Board of Directors

ISBR President Ariel Alvarez, Ph.D.
ISBR President Elect Joe Smith, Ph.D.
ISBR Secretary Ralf Wilhelm, Ph.D.
ISBR Treasurer & Finance Committee Chair Donald MacKenzie, Ph.D.
Publications Committee Chair Andrew Roberts, Ph.D.
Symposium Committee Chair Monica Garcia-Alonso, Ph.D.
Past ISBR President Alan Grey, Ph.D.

Ariel Alvarez, Ph.D.
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. 

Joe Smith, Ph.D.
ISBR President Elect 

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.

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.

Donald MacKenzie, Ph.D.
ISBR Treasurer

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. 

Andrew Roberts, Ph.D.
Publications Committee 

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.

Monica Garcia-Alonso, Ph.D.
Symposium Committee 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). 

Alan Gray, Ph.D.
Past ISBR President

Dr. Alan Gray is a Research Fellow with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) in the UK. He retired in 2003 as Director of CEH’s Dorset laboratory, following more than 35 years’ research in plant ecology and genetics, and 200 publications – mainly on plant ecology, gene flow, population ecology and genetics and the conservation genetics of natural populations of plants.

Following a BA in Biology and Philosophy and a Ph.D. in Genetics at the University of Keele he joined the Nature Conservancy’s Merlewood Research Station in 1968, moved to ITE Norwich in 1970 and to Dorset in 1976 where he was appointed Head of Furzebrook Research Station in 1993 and Director CEH Dorset in 1999. He has been a Visiting Professor at the Universities of Southampton, Bournemouth, Stockholm and Groningen and has held a number of senior committee posts including Chairman of the Governing Body of the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, President of the Estuarine and Coastal Sciences Association, Vice President of the British Ecological Society and Chairman of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Conservation and Environment Advisory Committee. He was awarded an OBE in 2003 for his services to government and academic science.

Dr. Gray has been involved in risk assessment for GMOs since 1990 undertaking research and providing independent advice to the UK Government. He was, first, a member (1994 – 99) and then Chairman (1999 – 2003) of ACRE (the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment) – the UK’s statutory advisory committee on GMOs. Since retirement he has continued his involvement with the biosafety of GM crops (e.g., on the UK GM Science Review), with science governance and peer audit, and has recently completed, with a co-author, a Flora of British Grasses. In the last three years he has taken part by invitation in GM Biosafety workshops in Argentina, South Africa, Brazil, Chile, India, Indonesia, Italy, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, Uganda, the USA and Vietnam.