Keynote Speakers

Richard Michelmore, Welcome Keynote Speaker
Richard Michelmore, photoRichard Michelmore has been the founding Director of the Genome Center at the University of California at Davis since 2003. He received BA and Ph.D. degrees in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge, UK and joined the faculty of UC Davis in 1982. He is currently a Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Plant Sciences, Molecular & Cellular Biology, and Medical Microbiology & Immunology. He has published over 160 scientific papers. His multidisciplinary research utilizes a synthesis of molecular, genetic, and evolutionary approaches. His interests span basic research into the molecular basis of specificity in plant-pathogen interactions to translational plant genetics and crop improvement. His research is focused on comparative and functional genomics with an emphasis on plant disease resistance and pathogen variability ( In addition, his program coordinates and hosts the bioinformatics component of the Compositae Genome Project ( His interests include applications of next-generation DNA sequencing approaches to all areas of biology and its imminent impact on society in general. In particular, he aims to exploit such approaches for information-driven deployment of resistance genes in plants to provide durable disease resistance. He is also interested in fostering research to enhance food security internationally.

Roger Chetelat, Banquet Keynote Speaker
Roger Chetelat, photoRoger Chetelat‘s research encompasses the molecular and classical genetics of tomato; wide hybridization and interspecific incompatibility; use of molecular markers in breeding; and germplasm conservation. His work on reproductive barriers is revealing how plants control pollination to avoid both inbreeding and excessive outcrossing. Using this information, he is developing new types of prebred germplasm sources that broaden the genetic base of cultivated tomato. These research projects are synergistic with the C.M. Rick Tomato Genetics Resource Center, a national and international genebank of tomato wild species and genetic stocks. The Rick Center distributes seed samples to interested researchers, breeders and educators around the world.

Talk title: Charlie Rick and the Origins of the Tomato Genetics Resource Center

Charlie Rick, photos During his 60-year career at UC-Davis, the late Prof. Charles M. Rick isolated and mapped hundreds of mutants, collected wild tomato relatives throughout South America, and founded a seed bank to preserve these and other stocks. His work helped establish tomato as a model system for genetic studies, and made available rich germplasm resources with which to analyze the Solanum genome. Rick led 13 major expeditions to the native region to collect and study wild tomatoes. His photographic and written account of these trips form the basis for this retrospective view of the ups and downs of plant collecting in the Andean region and the Galapagos Islands. The C.M. Rick Tomato Genetics Resource Center, established in 1976, now maintains and distributes over 3,900 accessions of wild species and genetic stocks. Current research on wide hybridization and self- and interspecific incompatibility is generating new sources of germplasm and fresh insights into reproductive barriers between tomato and its wild relatives.

Sandy Knapp, Diversity-taxonomy/Crop germplasm diversity session
Sandy Knapp, photoSandy Knapp leads the Natural History Museum’s team of 20 botanists, and is herself a specialist in the nightshade (or potato) family, Solanaceae. She originally came to the Museum to lead the international project Flora Mesoamericana – a synoptic account of the 18,000 species of flowering plants and ferns that occur in tropical Mexico and Central America. The Flora is the first major regional floristic project to be published in Spanish. She has published more than 150 peer-reviewed scientific papers, ranging from description of more than 100 new species, to evolutionary analyses of the entire nightshade family. She has written 11 popular books and field guides; one of these, Potted Histories (re-titled as Flora in its second and third editions) won the Prix J. Redouté in its French translation.

She leads collecting expeditions in the Americas, Asia, and Africa as part of her work, and has a wide range of collaborations worldwide. She served as the first female President of the Nomenclature Section of the International Botanical Congress in Melbourne in 2011, and has been elected to the same role for the Congress in Shenzhen, China in 2017. Her current research is focused on the wild relatives of cultivated plants, and explores aspects of domestication, distribution, and diversification in these complex groups of species.

Talk title: Diversification in Solanaceae: More Than Meets the Eye

Pat Bedinger, Barriers to Breeding session
Pat Bedinger, photoPatricia Bedinger investigated the genetics of pollen development and the cell biology of pollen tube growth for a number of years. More recently she has refocused her research on a fundamental biological question: how do closely related species occurring in sympatry avoid hybridization? In particular, her current research aims to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying reproductive isolation between species, and how mutations can impact species interactions. This highly integrative project involves a team of researchers with expertise encompassing bioinformatics, evolution, genetics and molecular biology. The study system for the project is the tomato clade of Solanum, which, in addition to the cultivated tomato, includes a diverse set of wild species found Ecuador, Peru and Chile.

Dr. Bedinger conducted field work on wild tomatoes in Ecuador as a Fulbright Scholar in 2014-2015.

