How we operate

La Trobe University has committed $25 million to the establishment of La Trobe Institute for Agriculture and Food (LIAF) to capitalise on its recent investment in world-class physical infrastructure in the AgriBio building. This is being used to support basic and translational research and recruitment of intellectual capital.

LIAF is a University Institute whose Director (Professor Tony Bacic, FAA) reports to a Governing Board comprising La Trobe’s Senior Executive and Council members and is guided by the Industry Advisory Group (IAG; Professor Adrienne Elizabeth Clarke AO FAA, Chair).

The IAG is a forum for industry partners to provide strategic and tactical guidance on the research programs, their industry and commercial relevance. Research Program Leaders will be responsible for the day-to-day management of individual research projects and report through an Executive Management Committee to the Director.

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Our leadership group

Professor Tony Bacic (FAA)

Tony Bacic headshotProfessor Tony Bacic is Director of the La Trobe Institute for Agriculture & Food (LIAF), La Trobe University, and Director of the newly funded Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation Research Hub (ITRH) for Medicinal Agriculture (ARC MedAg Hub) also at La Trobe University.

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Professor Jim Whelan (FAA)

Jim WhelanProfessor Jim Whelan is world-leading for his research on plant mitochondria. He is currently Research Director for the La Trobe Institute for Agriculture and Food, the ARC MedAg Hub and Chief Investigator for the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology.

In March 2019 was elected as a fellow to the Australian Academy of Science. His lab has 25 years of expertise in the field of mitochondrial function and mitochondrial signalling of plant’s energy and stress status, evidenced by close to 250 papers in high-impact journals (Plant Cell, Plant Physiology, The Plant Journal).

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Dr Veronica Borrett

Veronica BorrettDr Veronica Borrett has 30 years’ experience in senior research and leadership roles specialising in national security as a Principal Research Scientist in Defence Science and Technology.

In 2015 she was appointed to the Scientific Advisory Board of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW, The Hague).

She is the former Director of BAI Scientific, providing strategic advice in the science, technology and IT industries, and held senior management roles at the National Institute of Forensic Science, and Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute of the University of Melbourne.

Professor Adrienne Clarke (AO, FAA)

Adrienne ClarkeAdrienne Elizabeth Clarke AC FAA FTSE is Professor Emeritus of Botany at the University of Melbourne, where she ran the Plant Cell Biology Research Centre from 1982–1999. She is a former chairman of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO, 1991–1996), former Lieutenant Governor of Victoria (1997–2000) and former Chancellor of La Trobe University (2011–2017).

She is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, and is a Foreign Member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Professor Clarke has served as a director for many public companies including Alcoa of Australia, Woolworths, WMC and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare. She recently retired as a Director of Hexima. Professor Clarke also serves on advisory boards including the Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology and the Australian Advisory Board of The Nature Conservancy.

Her scientific work provided critical insight to the biochemistry and genetics of flowering plants, their reproduction, and their growth which led to industrial applications for next-generation controls of insect pests and fungal disease of crops. Her team was the first to clone the gene which regulates self-compatibility in plants and the first to clone the "c" DNA of an Arabinogelactan Protein.

Professor Marilyn Anderson (AM, FAA)

Profile image of Marilyn Anderson.Professor Marilyn Anderson is a Professor of Biochemistry at La Trobe University and chief science officer and director of Hexima, a biotechnology company that she co-founded in 1998. She has 40 years’ experience in research, the past 20 of which have focused on peptides and proteins produced by plants for protection against insect pests and fungal pathogens.

Her current research spans from basic work on the discovery, structure and mechanism of action of these molecules, to practical applications in crop protection and the treatment of fungal diseases in humans. Professor Anderson has extensive project management experience and has led and coordinated numerous Australian Research Council grants, and the 30 scientists and students who work for Hexima.  She has extensive expertise in the creation and protection of intellectual property, translation of research and partnership with large, international biotechnology companies.

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