Selected as a Fellow in the Fall 2008, Dr. Eric Magembe began his Borlaug LEAP Fellowship in 2009. He graduated with his PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nairobi. His research developed molecular diagnostic tools for three important plant diseases in Africa. The user-friendly kits can be taken into the field to assess pathogen diseases for banana bacterial wilt, maize gray leaf spot, and cassava brown streak virus. During his fellowship, he was mentored by Dr. Dong-Jin Kim at IITA and traveled to Texas A&M University to work with Dr. Won-Bo Shim, Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology.
After completing his PhD in 2011, Dr. Magembe accepted a position at the University of Nairobi in the department of Biochemistry. As a faculty member, he received an African Biosciences Challenge Fund award. This competitive grant enabled him to conduct research at the world-class research facilities at the Biosciences Easter and Central Africa (BecA) Hub in Kenya. Dr. Magembe worked on the BecA-CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) project, “Capacity and action for aflatoxin reduction in East Africa”.
In December 2012, Dr. Magembe became a senior research associate at the International Potato Center (CIP). He works primarily on a USAID-funded project developing potato varieties resistant to late blight. The project hopes to control this disease through genetic engineering broad-spectrum resistance genes from wild potato relatives into susceptible farmer-preferred varieties. Dr. Magembe believes that biotechnology presents exciting opportunities to alleviate poverty and improve livelihoods for smallholder farmers.