'Harnessing the potential of biotechnology to contribute to the welfare and improve the health of millions of some of the world's poorest people is both a privilege and a guiding motivation.'

The spark

'I realised what a fascinating crop bananas are when I was given the task of finding the cause of the devastating disease, banana bunchy top, which had almost destroyed the Australia banana industry.'

Research aim

'My aim is to develop improved banana cultivars through biotechnology, specifically genetic modification and gene editing. We work to develop both disease-resistant and nutritionally enhanced bananas by adding or manipulating one or a few genes in popular varieties such as Cavendish and East African Highland bananas.'

Real-world implications

'Bananas are a staple food in many countries of the wet tropics and sub-tropics as well as an important commercial crop internationally. We can improve the health of people in developing countries with nutritionally enhanced bananas, and their livelihoods by preventing massive cash crop losses through disease.'

The challenge

'I would like my research group and our collaborators to have released our Cavendish bananas that are resistant to Panama Disease tropical race 4 for commercial production and released our pro-vitamin A enhanced East African Highland bananas to subsistence farmers in Uganda to alleviate vitamin A deficiency.'

Teaching

'Postgraduate students are our next generation of scientists. I hope my students inherit my love of science, the excitement of strategic research and the satisfaction of contributing to people’s welfare and livelihoods around the world. I have supervised postgraduates from many developed and developing countries who are now colleagues and collaborators.'

Key achievements

  • Development of Cavendish bananas with near immunity to Panama Disease tropical race 4 (TR4) through six years of field trials.
  • Development of first non-GM gene edited Cavendish banana.
  • Development of high pro-vitamin A East African Highland bananas to combat Vitamin A deficiency blindness in Uganda where these are now final multi-location field trials.

Key collaborators

'Collaboration is the life blood of our strategic research. Collaboration enables expansion of expertise and knowledge at many levels, access to facilities, funding opportunities, ability to operate in different countries, particularly developing countries and an expanded network of close colleagues.'

  • National Agricultural Research Organisation of Uganda
  • Malawi Department of Agricultural Research Services
  • Australia Banana Research
  • Fresh Del Monte
  • LaManna Premier Group
  • The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture

Key publications

News

QUT research could end global banana threat

QUT and Hort Innovation have launched a $9.8 million research project to develop Cavendish and Goldfinger bananas that are resistant to Panama Tropical Race 4 (TR4), a deadly disease that is threatening global production.

Read the story

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