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Ajay Kohli

Ajay Kohli

Deputy Director General for Research


As IRRI’s Research Director, Ajay leads the Institute’s research quality and delivery strategy to meet the needs and expectations of donors, investors, partners, and stakeholders. Most recently, he held the post of Research Director for Planning and Delivery.

Background and experience

Prior to Ajay’s Directorships, he led IRRI’s Strategic Innovation Platform where he supervised a team of 15 international scientists and almost 100 staff members primarily in the application of fundamental sciences such as genomics, genetics, and bioinformatics instruments. His platform identified genes and provided genetic materials and associated information, enabling the institute’s rice breeders and physiologists to harness upstream research into translational research through a highly interdisciplinary approach. 

Ajay has also led IRRI’s Plant Molecular Biology Group for the past 10 years. Under his leadership, the group gained recognition in gene discovery and characterization in environmental stress tolerance of rice, particularly in improving yield under drought conditions. 

Ajay brings 30 years of experience in upstream research, innovation, and leadership in the agricultural sector with positions in India, UK, USA, and the Philippines, and research stints in Europe and Africa.


Ajay holds a Ph.D. in Biology from the John Innes Centre, UK and M.Tech. and BS degrees from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur and the Lucknow University, respectively. With more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, Ajay continues to guide laboratory research but is institutionally committed to bridging the upstream science to applied science for impact on the society and environment through rice-based food systems.


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