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.
ISBR2021 Symposium Chair Donald MacKenzie, Ph.D.
ISBR2021 Program Chair Hennie Groenewald Ph.D.
Past President Ariel Alvarez, Ph.D
Past-Symposium Chair   Monica Garcia-Alonso, Ph.D.

Joe Smith, Ph.D.
ISBR President

Dr Joe Smith has over 35 years’ experience in diverse public and private sector roles involving scientific research, services and regulation. From 2009 to 2014, 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 and related 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 in the Department of Health and as Australian Government Analyst, where he provided scientific leadership to the network of Australian Government Analytical Laboratories.

He has been actively engaged in international standards setting and harmonisation activities through forums such as the OECD and FAO/WHO, and in building cooperation and assisting capacity development with counterparts in other countries. Joe currently provides strategic advice to government agencies and other organisations 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 is also a director of ChemCert Ltd, a not-for-profit organisation that trains people in the safe and effective use of pesticides and veterinary medicines.

He has a PhD and BSc(Hons) from James Cook University, 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 GMO at JKI and its predecessor the Federal Biological Research Centre (BBA, Braunschweig). Key research topics are monitoring, coexistence, methods for risk assessment and regulation of plant biotechnology. He has been managing national and EU research projects among which are BIOSAFENET, GRACE and G-TwYST. He held training courses for plant biotechnology (EU, FAO, other) and is currently senior lecturer at the University of Goettingen.

After his diploma in biology (1988, University of Bochum, Germany) about ecotox test systems for waste waters and a Ph.D. in microbial ecology (1993, University in Giessen, Germany), he gained a postdoc fellowship at the Research Centre Juelich, Germany, investigating the dynamics of microbial populations and nitrification in laboratory and pond ecosystems (1994-2000). From 2001 to 2008, he was also working part-time as independent consultant for biotechnology.

Andrew Roberts, Ph.D.
ISBR Treasurer 

Dr. Roberts joined the ILSI Research Foundation in December 2009 as the Deputy Director of CERA, where his first tasks included developing tools and materials for use in training and capacity building related to the problem formulation approach to environmental risk assessment. He also authored the first in what has become a series of protein monographs reviewing the biosafety information available for proteins commonly used in genetically engineered plants. Dr. Roberts serves as the coordinator of CERA’s capacity building projects under the USAID-funded South Asia Biosafety Program and the World Bank-funded Partnership for Biosafety Risk Assessment and Regulation in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Vietnam. He also provides technical support for capacity building work in Brazil, India, Japan, Chile, and South Africa. Dr. Roberts is currently leading CERA’s scientific initiatives in the areas of ERA under low-exposure conditions and RNA interference. As of January 2015, Dr. Roberts was promoted to the position of Director of both CERA and CSAFF, with the goal of continuing collaboration between the centers, identifying opportunities to work with new partners both within and outside the ILSI family, and expanding the work of both CERA and CSAFF to applicable scientific areas beyond agricultural biotechnology.

Prior to joining the Research Foundation, Dr. Roberts 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. 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 ILSI RF.

Dr. Roberts received his Ph.D. in Cell and Developmental Biology from Rutgers University where he worked on signal transduction in the model nematode C. elegans.

Karen Hokanson, Ph.D.
Publications Chair


Donald MacKenzie, Ph.D.
ISBR2021 Symposium Chair

Dr. Donald MacKenzie is the regulatory affairs and stewardship leader for the Golden Rice Project at the International Rice Research Institute.  Dr. MacKenzie was previously a global regulatory affairs manager for DuPont Pioneer and has held government posts with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Research Branch, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and in Health Canada.  Dr. MacKenzie has been involved with numerous US Agency for International Development-funded agricultural biotechnology projects that focused on working with governments, regulatory authorities, and biotechnology stakeholders to develop science-based policies and the professional capacity of scientists and regulators to conduct risk assessments.

Dr. Mackenzie received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of British Columbia. 

Hennie Groenewald, Ph.D.
ISBR2021 Program Chair

Dr Hennie Groenewald has more than 25 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 Technology. It is the principal instrument within the national biotech innovation system which enables compliant, sustainable and effective research & development, innovation and commercialisation 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 organisations 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.

Ariel Alvarez, Ph.D.
Past ISBR President

Born in Mexico City, obtained a major in Microbiology and Biochemistry from the National School of Biological Sciences, Mexico. Obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Sussex in Great Britain working on bacterial molecular genetics. Conducted research as postdoctoral fellow at the Federal Polytechnic Institute (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland. At his return to Mexico joined the department of Plant Genetic Engineering at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV), at its Unit in Irapuato, and established a research line on the molecular genetics of the interaction between bacterial pathogens and their hosts. He was an invited researcher at the Sainsbury Laboratory of the John Innes Centre in Norwich, GB. He has been Director of the Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Unit of CINVESTAV and researcher of the department of Plant Genetic Engineering for more than 25 years.

His experience on biosafety issues include being a founding member of the National Committee for Biosafety (1990), national risk evaluator and reviewer for the ministry of Agriculture in Mexico, coordinator of the Scientific Consultative Council for Biosafety, technical expert for the Global Environmental Facility, lecturer for the biosafety courses of the ICGEB, and lecturer in biosafety workshops in Mexico, Kenya, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Chile, Italy, Egypt, Peru and Colombia. He was the Executive Secretary of the Intersecretarial Commission for Biosafety and Genetically Modified Organisms, of the Mexican Federal Government for the period 2007-2013. He is currently back at his position at CINVESTAV but now his role is devoted to Biosafety and Regulatory issues from the academic perspective. 

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

Dr. Monica Garcia-Alonso is an independent consultant and director at Estel Consult Ltd, offering environmental risk assessment and regulatory support for the registration of agricultural biotechnology and agrochemical products. Previously, she worked for Syngenta for 19 years where she gathered extensive experience in environmental risk assessment and regulatory affairs.

Dr. Garcia-Alonso has a degree in Biology from the University of Barcelona (Spain), specialising in zoology and entomology. She has a Master on Insect Physiology and Ecology from the University of Barcelona and a Ph.D. in Neurobiology from the University of Reading (UK).