Plant scientist goes back to his roots

Professor Tony Bacic has been appointed the Inaugural Director of La Trobe Institute of Agriculture and Food at La Trobe University.

Professor Bacic has forged a long career in the plant sciences. He leaves the University of Melbourne to return to La Trobe, where he completed his biochemistry PhD in 1980.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Keith Nugent welcomed the appointment and said it affirmed the University’s status as a national leader for food and agriculture research.

“It’s great to have Tony as a part of the team. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and an internationally renowned plant biology expert. His research career includes many years of leading multi-disciplinary team research projects and programs, as well as involvement with several Australian Research Council centres of excellence, cooperative research centres and as the Director of the Bio21 Institute,” Professor Nugent said.

“Tony’s work has focused on cereal biology, food quality and crop productivity – important elements related to food security and the management and protection of Australia’s core crops of wheat and barley.

Vice Chancellor Professor John Dewar said La Trobe continued to attract world-class researchers and said it was particularly pleasing to see Professor Bacic return to the University after 37 years.

“Scientists from across Melbourne, Australia and the world are voting with their feet and choosing to join the team at La Trobe. Welcome back Tony – I have no doubt your expertise and experience will empower La Trobe to further build on our already-strong reputation as the Australian place to be for the agricultural sciences,” Professor Dewar said.

Professor Bacic completed his PhD under the supervision of the Foundation Chair of Biochemistry at La Trobe, Professor Bruce Stone. His skills in advanced carbohydrate analysis/glycomics complement the world leading proteomics and genomic platforms that have been established in the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science and AgriBio - a joint La Trobe University and Agriculture Victoria research facility located on the La Trobe campus.

Professor Bacic will join the University early next year as Professor of Plant Biology in the Department of Animal, Plant and Soil Science. He will also lead the establishment of a new La Trobe Institute of Agriculture and Food (LIAF), a state-of-the-art research and education training initiative designed to address the global agri-food challenges.

Professor Nugent said: “LIAF will be co-located within the AgriBio and will allow us to further nurture and connect the centre’s intellectual expertise and technical knowledge to find solutions to the food and nutrition needs of a growing population in a resource-constrained world.”

Professor Bacic said he looked forward to returning to La Trobe.

“I am delighted to have been selected to lead this exciting new initiative that addresses one of the most significant future challenges facing our planet - closing the growing gap between food production and demands of a burgeoning population in a resource-constrained world coupled with the impacts of climate change,” he said.

“Worldwide, agri-food research and innovation systems will need to undergo a paradigm shift if they are to meet the looming global food-shortage challenge. Victoria is a major contributor to Australia’s food production systems and is at the forefront of developments in sustainable agriculture.

“LIAF, a bold new initiative by La Trobe University will consolidate and strengthen its reputation as a world-leading agri-food research institution by partnering with industry and Agriculture Victoria to attract exceptional researchers with a diversity of cross-disciplinary skills needed to develop a research and innovation pipeline to future proof Australia’s agri-food industries.”

Media Contact: Tim Mitchell – 0437 457780