Talk title: Interspecific Reproductive Barriers in the Wild Tomatoes

Dario Cantu, Genomes and Genome Technologies session
Dario Cantu, photoDario Cantu is an Associate Professor in the department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. He obtained a Ph.D. in Plant Biology form UC Davis in Fall 2009. During his Ph.D. he investigated the molecular bases of the intersection between tomato ripening and susceptibility to Botrytis cinerea. Since graduating from UCD, he conducted research in the laboratory of Prof. Dubcovsky where he applied novel sequencing and large dataset technologies and made significant contributions to the field of plant genomics, including the first epigenome analysis of wheat transposable elements, the first assembly and annotation of the wheat stripe rust genome, a large scale transcriptome analysis of polyploid wheat, and a comparative study of the defense response interactomes in rice and wheat. Since 2012, as Faculty member at UC Davis, he has been leading an independent research group that integrates principles of systems biology and quantitative genetics and uses genomics and bioinformatics to dissect the molecular networks underlying grapevine responses to the environment, including biotic and abiotic stresses. Research topics range from (i) grapevine resistance to pathogens, (ii) the evolution of pathogenicity in fungal plant pathogens, (iii) berry ripening and its association with pathogens and microbial communities, and (iv) the molecular determinants of fruit development and ripening.

Talk title: Democratization of Reference Quality Genome Sequencing for Non-model Organisms

Joyce Van Eck, Gene Editing and New Breeding Technologies session
Joyce Van Ecke, photoJoyce Van Eck is a faculty member at the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) at Cornell University and is also the director of the BTI Center for Plant Biotechnology Research. She received her undergraduate degree in Plant Biology from the Pennsylvania State University, a M.S. from the University of Delaware, and a Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics from Cornell University. The focus of research in the Van Eck laboratory is biotechnological approaches to the study of gene function and crop improvement with an emphasis on plants for human health. For her studies, she applies genetic engineering strategies to food crops, such as grape, potato, and tomato, in addition to several model species (Setaria viridis, Brachypodium distachyon, and Asclepias syriaca).

Talk title: Genetic Engineering and Genome Editing in the Solanaceae

Philippe Gallusci, Epigenomics and Methylation session
Philippe Gallusci, photoPhilippe Gallusci is full professor at University of Bordeaux. He received his PhD in Plant Molecular Biology from the University of Toulouse in 1991. After a 4 years long postdoctoral stay at the Max Planck Institute (Cologne) where he studied maize endosperm development, he was hired as associate professor at Bordeaux University in 1994 to initiate research on volatile terpene synthesis in plants. He then studied the interplay between sugar metabolism and carotenoid accumulation in tomato fruits. In 2005, he initiated research on tomato epigenetics and since that time was leading the epigenetic research team at the Fruit Biology Laboratory (INRA Bordeaux) before moving in January 2016 to the Grape Ecophysiology and Functional Biology Laboratory (ISVV, Bordeaux). His actual research interests concern the functional analysis of epigenetic mechanisms in fleshy fruits, with a focus on Polycomb group proteins and DNA methylation, using tomato and grape as models. He is now initiating research to analyze the relevance of epigenetic mechanisms in the adaptation of grapevine to climate changes. Pr Gallusci conducted research on DNA methylation in tomato fruits at the Boyce Thompson Institute in Pr J Giovannoni laboratory (Cornell University) as a Fulbright Scholar in 2014.

Talk title: The functions of DNA methylation in fleshy fruits

David Douches, Genomic-assisted Breeding session
David Douches, photoDavid Douche‘s research interests involved Potato breeding and genetics: Development and utilization of molecular markers for gene mapping, breeding and fingerprinting; Utilization of exotic germplasm; Cytogenetics of 2n gametes; Late blight, scab and Colorado potato beetle resistance; Transformation of potato to introgress economically important genes.

Talk title: Genomics assisted breeding in Potato

David Slaughter, High-throughput Phenotyping session
David Slaughter, photoDavid Slaughter is a considered a worldwide leading expert in the development of nondestructive and noninvasive sensing systems for determining the quality and identity of agricultural commodities, and he has made tremendous contributions toward the development of automation technologies for precision, on-farm, individualized plant care. Moreover, he has spent much of his career improving the long-term sustainability of U.S. specialty crop production by developing smart agricultural machines that can simultaneously reduce the drudgery of menial labor associated with fruit and vegetable production and the need for and negative environmental impact of pesticides. He was a pioneer in the development of one of the first robotic fruit-harvesting systems. He developed and patented one of the first machine-vision-based automatic guidance systems for precision inter-row weed control and for automated spray bandwidth control in row crops. He has developed several novel technologies for automated, pesticide-free, intra-row weed control in specialty crops, and has developed and demonstrated a robust on-farm system for plant species determination in tomato and lettuce.

Talk title: In-field High-throughput Phenotyping for Plant Architecture and Internal Fruit Quality in Tomato

Francisco Borja Flores Pardo, Abiotic Stresses session
Borja Flores, photo Borja Flores is a researcher from the Spanish Scientific Research Council (CSIC, Spain). He obtained his Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 2001 and then he fulfilled postdoctoral stages in ENSAT-INP/INRA (Toulouse, France) and the University of Nottingham (United Kingdom), where his research was focused on fruit ripening, quality and postharvest physiology of horticultural crops. In 2007 he joined the group of Abiotic Stress in the research centre CEBAS-CSIC (Murcia), where its research is focused on the tomato tolerance against abiotic stress, mainly salt and water stress, using different approaches. In order to identify key genes involved in salinity and water stress tolerance, my group together with other two Spanish Groups (IBMCP-UPV/CSIC of Valencia and Agro-Food Biotechnology Research Centre from the University of Almeria) are generating an insertional mutant collection in cultivated and wild tomato species. Some remarkable genes involved in salt and drought tolerance have already been identified and cloned thanks to the identification and characterization of mutants from these collections, and functional analysis of them is currently being carried out.

