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Claire Lanaud - 2015 Distinguished scientist awardee

Molecular genetics at the service of tropical plants and cocoa.

Claire Lanaud, molecular geneticist at the Center for International Research on Environment and Development (CIRAD), and her team were among the pioneers to develop molecular tools dedicated to tropical crop studies. She led an international effort to sequence the whole cocoa genome in 2010.

Our early involvement in molecular genetic approaches has speed up the knowledge of tropical crops for their improvement. Our work on the molecular bases provided valuable information to define better strategies to increase and establish sustainable cocoa production while respecting the environment…

Her goal has always been to contribute to the sustainable development of agriculture in the South countries through her involvement in the field of genetics/genomics and plant breeding of tropical crops. As the tropical species are generally less studied than European ones, Claire’s objectives were to use the
latest technologies and high through put analysis tools to progress more rapidly in their knowledge, identify key genes involved in traits of interest, elaborate diagnostic tools for cocoa breeding, and refine cocoa genome structure and variation. Her strong involvement on and knowledge of cocoa genetic resources have contributed to the collection and preservation of this precious resource.

In a context of climatic changes, with an increased demand for chocolate consumption, her studies of the genetic determinants of cocoa traits of interest (disease resistance, yield, quality traits...) allow nowadays to better adapt the breeding strategies.

Claire has worked with practically all types of stakeholders in the cocoa chain – from local communities safeguarding native coco plants in the Ecuadorian Amazonia to private chocolate companies. Her 40-year scientific career has been dedicated to the improvement of agriculture in the South and in training researchers from these countries.