Dr Leena Tripathi is the Director for Eastern Africa Hub and Leader of the Biotechnology program at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
Her focus is on “Science to Practice” and linking scientific innovations to practical applications to solve food production issues in Africa. Her scientific contributions have been recognized internationally through several awards and honors. She has been honored as an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for contributions to Agriculture.
Her team has established a robust genetic transformation platform at IITA-Kenya to develop transgenic and genome-edited products and transfer these technologies to national agricultural research systems in sub-Saharan Africa. She has pioneered banana genetic engineering to confer resistance to the deadly bacterial Xanthomonas wilt disease, which is threatening banana production and the livelihoods of smallholder growers in East Africa. Recently, her team has demonstrated the inactivation of the banana streak virus (BSV) integrated into the host genome of the banana through CRISPR/Cas9-based genome editing. Her lab is now focusing on developing gene-edited banana varieties resistant to bacterial, viral, and fungal diseases.
After obtaining a Ph.D. in Plant Molecular Biology, she began her career as a Research Scientist at the University of North Carolina, USA. After that, she has worked for over 21 years at IITA in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. IITA is one of the International Agricultural Research Centers under the auspices of the CGIAR. She has been promoted through the ranks to her current position as the Regional Director of the Eastern Africa Hub of IITA. In this role, she provides leadership to multidisciplinary scientists and specialists to implement the IITA strategy in five countries (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, and Madagascar) in East Africa.