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Richard Jefferson Speaker & Booking Information

CEO, Cambia
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Richard Jefferson Biography


Richard A. Jefferson is the chairman and CEO of CAMBIA. He was born in 1956 in Santa Cruz, California and began his molecular biology career in 1974 at the University of California, Santa Barbara, obtaining his Bachelor's degree in Molecular Genetics from the College of Creative Studies in 1978. He conducted his Ph.D. studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he developed the reporter gene system GUS (beta-glucuronidase) and co-developed transformation methods for the nematode C. elegans.

In 1985, with an NIH fellowship he moved to the Plant Breeding Institute (PBI) in Cambridge, England, where he adapted the GUS system for plants and agriculture. The GUS reporter gene system, through active distribution to thousands of labs, is now arguably the most widely used tool in plant molecular biology. GUS has been instrumental in developing efficient transformation of such crop plants as maize, wheat, rice, soybean and cotton, was critical for the commercial development of many of the highest-profile innovations in agriculture. While working at PBI, Jefferson also initiated and managed the world's first field release of a transgenic food crop on June 1, 1987. In 1989, after United Nations consultancies in Africa, he joined the Food and Agriculture Organization as their first senior staff Molecular Biologist. He left the UN System in 1991 in order to establish CAMBIA as an autonomous private research and development institute, initially in the Netherlands.

From 1991 onwards, CAMBIA became responsible for trouble-shooting the Rockefeller Foundation's ongoing programs in rice biotechnology in Asia. As a base for this work, Richard and CAMBIA's core team moved to Australia, where CAMBIA was registered as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee in 1994. In conducting the work for the Rockefeller Foundation, the U.N., the CGIAR, and other International Agencies, Richard has traveled, worked and taught extensively in the developing world, with numerous working visits to China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Brazil, Colombia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Nigeria and many other countries.

From 1999-2001, he also served part-time as Director, Strategic and Applied Molecular Technologies for the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) of the CGIAR, based in Ibadan, Nigeria. Richard's work has been cited in the primary literature over 6000 times. In the course of his career, Richard has given more than 300 invited seminars in over 35 countries, and has been plenary or keynote speaker at numerous international symposia. Richard's areas of interest and expertise include non-destructive reporter systems, field analysis methodology, microbial population dynamics, gene delivery systems, molecular biology of the glucuronide metabolism, molecular apomixis and plant breeding technologies.

In the last several years, Richard's expertise in intellectual property matters and agriculture and biotechnology research strategy and policy worldwide have become widely recognised. He was appointed by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity as Author-in-Chief for the landmark study on Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs or Terminator Technology). Richard was chosen as an Outstanding Social Entrepreneur by the Schwab Foundation and is a regular participant and panelist at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting at Davos. In December 2003 he was named by Scientific American to the List of World's 50 most influential technologists, and cited as the World Research Leader for 2003 for Economic Development. He is recognized as a pioneer in new democratized innovation and intellectual property mechanisms and the founder of the biological open-source movement, called BIOS. Richard has been profiled in The Economist, New York Times, New Scientist, Financial Times, Science, Nature, Wired Magazine and many others.

Richard is a dedicated musician, composing and performing on guitar and mandolin, in blues, Irish, bluegrass and new acoustic styles. His primary musical influences have been John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Tony Rice, Mike Marshall and Chris Thile. While doing his Ph.D. in Boulder, he also studied juggling and modern dance with the USA National Juggling champions, Airjazz and many other brilliant performers, and still keeps these skills alive when time allows.

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