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Meet the Network Director and Co-Director

Gary Foster: Network Director Professor Gary Foster is a leading molecular plant pathologist with a broad insight of the plant pathology and vector-borne disease landscape.

Gary has authored more than 100 scientific papers, reviews and books and has served as an editor on a range of journals. He was responsible for setting up and establishing the international multidisciplinary journal Molecular Plant Pathology and served as its Editor-in Chief from 2000 – 2012.

He has served as President of the British Society for Plant Pathology and on a range of BBSRC Committees and Network Groups. Additional roles have included Panel Member and Chair of a wide range of international funding bodies and agencies, including Member & Chair of a subgroup of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV), and GM adviser to the Food Standards Agency, UK. These roles have afforded him an excellent overview of the research landscape, policy needs, and the biotechnology opportunities and constraints, as well as enabling him to develop high-level networks which will be of great value to the CONNECTED project.

Gary has delivered highly applied work internationally, such as identification and test development work for viruses that cause Cassava brown streak disease, one of the most devastating plant diseases for smallholders in East and Central Africa. This research was highlighted as a major breakthrough by the UK government’s Department of International Development. Gary has also been involved in the production of guidelines for the international safe movement of vegetative germplasm, relevant to root and tuber crops.


Neil Boonham: Co-Director Professor Neil Boonham is a molecular plant pathologist with a joint appointment at the Institute for Agrifood Research Innovations (IAFRI) at University of Newcastle, UK and Fera Science Ltd, York, UK.

His research group comprises 25 scientists and receives research income totalling £2.5 million per year.  Neil’s work focusses on the application of post-genomic technologies to provide solutions to the detection, identification and diagnosis of plant diseases. This includes work in Sub-Saharan Africa on cassava brown streak disease, cassava mosaic disease, maize lethal necrosis and viruses of sweet potato. Neil has authored more than 100 scientific papers and has led a number of large international research collaborations. His extensive network of collaborators and research partners will be invaluable to the CONNECTED project.