Research Theme Leaders

Breeding Research Theme

Breeding Research Theme Lead Al-Brown

Al Brown

Breeding Research Theme Lead | Banana Breeder
IITA, Arusha, Tanzania

Allan Brown obtained his PhD from the University of Illinois in 2004 and has considerable experience with both conventional and marker-assisted breeding of several vegetable and fruit crops. Throughout his academic and professional career he has worked with sweet corn (University of Minnesota), chili peppers (New Mexico State University), broccoli (University of Illinois), peas (Washington State University), and peach and blueberry (North Carolina State University). At NCSU, he was the lead PI on an international collaborative project to generate the first genomic draft sequence of blueberry (Vaccinum corymbosum) and was the first researcher to use high density SNP arrays of rapeseed to generate saturated genetic linkage maps of related plant species.
While on the faculty of NCSU, he served as an inaugural member of the Plants for Human Health Institute and conducted collaborative research with industry partners to identify genetic factors in broccoli and blueberry that enhanced or modified the profiles of nutrients and phytochemicals in plants that are associated with human health (calcium, iron, zinc, glucosinolates, carotenoids, and flavonoids).
He is a believer in translational science and believes that we can and should bridge the gap between basic and applied research to find real-world solutions to agricultural and health concerns.

Breeding Research Theme Co-Lead - Priver Bwesigye

Priver Bwesigye

Breeding Research Theme Co-Lead
NARO, Kampala, Uganda

Priver Namanya Bwesigye is a Senior Research Officer and the Program Leader for the National Banana Research Program at NARO, Uganda. She obtained her PhD in 2010 from Queensland University of Technology in Australia in Plant Biotechnology. Priver began her research career in Banana in 1993 in banana nematology. She pioneered the establishment of banana tissue culture, embryo culture and banana cell suspensions systems in support of banana conventional breeding and biotechnology at NARO. With these systems in place, NARO released the first six disease resistant conventionally bred Matooke hybrids in Uganda. Her doctoral research forms part of the initial functional studies in the development of banana derived genes for enhancement of pro-Vitamin A (pVA), a technology that was adopted at NARO, leading to the development of genetically modified Matooke with enhanced levels of pVA. She is one of a team of NARO scientists in banana biotechnology that established systems for genetic engineering of banana, confined field trails, and support to the evolving development of Uganda’s biosafety framework. Priver is an award winner of Christian Bonte- Friedheim’s Award 2004 for Best Young Scientist in ASARECA [Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa].

Pre-Breeding Research Theme

Brigitte Uwimana

Pre-Breeding Research Theme Lead | Banana Molecular Breeder
IITA, Kampala, Uganda

Brigitte Uwimana obtained her PhD degree from Wageningen University and Research Center (Netherlands) in 2011. She also received a MSc degree in Plant Sciences with a specialization in Plant Breeding and Genetic Resources in 2007 from the same university. She joined IITA as a Postdoc Banana Breeder in 2013. She was first based in Arusha, Tanzania. In 2015 she moved to IITA – Uganda and started working as a banana molecular breeder in 2016. She is now based at Namulonge/Sendusu (Uganda) where she oversees banana breeding activities of East African Highland Bananas, entailing the development of molecular tools.

Ivan Kabiita Arinaitwe

Pre-Breeding Research Theme Co-Lead
NARO, Kampala, Uganda

Mr. Arinaitwe Ivan Kabiita is a banana breeder at the National Banana Research Programme of the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO)-Uganda. He holds a Doctorate Degree in Genetics and Molecular Biology from the University of Malaya. He holds an MSc in Plant Breeding and Seed Systems and a BSc in Botany and Zoology, both from Makerere University, Uganda. Ivan started his career as a Laboratory Technician at a private tissue culture laboratory called Agro-Genetic Technologies (AGT) in 2007. He later the joined International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Uganda as Research Assistant with the banana biotechnology department. In 2009, Ivan joined the National Banana Research programme under NARO-Uganda at the National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL) working as a banana breeder. He has been a member of the team responsible for the development and release of East African Highland Banana (EAHB) hybrids (NAROBan 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) in Uganda with farmer preferred traits such as increased yield and resistance to pests and diseases.

Seed delivery & variety release Research Theme

Jerome Kubiriba

Seed Delivery & Variety Release Research Theme Lead
NARO, Kampala, Uganda

A Senior Research Scientist, specialised in Plant Disease Epidemics control for improved livelihoods of the farming and consuming communities. He has been engaged in the development of technologies and actively mobilizing banana value chain actors to utilise the technologies. He currently leads a vibrant team of scientists and other actors for the promotion of the banana industry in Uganda and beyond. Within the ABBB breeding project, he is specifically charged with releasing banana hybrids in Uganda and Tanzania.

Mpoki Shimwela

Seed Delivery & Variety Release Research Theme Co-Lead
TARI-Maruku, Tanzania

Mpoki Shimwela, is a senior agricultural research officer and national coordinator of banana research program with Tanzania Agricultural Research Institutes (TARI). He is based in TARI-Maruku in north west Tanzania and has been with TARI since 2007. His research activities focus in identifying and solving economically significant problems affecting the banana industry in Tanzania. He obtained his PhD in Plant Pathology from the University of Florida in 2016 and his MSc in Plant Science (Plant Pathology and Entomology) from Wageningen University, 2011. He is currently involved with three large banana projects: Accelerated Breeding Better Banana (ABBB), Improving scalable banana agronomy for small scale farmers in highland banana cropping systems in East Africa, and Addressing Vitamin A deficiencies in the Great lake countries through Banana-based foods.

Data Management Research Theme

Lukas Mueller

Data Management Research Theme Lead
Boyce Thompson Institute, USA

Lukas Mueller studied Natural Sciences at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and obtained a PhD from University of Lausanne in 1992. After postdoctoral studies at Stanford, he joined the TAIR database (, before directing the Solanaceae database SGN ( in Steve Tanksley’s lab at Cornell University. Since he joined the Boyce Thompson Institute (, breeding databases became another focus, with the creation of databases such as Cassavabase ( and the banana breeding database (