The significance of food security – when people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life– is undeniable. But the fragility of the planet’s food supply chains has been brought into sharp relief by the events of recent years. The coronavirus pandemic has sparked not only a health crisis but also an economic one, and together these pose a serious threat to food security, particularly in poorer countries – impacting food availability, food safety, and human nutrition.1 At the same time, climate change is having a far-reaching impact on crop, livestock and fisheries production, as well as the prevalence of crop pests and diseases.2
Through its ability to unlock the DNA of almost all living organisms, can the application of genomics provide answers to the urgent challenges society faces today? From using whole genome sequencing (WGS) to identify, track and trace foodborne pathogens, to employing gene-editing technologies to improve the quality and resilience of crops, genomics could be the foundation of several possible paths to solutions.
But there are, and have always been, obstacles to overcome to fully bridge the gap between research potential and real-world impact at scale. Realising the potential of genomics will require a step-change in global laboratory and data infrastructure as the acquisition, storage, distribution, analysis and interpretation of large datasets require technological solutions never seen before. As these capabilities build, we will also face challenges related to the equitable sharing of genomics approaches and their practical implementation across the world. And while the coronavirus pandemic has thrust genomics into the public awareness, a broader and more inclusive societal debate on the use of genomic approaches will be needed to ensure scepticism is addressed and that questions about ethical implications are answered. But these challenges are not insurmountable if there is a sense of urgency that drives collaboration both across and beyond scientific disciplines.
This moderated panel discussion brings together expertise in genomics, biochemistry, and food safety to discuss what needs to be done to ensure that genomics can be harnessed to drive global food security. In the Partner Breakfast panel, hosted by Mars, Incorporated and moderated by Adam Smith, Chief Scientific Officer for Nobel Media, leading crystallographer and Nobel Laureate Professor Ada Yonath will be joined by food safety expert Dr. Abigail Stevenson, along with a Lindau young scientist.
Having won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her work successfully mapping the structure of ribosomes using x-ray crystallography, Ada Yonath is a world renowned scientist whose research has been foundational to many real-world applications such as the development of new antibiotics. Dr. Abigail Stevenson is Vice President of the Mars Advanced Research Institute (MARI), responsible for connecting Mars with emerging areas of science and technology in the fields of sustainability, health and wellness, and computational science.
- [Young scientist TBC]
- Ada E. Yonath, Director of the Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly of the Weizmann Institute of Science*
- Dr. Abigail Stevenson, Vice President, Mars Advanced Research Institute (MARI)**
- Adam Smith, Chief Scientific Officer for Nobel Media
* Ada Yonath won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry alongside Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas A. Steitz for their work successfully mapping the structure of ribosomes using x-ray crystallography. Since the ribosome is a major bacterial target for antibiotics, their work has led to new antibiotics. More recently, Yonath has focused her efforts on the issues of antibiotic resistance. She also wants to uncover the very beginnings of life itself: how ribosomes first came into being and started creating proteins.
** Dr. Abigail Stevenson is Vice President of the Mars Advanced Research Institute (MARI). In this role, Dr Stevenson leads the MARI team, responsible for connecting Mars with emerging areas of science and technology in the fields of sustainability, health and wellness, and computational science. Prior to joining MARI, Dr Stevenson was the Director of the Mars Global Food Safety Center where she led a global team addressing the most significant food safety challenges facing global food supply chains. Under Dr Stevenson’s leadership the Mars Global Food Safety Center focused on three critical areas of food safety: Microbial Risk Management, Mycotoxin Risk Management and Food Integrity.