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Distinguished Professor James Dale AC


  • Bio/Profile
  • Distinguished Professor James Dale is the inaugural Director of the Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities (CTCB) at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) which incorporates Tropical Crop Biotechnology, the Syngenta Centre for Sugarcane Biofuels Development and Sugar Research and Innovation (SRI). The CTCB consists of around 50 researchers as well as more than 25 postgraduate students. It is a horizontally integrated, multidisciplinary centre focusing on tropical crops with expertise from gene discovery and genetic modification through to biomass fractionation, processing and value adding. Its facilities range from state-of-the-art molecular biology laboratories through small scale biomass processing labs, PC2 plant growth facilities and glasshouses to a major biomass pilot plant. The CTCB has collaborative projects in Africa, Asia, Europe and North and South America. Prof Dale has been involved in biotechnology research for more than 30 years with specific interests in (i) the biofortification of bananas, (ii) molecular farming for high value medical proteins, including vaccines, in tobacco and bioethanol from sugarcane, and (iii) the development of disease resistance in genetically modified bananas, papaya and sugarcane. He and his research team have developed a range of biotechnology methods and products for expressing transgenes in plants. He has also led research and development programs in the international arena most of which have been based in South East Asia and the South Pacific (Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Tonga, Fiji and PNG) and more recently in Africa (Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania).  Prof Dale has published more than 80 research papers, reviews and book chapters. He an inventor on 9 granted patents or patent applications of which to date the most successful has been the GeneCo technology which was sold to Affymetrix, the USA based leading DNA chip maker. He has been a member of the Australian Research Council’s College of Experts (2004-2006) and Chair of the Biological Sciences and Biotechnology Panel (2006), and has been a member of the Gene Technology Technical Advisory Committee (GTTAC) of the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (2001-2007) and the Queensland Biotechnology Advisory Council.  He was the founder and chief scientific officer of Farmacule Bioindustries, Australia’s first molecular farming company. Farmacule merged with the ASX listed company, Aquacarotene, to form the first listed molecular farming company in Australia and the new company was named Leaf Energy. In 2008, QUT and Syngenta AG formed a new collaborative centre, the Syngenta Centre for Sugarcane Biofuels Development, based within the CTCB at QUT. This centre is staffed by both QUT and Syngenta scientists with the objective of developing economically competitive cellulosic ethanol using genetically modified sugarcane. Prof Dale is leading this initiative. Prof Dale is also leading a major international Grand Challenges in Global Health Project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop biofortified bananas for East Africa with potential further application in Asia. The project is a close collaboration between QUT and the National Agricultural Research Organisation of Uganda. Where appropriate, the biofortification trait is being combined with disease resistance to increase both yield and farmer adoption. The first Australian GM banana field trials, which include biofortified or disease resistant bananas, commenced in early 2009 and harvesting commenced in early 2010. There are already multiple lines with greater than the target level of pro-vitamin A. The first Ugandan field trial from this program commenced in 2010. This is possibly the first trial in sub-Saharan Africa of any GM crop where the events were generated in Africa by a national lab. In late 2012, the project was refunded for Phase 3 moving from the research phase to the development phase. The project was further expanded on 2012 into India through a collaboration with the Indian Department of Biotechnology. In 2004, Prof Dale was made an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO) for services to agricultural biotechnology. In 2008, he was appointed as QUT’s second Distinguished Professor.