From academia to industry – An interview with Dr Catherine Feuillet

Interview conducted and written by Modesta Abugu.

Dr. Catherine has been the Chief Scientist Officer of Inari Agriculture since 2018. Before taking up this role, she was the head of trait research at Bayer Crop Science.

She has also spent 20 years in academic research where she led projects and teams at universities and governmental research institutes in Switzerland and France on wheat genetics and genomics.

She is one of the co-founders of the International Wheat genome Sequencing Consortium, an international public-private consortium that tackled the sequencing of the highly complex wheat genome.

Now at Inari Agriculture, Catherine leads about 60 scientists from various backgrounds (genetics, genomics, data science, physics, physiology, medical research, and so forth), to conduct research projects that build on the convergence of revolutions in genomics, genome editing, and data analytics to completely transform plant breeding. Ultimately, she aspires to feed the world without starving our planet using science.

In this interview, Catherine shared her career journey and her challenges and opportunities with us. As a woman in science, she realized while evolving and growing through different roles (individual contributor, PI, team lead, manager of larger organizations, company builder…) that believing in herself and admitting she was qualified enough to take on the next challenge was the key to being able to achieve her own potential. Catherine shared that a good mix between being excited and scared by a new opportunity was also always important to take the risk and embrace a novel challenge along her career. She noted that her mentors played a key role in helping her overcome self-doubt and embrace her purpose, and emphasized the need for more mentoring programs for women in agriculture.

Be open minded and ready for opportunity. Take a risk every time. And don’t be afraid to fail.

Dr Catherine Feuillet