UK crop research organisation NIAB has significantly strengthened its capabilities in data science with the appointment of Professor Mario Caccamo, currently director of The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC), to lead the Cambridge-based institute’s expanding bioinformatics and agri-data activities.
The creation of this new senior role of Head of Crop Bioinformatics underpins NIAB’s strategic objective to harness the latest advances in data science to support innovation in crop genetic research and improve the productivity, efficiency and sustainability of UK crop production systems.
A computer scientist by training, Professor Caccamo has over 15 years’ experience in life science research and big data, including specific projects to apply the latest DNA sequencing technologies and bioinformatics methods to advance scientific understanding of crop genetics and the interaction of agricultural crops with their environment.
Announcing Professor Caccamo’s appointment to a permanent position from 1st August 2015, NIAB chief executive Dr Tina Barsby said:
“Integrating the latest advances in data science alongside expertise in plant breeding, agronomy and farming systems will be key to unlocking a step-change improvement in UK crop production. NIAB’s vision is to lead a new revolution in agri-data, not only in the increased application of bioinformatics to our own research, but also through our involvement in the new £12m Centre for Agricultural Informatics and Sustainability Metrics – the first Centre of Innovation to be announced under the UK Government’s Agri-Tech Strategy. We are therefore delighted to recruit a scientist of Mario’s calibre and experience to lead and develop NIAB’s activities in this area.”
Professor Caccamo has led the work on the assembly of the first whole-genome release of the wheat reference sequence and was also one of the founding co-chairs of the expert working group within the Wheat Initiative focused on the deployment of an international Wheat Information System. From his new position at NIAB Professor Caccamo will continue with his leading role in the cereal bioinformatics communities at both national and international levels.
Welcoming his new role at NIAB, Professor Caccamo said:
“The opportunities to generate a new wave of data-driven innovation, focused on improving the productivity and efficiency of the UK’s £100bn Agri-food sector, are hugely exciting. With research partnerships and strong links throughout the science base and the farming industry, NIAB is ideally placed to lead this new revolution in agricultural informatics. I look forward to building on my existing activities and working relationships, and working with colleagues at NIAB to support the creation and take-up of these new opportunities.”