Talk title: New Tomato Mutant Collections for the Identification of Dey Genes Involved in Tolerance to Salinity and Drought

Francine Govers, Pathogens, Pests and Microbiomes session
Francine Govers, photoFrancine Gover‘s Phytophthora research group focuses on the biology and pathology of Phytophthora species, in particular the late blight pathogen Phytophthora infestans, and aims at further unravelling Phytophthora – host interactions.

Talk title: Phytophthora Blight in Potato: Tipping the Balance Between Resistance and Susceptibility

Salomé Prat, Tubers and Root Systems session
Salome Prat, photoSalomé Prat‘s research group aims to identify which signaling cascades govern etiolated seedling development in the dark and how these cascades are affected by light, with a particular focus in the mechanisms involved in integration of the light signal with the own running developmental programs of the plant. The plant hormones gibberellins (GA) and brassinosteroids (BRs) play a central role in transducing the light signal as judged from the dark de-etiolated phenotype of mutants with a block in the synthesis or response to these hormones.

Talk title: TBA

Mondher Bouzayen, Flowers, Seeds, and Fruit session
Mondher Bouzyan, photoMondher Bouzayen: Ph.D. 1989, University of Toulouse, France; Postdoc. 1990-1992, Nottingham University, UK; Current position: Full Professor, University of Toulouse, Head of the GBF laboratory (Genomics and Biotechnology of Fruits), INRA / INPT, France. Dr. Bouzayen is the Chair of the European research network on fleshy fruit (COST Action FA1106) and the coordinator of TomGEM project within the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation H2020. His research deals with developmental transitions during fleshy fruit development, particularly the flower-to-fruit transition (fruit setting) and the shift from immature to mature (fruit ripening). The main interest is on cross-talk between hormone signalling. Tomato is the main model plant considering its economic importance and the advanced genomics tools and genetic resources available on this species. The research addresses the integration of ethylene and auxin signaling. GBF actively contributes to major international initiatives on the tomato such as the genome sequencing project and the generation of tools for high throughput expression profiling.

Talk title: The Regulatory Network Controlling Fruit Ripening: A Complex Interaction Between Multi-hormonal Signaling and Developmental Factors

Jose M. Jiménez-Gómez, Plant Development and Regulation session
Jose M Jiménez-Gómez, photoJose M. Jiménez-Gómez obtained his Ph.D. at the CNB-CSIC in Madrid performing a QTL analysis for flowering time in tomato. He then moved to the Maloof lab at UCDavis, where he learned to use genomics and bioinformatics to study natural variation in Arabidopsis and to perform comparative transcriptomics in tomato. Since that time, he has headed a group in the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Germany and currently at IJPB, INRA-Versailles in France. His research group is interested in the study of molecular mechanisms involved in plant adaptation to natural and artificial environments. Relevant for this meeting, part of his lab studies the effect of domestication in flowering time and circadian rhythms in tomato.

Talk title: Domestication Delayed Circadian Rhythms in Romato

Harry Klee, Metabolites, Flavor and Quality session
Harry Klee, photoHarry Klee received a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Massachusetts. He did postdoctoral research on Agrobacterium tumefaciens at the University of Washington. He was employed by Monsanto Company from 1984-1995 where he developed technologies for plant transformation and transgene expression and participated in the team that developed Roundup resistant crops. He has worked on ethylene for the last three decades, with emphasis on its role in tomato fruit development. In 1995, he joined the University of Florida where he established a program to understand the biochemistry and genetics underlying flavor of fruit crops. His laboratory has identified many of the genes encoding important flavor synthesis activities. That work has transitioned into large-scale genomics approaches for improvements of tomato flavor, initially focusing on varieties for the home garden market and expanding into commercial germplasm.

Talk title: The Genetic Blueprint for Developing a Better Tasting Tomato

Rob Last, Systems Biology and Networks session
Rob Last, photoRob Last is Barnett Rosenberg Professor of Plant Biochemistry at Michigan State University. His research interests focus on metabolic pathways of nutritionally important and protective small molecules in Arabidopsis and Solanaceae. He currently serves on the American Society of Plant Biologists Program Committee and the Science Advances Editorial Board.

Talk title: The Tip of the Trichome: Specialized Metabolic Diversity in the Solanaceae

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Key Dates

Abstract Submissions
TALKS ➣ Closed
POSTERS ➣ Closed
Early Registration
➣ Feb ⎯ April 30, 2016
Regular Registration
➣ May 1 ⎯ July 31, 2016
Late Registration
➣ Aug 1 ⎯ Aug 23, 2016 (Registration is closed)
Conference Dates
➣ Sept. 12 — 16, 2016


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