Dr Renée Prins established CenGen (Pty) Ltd in 2003 in the town of Worcester in the Breede River Valley of the Western Cape, South Africa, to create a plant genetics platform. At the same time it created the opportunity for skilled personnel to continue their careers in science, despite being based far from major academic centra. From a humble beginning as an owner-managed business, CenGen developed into a fully-fledged enterprise that provides specialised R&D services to plant breeders and the agricultural industry. The team is implementing new strategic and business processes on a continuous basis, in order to be fit for the future in an environment of ongoing technology innovation.
A primary focus at CenGen is to provide services on par with international standards. Therefore, an effort is made to visit international conferences and laboratories on a regular basis and to maintain strong links with international peers and collaborators. The Research and Development outputs of CenGen are testimony to this goal.
One of the most exciting endeavours CenGen is currently undertaking is an attempt to clone a number of wheat disease resistance genes in collaboration with an expert team at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. Should the project be successful, this will be the first result of its kind in South Africa for wheat, which has a very complex genome. Apart from the value of having the actual gene sequence, the knowledge transfer in advanced genomics approaches to South African scientists will be invaluable.
Similarly, we strive to establish a basic foundation of bioinformatics knowledge, and a sound understanding of how to implement bioinformatics tools in agri-research, within South Africa.
Dr Renée Prins: Biography
Renée Prins obtained a PhD in Genetics from Stellenbosch University. Because of her plant genetics and -breeding background, she has a key interest in working with plant and pathogen species that are important to agriculture. Besides focussing on the implementation of research outputs, Renée has achieved NRF-rating in the past and remains involved in training post-graduate students based either at the CenGen site or off-site at other South African universities. She is an Associate Professor Extraordinary, Department of Genetics, Stellenbosch University (SU).
In her research projects she actively strives to develop and apply tools much needed by the plant breeding community and implement genomic technologies to the benefit of the Agri-sector.
Dr Xolelwa Zulu: Independent Director
Dr Prins met Xolelwa in 2018 on a scientific tour to the UK, hosted by the British High Commission and Agbiz Grain. At the time, Xolelwa was the Science and Innovation Attaché for the British High Commission in Pretoria. She has a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, has received the Investec Young Woman in Finance Award, has done a Graduate School of Business Leadership Course (UKZN) and has been awarded a Black Women in Science Fellowship in 2019. She is also currently registered at UP for a Masters in Technology and Innovation Management.
She has previously been the project manager for the Beef Genomics Project at the University of Pretoria and has, apart from scientific knowledge, extensive experience in project management, the acquisition of funding, research capacity development and international collaborations and relations – a skill-set that complements our research and operations tremendously. She is currently the manager for Strategic Research, Development and Innovation Programs at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa was in appointed as Independent Director of CenGen in December 2019.