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Speaker Bios

Danesha Seth Carley is the Director for the NSF Center for Integrated Pest Management (CIPM), and the Center of Excellence for Regulatory Science in Agriculture (CERSA), both at NC State University. As an Associate Professor in Horticultural Science at NC State, Dr. Seth Carley’s research and outreach programs focus on sustainable managed landscapes. Recent projects include the restoration of historic Pinehurst No. 2 and No. 4 Golf Courses, and pollinator protection and habitat conservation. She has recently published her first book (Pollinator Gardening for the South: Creating Sustainable Habitats) on how to create beautiful pollinator-friendly gardens designed to welcome beneficial pollinators across the South. Combining up-to-date scientific information with artful design strategies, this information is accessible to gardeners of all levels. She is currently hard at work on her second book.

Randy Deinhammer is currently Director of Regulatory Affairs at Novozymes North America, Inc., and is based in the Raleigh / Durham area in NC.  He has global regulatory responsibility for Novozymes’ bioagriculture business.  Randall has been with Novozymes for over 20 years and therein has contributed through a variety of scientific and leadership roles across several industries.  Randall holds a B.S. degree in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley and a PhD degree in Chemistry from Iowa State University.

Steven Moss is a Senior Program Officer with the Board on Life Sciences at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (National Academies). During his tenure at the National Academies, Dr. Moss has focused on the future of the bioeconomy, biotechnology, and needs for the future of research in the life sciences. In addition to his role at the National Academies, Dr. Moss the Secretary of the Committee for Environmental Improvement of the American Chemical Society, and a member of the Political Action Committee of the Biophysical Society. Prior to joining the National Academies, Dr. Moss received his PhD in chemistry and chemical biology from the University of California, San Francisco where he focused on the signaling pathways of infectious bacteria.

Lesly Weber McNitt joined the House Agriculture Committee Majority staff in May 2021 to serve as Senior Professional Staff. Most recently, Lesly served as the Director of Public Policy, Trade and Biotechnology for the National Corn Growers Association. She previously served in a variety of roles at USDA during the Obama-Biden Administration, including Chief of Staff for both the Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service Mission Area and the Farm Service Agency. McNitt also led the Farm Journal Foundation’s government relations and program development. She hails from Pennsylvania and is a graduate of The George Washington University for both her B.A. and Masters of Professional Studies degrees.

Jeremy Witte joins the Committee as professional staff managing research, dairy, homeland security, National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility and biosecurity. Prior to joining the Committee, Witte worked for the House agriculture committee and Cornerstone Government Affairs. He holds a master’s degree in economics from George Mason University and bachelor’s degree in agriculture economics and agriculture business from New Mexico State University. Witte grew up in New Mexico where he showed livestock and participated in farm management judging as a member of 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA).

Bernadette Juarez was appointed Deputy Administrator for USDA’s Biotechnology Regulatory Services in August 2019. In this role, she provides leadership and direction to ensure the safe development and introduction (importation, interstate movement, and field testing) of organisms developed using genetic engineering. Prior to this, Ms. Juarez served as the Deputy Administrator for agency’s Animal Care program and Director of Investigative and Enforcement Services, and as a trial attorney in the Office of the General Counsel.

Rodolphe Barrangou  has worked on beneficial microbes, focusing on the occurrence and diversity of lactic acid bacteria in fermented foods and as probiotics. Using functional genomics, he has focused on uncovering the genetic basis for health-promoting traits, including the ability to uptake and catabolize non-digestible carbohydrates. He spent 9 years at Danisco-DuPont, characterizing probiotics and starter cultures, and established the functional role of CRISPR-Cas, as adaptive immune systems in bacteria. He has focused on establishing the molecular basis for their mechanism of action, as well as developing and applying CRISPR-based technologies for genotyping, building immunity and genome editing.

Joe Bondy-Denomy is an Associate Professor at UCSF, in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology. Joe went to the University of Waterloo for his undergraduate degree in Biology (Microbiology specialization) and spent time as a co-op student in labs at Western University and McGill University. Joe then attended the University of Toronto to complete his PhD in Alan Davidson’s lab where he studied interactions between bacteriophages and their host bacteria, focusing on the effects of lysogeny and the CRISPR-Cas immune system. In 2015, Joe started the lab at UCSF as a Faculty Fellow, became an Assistant Professor in November of 2017, and Assistant Professor 2020. The Bondy-Denomy lab focuses on the strategies that bacteria use to protect themselves from phages, including CRISPR-Cas, restriction enzymes, cGAS-like pathways, and Gabija. The suite innovations in bacteria to stop phages often lead to exciting tools for genetics. The Bondy-Denomy lab is also focuses on the development of CRISPR-Cas based tools for the manipulation of bacterial and phage genomes in new ways.

