Professor Neena Mitter

Professorial Research Fellow

Centre for Plant Science
Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation

Affiliate Principal Research Fellow

Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
n.mitter@uq.edu.au
+61 7 334 66513

Overview

Professor Neena Mitter is an agricultural biotechnologist recognised for her leadership in innovative cross-functional research and exceptional industry engagement to address global challenges of agriculture and food security. Her scientific journey began as an agricultural scientist at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, India. She moved to Australia in the year 2000 and progressed to the role of the Focus Team Leader and Principal Scientist at Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) Queensland within seven years. Prof. Mitter joined QAAFI’s Centre for Animal Science in October 2010. At QAAFI, her multidisciplinary background and experience makes her a leading contributor in both the Centre for Plant Science and the Centre for Animal Science. Her innovations creating change by research at UQ, namely 'BioClay for crop protection', 'Nanovaccines for animal health', and "Clonal propagation of avocado using plant stem cells" are ground breaking platform technologies impacting agricultural production, environmental sustainability and socio-economic dynamics of farming community. These revolutionary concepts with significant commercialization potential are progressing towards product development under her leadership of global multidisciplinary funding initiatives (~$8m in competitive funding from Govt, philanthropy, industry and end users). Patent protected BioClay (non-GM, non-toxic, sustainable spray for protecting crops by using clay nanoparticles to deliver RNA interference) and Nanovaccines (single dose, shelf-stable, self adjuvanting vaccines, targeting animal health using silica vesicles as antigen careers) will create a niche market for crop and animal health products. Using plant stem cells for clonal avocado plants will be a game changer for the avocado growers. It provides an alternative to the 40 year old industry practice which is unable to meet the growing demand for > 2 million new trees annually, causing backlog of orders till 2022. Her high quality research has merited 40 publications in the last 5 years even within the landscape of commercial confidentiality. She is actively championing the development of an Ag-Nano Innovation Hub at UQ as a QAAFI-AIBN initiative to increase industry investment and augment UQs role in knowledge leadership for a better world.

Research Impacts

Globally, pest and diseases reduce crop yields by 20 to 40% constraining global food security. The need for new sustainable disease control agents grows each year, driven by the need for greater production, climate change, pesticide resistance and toxicity to human health and environment. RNA interference (RNAi) or gene silencing is a powerful approach for combating biotic and abiotic stresses, but at present is limited in its adoption as genetically modified (GM) crops. A/Prof. Mitter and A/Prof. Xu (AIBN) secured Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations Award (2012) (selected out of 2700 applicants, the only one from Australia in the field of Agriculture) leading to the development of ‘BioClay’ crop protection platform. It is a simple and elegant amalgamation of biology and nanotechnology to deliver RNAi as a non-toxic, non-GM, easy to adopt, environmentally sustainable spray for protecting crops from pests and diseases. BioClay innovation takes nanotechnology for delivery of RNAi for human therapeutics into the world’s first use in crop protection. BioClay technology is being further developed under A/Prof Mitter’s leadership of a global multidisciplinary consortium funded by Queensland Govt. Accelerate Partnerships (~$1.6m). It comprises academics from UQ (QAAFI, AIBN, SCMB, SBS and SAFS), international partners from USA and Africa and a strong industry partner. The ‘flow-on’ impact of BioClay will reduce pesticide usage, reduce toxic run off to our precious waterways enhance the clean green image of produce and lead to economic prosperity and jobs for future.

Prof. Mitter is also leading the development of silica vesicle based vaccine delivery platform in collaboration with Prof Yu at AIBN. This novel platform targeting animal health circumvents the challenges of multiple doses, cold chain requirements and adjuvant toxicity concerns posed by current vaccines. A global consortium funded by Queensland Govt, School of Global Animal Health, Washington State University and pharmaceutical company Zoetis (~$ 3.6M) has generated proof of concept with significant diseases of interest to the cattle industry including Bovine Viral Diarrhoea Virus and Cattle Tick Fever. The excellent research has resulted in 2 patents, one commercial lock-out agreement, 3 PhDs and 11 publications in high impact journals: The vision moving forward is to target key animal health issues of $12.6b beef, $3.9b sheep, $3.4b pork and $1.1b aquaculture industries in Australia. Nanovaccines for animal health will result in multiple benefits including estimated revenue generation of $2-5m / disease target.

