Board of Directors

ISBR President Joe Smith, Ph.D.
ISBR President-Elect Joerg Romeis, Ph.D.
ISBR Secretary Ralf Wilhelm, Ph.D.
ISBR Treasurer  Andrew Roberts, Ph.D.
Publications Chair Karen Hokanson Ph.D.
ISBR2022 Symposium Chair Donald MacKenzie, Ph.D.
ISBR2022 Program Chair Hennie Groenewald Ph.D.
Past-Symposium Chair   Monica Garcia-Alonso, Ph.D.

Joe Smith, Ph.D.
ISBR President

Dr. Joe Smith has over 35 years of experience in diverse public and private sector roles involving scientific research, services, and regulation. He was Australia’s Gene Technology Regulator, the Australian Government statutory office holder responsible for leading the national regulatory system for gene technology. Joe has extensive experience in various senior regulatory science roles, including as Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority following various other senior roles within the APVMA, Director of the Therapeutic Goods Administration Laboratories, and as Australian Government Analyst, where he provided scientific leadership to the then network of Australian Government Analytical Laboratories.

He was actively engaged in international standards-setting and harmonization activities through forums such as the OECD and FAO/WHO, and in building cooperation and assisting capacity development with counterparts in other countries. Joe is currently President of the International Society for Biosafety Research and provides strategic advice to government agencies and other organizations regarding the regulation of science and technology. He has a strong commitment to regulation that is based on sound science and realistic assessment of risk.

He has a Ph.D. and BSc (Hons), is a Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, and a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Joerg Romeis, Ph.D.
ISBR President-Elect

Dr. Joerg Romeis heads the Biosafety Research Group at Agroscope in Zurich, Switzerland. Agroscope is the Swiss center of excellence for agricultural research and is affiliated with the Federal Office for Agriculture. In addition, he is a lecturer at the University of Bern and an adjunct professor at the Institute of Plant Protection of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing.

Joerg holds an MSc and Ph.D. in biology and was trained as an applied entomologist with a focus on biological pest control and multi-trophic interactions. He has more than 17 years of experience in the risk assessment of genetically modified (GM) crops and in particular in the design and execution of non-target laboratory studies. His research has focused on the effects of insect-resistant GM plants, such as Bt maize and cotton, on arthropod herbivores and their predators and parasitoids. More recently, he is also studying the non-target effects of RNAi-based GM plants.

In addition to primary research, Joerg has been actively involved in defining operational environmental protection goals, and in developing guidelines for risk assessment and non-target testing.

Joerg is a regular participant at ISBR conferences and acted twice as chair and twice a member of the program committee.

Ralf Wilhelm, Ph.D.
ISBR Secretary

Dr. Ralf Wilhelm is the head of the "Institute for Biosafety in Plant Biotechnology" at the Julius Kuehn-Institut (JKI) - Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants in Quedlinburg, Germany. Since 2001, he has been working in the area of biosafety research, risk assessment, and regulation of GMOs. Key research topics are monitoring, coexistence, methods for risk assessment, and regulation of plant biotechnology. He is currently a senior lecturer at the University of Goettingen and held training courses for plant biotechnology (EU, FAO, other). From 2001 to 2008, he was also working part-time as an independent business consultant for biotechnology.

Andrew Roberts, Ph.D.
ISBR Treasurer 

Chief Executive Officer, Agriculture & Food Systems Institute

Andrew is the CEO of Agriculture & Food Systems Institute (AFSI) and leads the development and management of AFSI’s extensive international portfolio of biotechnology-related analytical and capacity-building programs, open-access resources, and relationships with key partner organizations and stakeholder groups. His expertise is in agricultural biotechnology, environmental risk assessment, and food safety assessment for biotechnology with a focus on problem formulation.

Prior to joining AFSI, Andrew worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in several different capacities, all related to the regulation of agricultural biotechnology. He began his career at USDA as an AAAS Risk Policy Fellow in the Office of Science of Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS), the group responsible for regulating genetically engineered plants at USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. After spending a year in the New Technologies office of the Foreign Agricultural Service serving as the lead for USDA’s efforts related to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, he returned to BRS to serve in the International Affairs branch where he remained until joining AFSI.

