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Graduated from Toulouse Higher School of Agricultural and Life sciences (Agro Toulouse, France), Cécile Ben received MSc degree in Plant AgroBiosciences in 2001 and got her PhD degree in Plant Genomics & Development from Toulouse National Polytechnic Institute in 2005. After a post-doctoral research fellowship at CNRS/Univ. of Paris XI in animal molecular biology and genomics (2005-2006), and a second one at Agro Toulouse in legume quantitative genetics (2006-2008), she was hired as faculty at Agro Toulouse in 2008, where she’s been leading the teaching track in Plant Genetics and Plant Breeding ever since.

Pr Cecile Ben is an expert in plant genetics and genomics as well as in plant biotechnology. Making use of plant natural genetic diversity, she develops genomics and whole-genome approaches to understand the genetic determinism of agronomical complex traits, and to predict adaptation to environmental constraints. Her research has led to significant advances in understanding genetic bases for stress tolerance in plants and to the development of an innovative and groundbreaking genomic-based prediction method for quantitative traits –WhoGEM-. Among her notable research contributions are publications in Genome Biol., PNAS, New Phytol., J. Exp. Bot.

She has a large expertise in setting up and managing international scientific cooperation: she leads and participates to several successful international collaborative projects (EU PRIMA, NSF, bilateral CNRS/international programs, private/academic contracts); gives high-level courses in plant quantitative genetics in several countries for Master and PhD students and senior scientists; and was Research Scholar for six months at USC/Los Angeles (USA, 2014) as consultant in the USAID “Climate resilient chickpea” project.

Within the Skoltech Digital Agriculture Laboratory, Pr Cecile Ben focuses on establishing and leading research programs in plant genetics as well as advanced applied agricultural breeding projects, using cutting-edge quantitative genetics, genomics and biotechnology approaches. She will also be involved in courses in Plant Breeding within the current MSc and PhD programs in Life Sciences.

Research interests

  • Plant genetics, genomics and biotechnologies towards efficient breeding for key agronomical traits in strategical crops  : From HT-omics to GWAS and Genomic Prediction to unravel genetic architecture of complex agronomical traits. Our goal is to develop high-level research towards improved genetics for key agronomical traits to cope with present and future challenges of agriculture. A particular attention will be given to question-driven projects aimed at improving the competitiveness of Russian agro-sector.
  • Cutting-edge research to understand the genetic basis of plant quantitative disease resistances in a context of climate change. Plant diseases are a major constraint to future food security. The growing demand for a sustainable food supply and the need to reduce pesticide use, whilst maintaining production, have driven the search for alternatives to control plant diseases. Quantitative Disease Resistance (QDR) generally show higher durability and often confer broad resistance to several pathogens. As such, they are predicted to be critical for efficient control of epidemics. Breeding for varieties with improved QDR is therefore a suitable and promising line of research towards more efficient and sustainable agriculture.

We propose to examine how QDR plant – pathogen interactions respond to severe environmental constraints – such as temperature increase, salinity… – favored by climate change. Our objectives are :

i) to evaluate the plant responses by challenging varieties with temperature-adapted pathogen strains at different temperatures according to global change scenarii;

ii) to decipher the genetic control for quantitative resistance under these different scenarii and reveal possible differential molecular regulations depending on temperature.

iii) To unravel genetic architecture of plant response to combined environmental stresses.

We will focus on quantitative resistance to root and foliar diseases in legumes (soybean, pea, medics).

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 13 - Climate Action


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