Prof. Mitter’s research on various aspects of avocado improvement is poised for a significant impact on avocado productivity. Retail value of $767 million with Queensland contributing to 50% of this production, increasing local demand (3kg/year) and opening up of Asian markets for consumption as the sought after health food calls out for innovation to sustain productivity of the rapidly expanding avocado industry. Avocado is a grafted tree and good quality disease resistant rootstocks are integral to increased productivity. Clonal propagation of avocado rootstocks in Australia currently follows a 40 year-old practice that takes ~18 months to generate field-ready trees, at high cost. The pioneering research in Mitter lab supported by ARC linkage (~$ 600k) has led to the world’s first use of PLANT STEM CELLS, or meristems, for clonal propagation of avocado. It has the potential to be a “game changer” for avocado growers by halving the time and cost to supply disease free clonal rootstocks. Mitter lab is also exploring nanoparticles to deliver RNA to promote rooting in avocado. As an epicentre of subtropical agriculture, Queensland is in a unique position to benefit from this UQ led research including capturing a bigger share of the global markets, particularly Asia.

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Indian Agricultural Research Institute

Publications

View all Publications

Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Publications

Journal Article

Conference Publication

  • Mitter, N. and Gleeson, M. (2016). Acceptance of diseaseresistant GM rootstocks for nonGM fruit. In: XXIX International Horticultural Congress on Horticulture: Sustaining Lives, Livelihoods and Landscapes (IHC2014): III International Genetically Modified Organisms in Horticulture Symposium - Past, Present and Future. XXIX International Horticultural Congress on Horticulture: Sustaining Lives, Livelihoods and Landscapes (IHC2014), Brisbane, Australia, (91-96). 17 - 22 August 2014. doi:10.17660/ActaHortic.2016.1124.13

  • Gleeson, M., Mitter, N. and Carroll, B. (2016). Etiolation-mediated regulation of adventitious rooting in avocado. In: XXIX International Horticultural Congress on Horticulture: Sustaining Lives, Livelihoods and Landscapes (IHC2014): International Symposium on Molecular Biology in Horticulture. XXIX International Horticultural Congress on Horticulture: Sustaining Lives, Livelihoods and Landscapes (IHC2014), Brisbane, QLD, Australia, (35-40). 17-22 August 2014. doi:10.17660/ActaHortic.2016.1110.6

  • Mohd Rodzi, A., Hayward, A., Hiti Bandaralage, J., O'Brien, C., Gleeson, M. and Mitter, N. (2015). Factors affecting avocado shoot health in culture. In: Actas VIII congreso mundial de la palta. VIII World Avocado Congress, Lima, Peru, (99-104). 13- 18 September 2015.

  • Hiti Bandaralage, J., Hayward, A., O'Brien, C. and Mitter, N. (2015). Gibberellin and cytokinin in synergy for a rapid nodal multiplication system of avocado. In: Actas VIII congreso mundial de la palta. VIII World Avocado Congress, Lima, Peru, (95-98). 13- 18 September 2015.

  • Shanmugiah, R., Mitter, N. and Pappu, H. (2014). Interaction map of Tomato spotted wilt virus-specific small RNAs and the tomato transcriptome. In: Abstracts of Presentation at the 2014 APS-CPS Joint Meeting. APS-CPS Joint Meeting, Minneapolis Mn United States, (107-107). 09-13 August 2014.

  • Sharma, P. K., Druffel, K., Mitter, N. and Pappu, H. R. (2011). Characterization of silencing suppressor activity of NSs from Iris yellow spot virus (Genus Tospovirus). In: 2011 APS-IPPC Joint Meeting, Honolulu, HI, United States, (S164-S164). 6-10 August 2011.

  • Koundal, V., Mitter, N., Williams, S. and Pappu, H. R. (2011). Characterization of small RNAs derived from Tomato spotted wilt virus infection by deep sequencing. In: 2011 APS-IPPC Joint Meeting, Honolulu, HI, United States, (S93-S94). 6-10 August 2011.

  • Mitter, N., Chua, K., Bag, S., Druffel, K., Mitchell, R. and Pappu, H. R. (2011). Evaluating artificial microRNAs for engineering resistance against tospoviruses. In: 2011 APS-IPPC Joint Meeting, Honolulu, HI, United States, (S121-S121). 6-10 August 2011.

  • Bag, S., Mitter, N. and Pappu, H. R. (2011). Genetic complementation between two viruses in an otherwise restrictive host. In: 2011 APS-IPPC Joint Meeting, Honolulu, HI, United States, (S12-S12). 6-10 August 2011.

  • Mitter, N. and Dietzgen, R. G. (2008). Plant virus control: RNA silencing strategies. In: VIROCON 2009: XIX Annual Meeting of the Indian Virological Society . Recent Trends in Viral Disease Problems and Management, India, (85-85). 2008.

  • Brosnan, C. A., Mitter, N., Reyes, M., Constantin, M., Graham, M., Dietzgen, R.G. and Carroll, B. J. (2003). Tomato expression modulating sequences enhance double strand RNA-mediated resistance to potato virus Y in transgenic tobacco. In: 24th Annual Conference on the Organisation and Expression of the Genome. 24th Annual Conference on the Organisation and Expression of the Genome, Lorne, Victoria, Australia, (). 16-20 February, 2003.

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Completed Supervision