of authors. Include the logos of the institutions.
  • The approach of the research idea. Include all the information that is available to support your idea.
  • The Panel MUST contain the questions that the researcher will ask for discussion with keynote speakers. These will be useful for receiving feedback from experts and carrying out your research proposal.

See example here:

The poster with the most innovative idea in the use of CRISPR / Cas9 will have the opportunity to spend 1 week with all the expenses paid in CIAT’s Transformation Platform and Editing of genomes for the training in the design of CRISPRs.



  • Tabaré Abadia
  • María Federova
  • Claudia Peña Bustos



  • Postdoctoral Researcher in Rice: María Fernanda Álvarez
  • CIAT Postdoctoral Researcher in Virology: Mónica Carvajal
  • CIAT Transformation Platform: Sandra Valdés, Alejandro Brand, Mónica Prías, and Paul Chavarriaga
  • Knowledge Management: Simone Staiger


Agro-Bio: María Andrea Uscateguí, Executive Director

Universidad Javeriana-Cali: Pedro Hernández

Universidad Nacional: Rubén Eduardo Mora Moreno (MSc student)

Universidad del Valle: Adalberto Sánchez


CIAT Guest House
CIAT has a guest houses with 32 rooms for visitors who wish to stay on campus
Contact: Leidy Moreno
Phone: 57 (2) 4450000 Ext.: 3189

CIAT’s physical facilities

Hotels in Cali:


Hotels in Palmira:


Simone Staiger-Rivas

Simone Staiger-Rivas

Leader – Data, Information and Knowledge Group


Paul Chavarriaga

Paul Chavarriaga

Leader, Transformation Platform and Genome Editing

With support from:


October 17, 2017 @ 8:00 am
October 18, 2017 @ 5:00 pm


Km 17 Recta Cali-Palmira
Cali, Colombia
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