Mary Ann Lila, Ph.D., Vice-President of GIBEX, is Director of the Plants for Human Health Institute, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Research Campus. She holds the David H. Murdock Distinguished Professorship, and is a Professor in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Sciences. Through ground-breaking, transdisciplinary discovery and outreach, her team of faculty at the Plants for Human Health Institute (PHHI) pioneers a dramatic shift in the way the American public views and uses food crops – not merely as a source of nutrients and flavorful calories, but as a powerful resource for components that protect and enhance human health. Integrated research in metabolomics, biochemistry, pharmacogenomics, molecular breeding, regenerative medicine, translational food science and nutrition and postharvest are aimed at development and promotion of mainstream fruit and vegetable produce with enhanced health benefits, and introduction of new or underappreciated crops and products from various sites throughout the globe, allowing consumers to make proactive, responsible dietary choices that benefit their own, and their families' health. Dr. Lila is currently a co-Director of an ambitious public-private Plant Pathways Elucidation Project (P2EP) which synergizes the talents of academia and industry.
Recent projects include a Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research grant on “Closing the gap in delivery of fruit and vegetable benefits', a USDA-funded initiative on polyphenol-protein colloids for attenuation of food allergies, an NIH-sponsored project on berries and bone health, A Dole Nutrition Institute funded initiative on Nrf2 activators, a Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Exploration Challenges project in Zambia, a NASA-sponsored project to develop stable functional protein-polyphenol colloidal particles to improve nutritive and structural properties of portable food, an NIH NIDDKD project on functional food innovations and a major blueberry genome sequencing initiative using state-of-the-art NextGen sequencing capacity, which focuses on the genes relevant to health-protective properties in the fruits.
Lila was formerly Director (2006-2008) of ACES Global Connect (the international arm of the College of ACES, University of Illinois) and Associate Director of the nationally acclaimed Functional Foods for Health Program (1997-2000) at the University of Illinois. Dr. Lila has been honored with the Paul A. Funk Scholarship Recognition Award (the premier research award in the College of ACES, University of Illinois), the Spitze Professorial Career Excellence Award, the Faculty Award for Excellence in Research, the University Scholar Award, the Amoco Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Instruction, and the Lilly Endowment Teaching Fellowship. Dr. Lila has ongoing research projects in Australia, New Zealand, and various countries in Europe and Africa. In 1999, Dr. Lila won a Fulbright Senior Scholarship to conduct research and outreach in New Zealand, and returns to Australasia at least once/year.