New ACGT Manager takes the reins

Dr John Becker
Dr John Becker

The ACGT partner institutions have appointed Dr John Becker as the new ACGT Manager. Dr Becker took over from Dr Jane Morris, who announced her retirement as the Centre’s Director last year after serving in the position since the inception of the ACGT.

Dr Becker, whose tenure began on 3 January 2011, was previously a senior researcher with the CSIR’s Systems Biology Group. He had been with the Biosciences Unit since 2007, after having held a research position at Stellenbosch University’s Institute for Wine Biotechnology.

He has published a number of international peer-reviewed publications and is in the process of preparing more genomics-related papers emanating from work performed at Stellenbosch and the CSIR. He has also been the recipient of a CSIR post-doctoral grant and supervised a number of studies – both at Stellenbosch University and the CSIR.

Dr Becker holds a PhD in Wine Biotechnology from Stellenbosch and completed a Management Development Programme at the same University’s Graduate School of Business. According to him, the opportunity to head up the ACGT provided the ideal avenue to put both his genomics research background and management training to action. “I saw it as a very good fit and a great opportunity to expand my experience from the bench into management aspects”, he said.

Speaking of the ACGT, Dr Becker maintains that the Centre’s strength and contribution lies in identifying synergies that may not necessarily be apparent. “The shared expertise, equipment and funding will definitely lead to more outputs of a higher quality. We can then start to build critical mass, which will greatly shorten the time to meaningful impact”.

According to Dr Becker, attaining this will not be without its challenges. Of these challenges, he sees that of getting people together that have not previously worked with each other before as the one that may require most of his attention. “It will be important for the ACGT to be able to demonstrate the value that we can offer. We have such a small research community in the country that we really need to collaborate. There are only so much expertise and resources available, so it is much more effective to work together than to compete”, he added.

Dr Becker’s main focus in the first few months of his tenure will be on managing the finalisation of the ACGT’s five-year strategy. Discussions are underway to bring a number of new partner institutions on board. Once confirmed, the partners will discuss and endorse the draft strategy – the implementation of which will be under his management.