Andrew has a Ph.D. in cell and developmental biology from Rutgers University.

Karen Hokanson, Ph.D.
ISBR Publications Chair 

Dr. Karen Hokanson currently works as a Senior Research Specialist in the Department of Horticultural Sciences at the University of Minnesota primarily on projects related to the use and regulation of biotechnology for crop improvement in developing countries.  She has been working in this area for more than 20 years, most recently on a project to develop and introduce genetically engineered late blight-resistant potato in Bangladesh and Indonesia.  She is also currently engaged in capacity building for the implementation of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in developing countries and developing guidance on best practices for publically-funded global biotechnology regulatory submissions.

Karen holds an MSc in plant breeding and genetics and a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology. Her basic research interests have always resided at the interface between agricultural and natural plant populations, and the influence of that interface on genetic diversity on both sides of the divide.   

Karen currently serves on the ISBR Board of Directors as the chair of the publications committee and a member of the sponsorship committee, and she has twice in the past chaired the symposium committee.

Donald MacKenzie, Ph.D.
ISBR2022 Symposium Chair

Dr. Donald MacKenzie is the Executive Director of the Institute for International Crop Improvement (IICI).  He manages the IICI’s programs and partnerships dedicated to delivering precision genetics technologies to meet the most significant food and nutritional security challenges faced by smallholder farmers everywhere.  Don also provides guidance on navigating through the practical, safety, and regulatory processes necessary to demonstrate that new crop varieties are proven safe and effective for the farmers who will benefit from them.

Don is an international expert in regulatory systems for agriculture, including environmental risk assessment, biosafety, and food safety assessments.  His extensive experience in plant product development and global regulatory processes aligns with the Institute’s commitment to collaborate with international and local partner organizations to deliver crops with improved nutritional content and disease resistance to places where people are in most need.  In addition to feeding the hungry, these efforts have the potential to contribute to environmental health and empower farmers to become more self-sufficient.

Dr. MacKenzie received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of British Columbia and has served in various leadership roles in the Canadian Federal Government, the agricultural biotechnology industry, and in public sector research and development organizations.

Hennie Groenewald, Ph.D.
ISBR2022 Program Chair

Executive Manager Biosafety South Africa

Dr. Jan-Hendrik Groenewald has more than 30 years of experience in biotechnology research and development, teaching, biosafety risk analysis and governance, science communication, business development, and innovation management in the public, private and academic sectors. He is currently the executive manager of Biosafety South Africa, a national biosafety service platform under the auspices of the national Department of Science and Innovation. It is the principal instrument within the national bio-innovation system which enables compliant, sustainable, and effective research & development and commercialization in the biotech sector. Prior to joining Biosafety South Africa Hennie also worked at Stellenbosch University, the South African Sugarcane Research Institute, and North-West University. During this tenure at these organizations he was awarded research fellowships at the Texas Agricultural & Medical University, Weslaco, USA, the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology, Golm, Germany, and the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation, Plant Industry, Brisbane, Australia. Hennie is a founding member of two successful South African biotech start-ups and has served on numerous international and national bodies tasked with responsible research and innovation, biosafety and risk governance and capacity building, medicines control, science communication, and sustainable biotech and agricultural innovation.

Monica Garcia-Alonso, Ph.D.
Past-Symposium Chair

Estel Consult Ltd.

Dr. Monica Garcia-Alonso is an independent consultant and director at Estel Consult Ltd. She has been working in the area of risk assessment of genetically modified crops and international regulatory affairs for more than 20 years. She has a degree in biology from the University of Barcelona, with a specialty in zoology and entomology. A master's in insect physiology and ecology from the University of Barcelona and a Ph.D. in neurobiology from the University of Reading. Prior to setting her own business ten years ago, Monica worked for Syngenta for 19 years as a senior regulatory manager and environmental risk assessment specialist. She now supports private and public research activities aimed at developing biotechnology crop solutions and provides training on environmental and food and feed risk assessments to regulators and developers around the world.

Monica was the secretary and chair of the communications and outreach committee at ISBR from 2012 to 2017 and coordinated the ISBR Symposium in 2019 (ISBGMO 15).