Dr Yolanda Gaspar, from the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science (LIMS), has won the prestigious 2013 CropLife President’s award for her contribution to Australia’s $1.5 billion plant science industry.
The award was presented at the 2013 CropLife National Members’ Forum at the Press Club in Canberra on Thursday 21 November. CropLife is an industry body for thousands of people nationally working in the fields of plant biotechnology and agricultural chemicals.
Dr Gaspar won the award for her role as Regulatory and Compliance Officer with the Australian agribusiness biotechnology company Hexima Ltd.
Technology for better crops
The company was formed 15 years ago by enterprising scientists at Melbourne and La Trobe universities after they discovered molecules that protect plants from insect predation and fungal infection.
Its scientific team of 30 researchers is based at La Trobe University. Led by Professor Marilyn Anderson, it develops technology for genetic modification of crops, primarily to enhance their resistance to insects and disease.
Dr Gaspar is also Hexima’s Field Trial Project Manager for genetically modified (GM) plant trials in Victoria, NSW, and Western Australia.
The company has been transforming cotton and canola for many years. In 2008, it began to develop and commercialise fungal disease resistance technology in corn and soybeans with the agricultural arm of the multi-national firm, DuPont.
Dr Gaspar manages regulatory matters for Hexima at La Trobe, particularly laboratory safety, quarantine goods and gene technology. She is also a member of the University’s Genetic Manipulation Supervisory Committee.
Hexima has invested in La Trobe research equipment and facilities including a new state-of-the-art glasshouse and tissue culture facility, which was completed at the Melbourne Campus in 2009.
Founding scientists of Hexima are La Trobe University Chancellor Professor Adrienne Clarke AC, Professor Marilyn Anderson FAA, FTSE, and Dr Robyn Heath and Dr Angela Atkinson from the University of Melbourne.