Katie Barnhill-Dilling is a social scientist with the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at NC State University, where her research explores engagement as a tool for just and inclusive governance of emerging environmental biotechnologies. With training at the intersection of Science, Technology, and Society studies (STS) and environmental science, policy, and governance, Dr. Barnhill-Dilling works on projects that include a range of genetic interventions for environmental issues such as species protection and ecosystem restoration, as well as governance of gene drive systems and other genetic tools for both agricultural and public health applications.

Gwen McClung is a microbiologist with more than 30 years of experience in the Biotechnology Program in EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) conducting ecological hazard assessments, construct hazard analyses, and risk assessments of genetically engineered (GE) microorganisms reviewed under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). GE microorganisms reviewed include bacteria, fungi, protozoa, viruses, green and red algae used in a wide variety of applications such as biofuel production, biofertilizers, bioremediation agents, biosensors, enzyme production, chemical production, and others. Gwen received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Agronomy (Soil Science) from the University of Maryland.

Mike Mendelsohn is chief of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Emerging Technologies Branch in the Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division of the Office of Pesticide Programs and manages plant-incorporated protectants such as Bt corn, RNAi, genetically engineered microorganisms, genetically engineered mosquitoes, and other pesticide emerging technologies such as Wolbachia infected mosquitoes. Mike has been with EPA for over 30 years and worked in the risk assessment and risk management of biopesticides, as well as conventional and antimicrobial/biocide pesticides.

Jason Dietz coordinates cross-cutting biotechnology-related activities in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN).  In this role he regularly provides technical and policy input to CFSAN and its interagency partners on food biotechnology issues related to food safety and regulation, food labeling, genome editing and media and scientific communication.  Most recently, he has served as a technical consultant to FDA’s “Feed Your Mind” consumer education initiative on food biotechnology.  Jason is also the US focal point for the FAO GM Foods Platform.  Jason has been with the FDA for more than 20 years.

Ariel Wiegard serves as director of government affairs at the American Soybean Association, where she is policy lead for conservation and sustainability, ag tech and data, food and nutrition, biobased consumer goods, checkoff, and other issues important to more than 500,000 U.S. soy growers. Prior to ASA, Ariel served as federal government relations lead for the global agribusiness Syngenta, as director of the Center for Agriculture & Private Lands at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and as a fundraiser for numerous political campaigns and nonprofits. She has earned awards from the American Association of Political Consultants and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, and in 2021 was named one of Seed World’s Top 10 Next Gen Leaders. Ariel attended the University of Virginia for college, and Vermont Law School’s master’s program for environmental law and policy where she focused on agriculture and food systems. She lives in Alexandria, VA with her husband, son, and two bird dogs; is an avid cook and bird hunter; and volunteers with various groups, including Ag Data Transparent, the Washington Agricultural Roundtable, and World Central Kitchen.

Tammy Zimmer is the Director of Regulatory Affairs at Joyn Bio. She has extensive experience in Regulatory Affairs, developing and executing regulatory strategies for biological crop inputs. Tammy is passionate about bringing innovative technologies to growers to combat the impacts of climate change. She chairs the Phytobiome Alliance Regulatory Working Group and works with the Biological Products Industry Alliance (BPIA) and other industry associations to promote the development of sustainable biological crop inputs. 

Natasha Dixon is a Global Regulatory Policy Analyst in the Crop Division of Bayer. Natasha’s experience in Regulatory Affairs has been varied, as she has planned and executed regulatory strategies for both biological and chemical products. She is a member of the OECD Expert Group of Biopesticides and works with several industry associations including BIO, Biological Products Industry Alliance (BPIA), and Crop Life International to promote development and usage of biological products around the globe.

Emma Kovak is a Senior Food and Agriculture Analyst at the Breakthrough Institute in Berkeley, California. Breakthrough is a nonprofit think tank that identifies and promotes technological solutions to environmental and human development challenges. Emma conducts and communicates analysis and commentary on the environmental benefits of agricultural biotechnology, with the goal of enhancing understanding and appreciation among journalists, policy makers, and other thought leaders. Her work has been published in Trends in Plant Science, Foreign Policy, The Hill, and Foreign Affairs. Emma earned her PhD in Plant Biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Charlie Arnot is recognized as a thought leader in food and agriculture. He is highly regarded as both a writer and sought-after speaker who engages audiences across the globe. Charlie has more than 25 years of experience working in communications, public relations and issues management within the food system. He is the founder and president of Look East, an employee-owned consulting firm. He also serves as CEO of the Center for Food Integrity, a international non-profit organization dedicated to building consumer trust and confidence in today’s food system. He also serves as an advisor to the World Business Council on Sustainable Development pork working group.

Susanne Kjemtrup is the principal consultant for Phyta BioTech Consulting, LLC, a consulting company specializing in workshop facilitation and strategic planning for start-ups, academia, and industry. She has been working in agricultural biotechnology for over 20 years. She has worked in academic, start-up and large company settings in both technical and operational leadership roles. She relishes the challenge of scientific and strategic direction setting in both entrepreneurial or academic settings, using her strengths in critical thinking, talents as a people leader, and passion for community science education.