New ACGT manager takes the reins

Posted on April 12, 2011

The African Centre for Gene Technologies (ACGT) is an initiative that involves the Agricultural Research Council,  CSIR, and the Universities of Johannesburg, Pretoria and  Witwatersrand and is situated on the Experimental Farm of the University of Pretoria. Dr Becker, whose tenure began in January 2011, was previously a senior researcher with the CSIR’s Systems Biology Group. He had been with the Biosciences Unit since 2007, after having held a research position at Stellenbosch University’s Institute for Wine Biotechnology.

Dr Becker holds a PhD in Wine Biotechnology from Stellenbosch and completed a Management Development Programme at the same University’s Graduate School of Business. According to him, the opportunity to head up the ACGT provided the ideal avenue to put both his genomics research background and management training to action. “I saw it as a very good fit and a great opportunity to expand my experience from the bench into management aspects”, he said.

Speaking of the ACGT, Dr Becker maintains that the Centre’s strength and contribution lies in identifying synergies that may not necessarily be apparent. “The shared expertise, equipment and funding will definitely lead to more outputs of a higher quality. We can then start to build critical mass, which will greatly shorten the time to meaningful impact”.

According to Dr Becker, attaining this will not be without its challenges. Of these challenges, he sees that of getting people together that have not previously worked with each other before as the one that may require most of his attention. “It will be important for the ACGT to be able to demonstrate the value that we can offer. We have such a small research community in the country that we really need to collaborate. There are only so much expertise and resources available, so it is much more effective to work together than to compete”, he added.

Dr Becker’s main focus in the first few months of his tenure will be on managing the finalisation of the ACGT’s five-year strategy. The partners will discuss and endorse the draft strategy – the implementation of which will be under his management.

After nine years at the helm, Dr Jane Morris retired as Director of the ACGT at the end of January 2011. With this move, she winds down a professional career characterised by significant growth and dedicated leadership.

Dr Morris – along with Dr Terry Watson (former CSIR) and Prof Mike Wingfield and Prof Henk Huismans from UP - was a founding member of the ACGT in 2001, in its first incarnation as the Southern Education and Research Alliance (SERA) Task Team on Biotechnology.

Looking back, Dr Morris contends that while the ACGT has come a long way under her leadership, she could not have achieved what she has without the support of the partner institutions and the contributions of every scientist that has been involved over the years,“ she concluded.

Copyright © University of Pretoria 2024. All rights reserved.

FAQ's Email Us Virtual Campus Share Cookie Preferences