The success of a laboratory does not depend solely on the science. It is also a business and has to be managed as such to ensure growth and sustainability. Our operational manager is applying his seasoned experience in building relationships and procuring funding to strengthen CenGen’s positioning as the laboratory of choice for agricultural genetics services.
Innovative, multi-skilled and flexible: our project leads are trained in various applications of genetics and plant breeding. Cumulatively they have more than 40 years’ experience working with a comprehensive cohort of grain, fruit and nut crops as well as truffles and fungi. Despite leading individual projects, they frequently collaborate to solve the question at hand. This allows them to employ a multifaceted approach to design a custom experimental resolution for each client.
Setting up a molecular genetics laboratory is a costly venture that requires dedicated personnel in charge of maintaining it. As part of our vision to be the preferred Industry partner of molecular research and services, we have started an initiative by which we make office and laboratory space available to collaborators. Industry placements underwrite our mandate to make molecular DNA techniques and knowledge available to the Agri-industry to ensure sustainability. This is also a great opportunity to diversify the expertise in the laboratory.
Our technical specialists thoroughly understand how to find the fine balance between working economically without compromising the quality of the output. Our proud record of delivering accurate, reproducible results in time can be attributed to their meticulous record keeping, attention to detail and water tight control systems. They have a diverse set of skills ranging from laboratory techniques in molecular genetics, including the operation of high-throughput robotic instruments, to in vitro plant propagation and fungal isolation.
Francois was first introduced to Renée’s passion for genetics when, during a visit on his parents’ farm, she questioned him about RNA. At the time, he was still in high school and CenGen had not been established.
Since then, Francois collaborated with the company on numerous projects before he joined the team in 2020.
He has more than 15-years’ experience in various fields of breeding, applied research and development, the implementation of new technology across Africa, and driving organisational reform.
He has had the privilege to work with and lead cross-functional teams to achieve common goals at prominent companies such as SABMiller, AB Inbev and Value Chain Solutions.
Francois supports CenGen to create value-enhancing outcomes through molecular solutions for partners in the agricultural value chain. He also focusses on budget management and research project development.
Shane, an alumnus of the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, started her career working for the Agricultural Research Council.
Following her PhD studies at the Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences, University of Edinburgh, she returned to South Africa for a Post-Doctoral Fellowship, followed later by a lectureship, at the University of Cape Town.
Shane joined CenGen in September 2019 as Research and Development Manager to share her expertise in advanced genomic technologies and project management. It forms part of CenGen’s strategic plan to strengthen its capacity as a specialist service provider for the agricultural industry.
Shane is also affiliated to the Centre for Proteomic and Genomic Research (CPGR), one of several institutions, including CenGen, which forms part of the DIPLOMICS initiative.
Kelly obtained her MSc Degree in Genetics through Stellenbosch University in 2017.
In the same year she joined the CenGen team as a barley intern researcher, a position which she held for a year.
Kelly now manages all the barley work (both commercial and research-based) that CenGen undertakes. In this role, she performs both wet-lab work and data analysis and interpretation.
Her focus is to become an expert in the utilisation and implementation of barley genomic resources to assist barley breeders in their endeavours to breed improved malting barley varieties. To this end, she has attended various bioinformatics and barley genomics workshops and takes the lead in CenGen’s in-house bioinformatics training activities.
Elsabet joined the CenGen team in 2011 after completing a Master’s degree in Genetics at Stellenbosch University.
She manages the collaborative marker-assisted selection work of prominent South African wheat breeding programmes. Here, molecular markers are applied to identify genes/QTL for useful traits in breeding material and track them from one filial generation to the next.
Elsabet is an active member of CenGen’s bioinformatics study group, specifically focusing on finding simpler, time-saving ways to process large datasets. She is an expert in cost calculations and procurement and her diligence ensures that the laboratory runs efficiently.
Her experience and knowledge gets applied across projects.
Shannon graduated from Stellenbosch University in 2020 with a Master’s degree in Wine Biotechnology and took up a position at CenGen in January 2021.
She devotes most of her time to CenGen’s wheat research programme, which includes a gene cloning effort as well as the overarching goal of identifying useful disease resistance genes/QTLs against wheat-pathogens, and developing DNA markers for the subsequent tracking thereof.
To enable her to analyse large datasets associated with some of the applications she uses, she builds on her existing bioinformatics knowledge by being part of CenGen’s drive to establish these skills in the group.
Marizanne has a Master’s degree in Plant Breeding from Stellenbosch University.
She joined the CenGen laboratory in January 2018 as an industry placement by Sensako (Pty) Ltd.
She focuses on the integration of molecular genomics work in Sensako’s sunflower breeding programme which was established as part of the company’s drive to diversify into other crops.
Marker technologies are used to screen inbred lines for purity, determine genetic diversity and integrate useful traits. She is also responsible for the genomics aspects of the wheat breeding programmes of Sensako. Recently, she was tasked with the Regulatory Applications for GMO crops which Sensako obtained in collaboration with Verdeca (Pty) Ltd in Argentina.
Marizanne has attended several bioinformatics courses since joining our laboratory. She says: “The courses have opened my eyes to a new world of handling big datasets. In future, this will be put towards analysing and supplying breeders with useful information.”
In August 2020, Sensako was bought by the multinational company, Syngenta. We are looking forward to build on the good relationships already established through historic collaboration.
Debbie has a BSc (Genetics, Microbiology) degree from Stellenbosch University.
She joined CenGen in 2005 as the first employee of the company. Debbie has extensive experience in a large range of molecular disciplines, including DNA-related techniques, plant tissue- and animal cell culture, as well as various types of chromatographic and biochemical techniques.
She is responsible for the bulk of the molecular data generated for the commercial and research projects across all plant and pathogen species processed at CenGen.
Debbie’s finesse and precision are unmatched and are attributes that everyone aspires to.
Alana obtained a National Diploma in Food Technology at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in 2016.
Apart from ‘in-service training’ at Parmalat, she also worked at RCL Foods. At CenGen she was introduced to the field of plant molecular genomics and was trained to become an autonomous laboratory assistant after she joined the team in 2017.
She is an invaluable asset to the company, and assists with data generation across projects as well as with the introduction and training of new staff members.
Benny obtained a Bachelor of Technology (Biotechnology) from the Tshwane University of Technology in 2018.
Prior to this, he held the position of junior technologist at Deltamune, and worked at the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (Pretoria) as a Student Technologist focusing on molecular genetics.
Benny joined the CenGen team in September 2020 as an intern, a position which is partly sponsored by the South African Cultivar & Technology Agency (SACTA).
He is currently receiving training to build on his molecular genetics/genomics skill-set and to become a proficient technical specialist to assist CenGen in serving the plant Agri-industry.