Jeffery W. Kelly

Wolf Prize Laureate in Chemistry 2023

The 2023 Wolf Prize in Chemistry is awarded jointly to Professors Chuan He, Jeffery W. Kelly, and Hiroaki Suga “for pioneering discoveries that illuminate the functions and pathological dysfunctions of RNA and proteins and for creating strategies to harness the capabilities of these biopolymers in new ways to ameliorate human diseases.”

 

The Wolf Prize is awarded to Jeffery W. Kelly, Scripps Research Institute, USA, for developing a clinical strategy to ameliorate pathological protein aggregation.

 

Prof. Jeffery W. Kelly is the Lita Annenberg Hazen Professor of Chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute. Kelly received his BS in chemistry from the State University of New York at Fredonia, his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1986), and performed postdoctoral research in bio-organic chemistry at Rockefeller University (1989).

Most protein molecules must fold into defined three-dimensional structures to acquire their functional activity. However, some proteins can adopt several folding states, and their biologically active state may be only marginally stable. Misfolded proteins can form toxic aggregates, such as soluble oligomers and fibrillar amyloid deposits, which may lead to neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease and many other pathologies. All cells contain an extensive protein homeostasis network of protein folding devices, such as molecular chaperones and other factors that prevent or regulate protein aggregation. These defense networks tend to decline during aging, facilitating the manifestation of aggregate deposition diseases.

Prof. Kelly’s research focuses on understanding protein folding, misfolding, and aggregation and using chemical and biological approaches to develop novel therapeutic strategies to combat diseases caused by protein misfolding and aggregation. He contributed significantly to the fight against neurodegenerative diseases by discovering the mechanism of protein aggregation in amyloid diseases that affect the heart and nervous system. He showed the mechanism by which a protein, transthyretin, unravels and agglomerates into clusters that kill cells, tissues, and ultimately patients and developed a molecular approach to stabilize this protein.
Kelly successfully synthesized the first regulatory-agency-approved drug, “tafamidis vyndaqel”. This pioneering drug, marketed worldwide, significantly slows the progression of Familial Amyloid Polyneuropathy, a neurodegenerative disease, and Familial and Sporadic TTR Cardiomyopathy disease, which causes heart failure.

Jeffery W. Kelly is awarded the Wolf prize for developing a new and clinically impactful strategy to ameliorate disease caused by pathological protein aggregation. His seminal contributions revealed fundamental features of protein homeostasis (proteostasis) at the molecular level, including the interplay among protein folding, misfolding, and aggregation. Dysregulation of proteostasis is associated with a spectrum of human diseases. Kelly’s laboratory used these fundamental insights to develop the drug “tafamidis”, which halts or slows disease progression in patients suffering from transthyretin amyloidosis. This approach may be applicable to other proteostasis-based disorders.

 

Hiroaki Suga

Wolf Prize Laureate in Chemistry 2023

The 2023 Wolf Prize in Chemistry is awarded jointly to Professors Chuan He, Jeffery W. Kelly, and Hiroaki Suga “for pioneering discoveries that illuminate the functions and pathological dysfunctions of RNA and proteins and for creating strategies to harness the capabilities of these biopolymers in new ways to ameliorate human diseases.”

 

The Wolf Prize is awarded to Hiroaki Suga, The University of Tokyo, Japan, for developing RNA-based catalysts that revolutionized the discovery of bioactive peptides.

 

Prof. Suga received his Bachelor of Engineering (1986) and Master of Engineering (1989) from Okayama University, Ph.D. in Chemistry (1994) from MIT, and was a post-doctoral fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Suga began his independent career at New York State University at Buffalo (1997-2003). In 2003 he moved to the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology at the  University of Tokyo. Since 2010 Suga has been a full Professor in the department of chemistry at the University of Tokyo. Currently, he serves as the President of the Chemical Society of Japan.

Prof. Suga’s research interests include bioorganic chemistry, chemical biology, and biotechnology related to RNA, translation, and peptides. As a young researcher, he made significant advances in using RNA-based enzymes, or ribozymes, to incorporate unnatural amino acids into tRNA. This technology, known as the “Flexizyme,” greatly expanded the potential for reprogramming the genetic code. Through additional research on in vitro translation of proteins using reconstituted ribosomes, Prof. Suga could incorporate various unnatural amino acids into expressed peptides to spontaneously produce molecules that form macrocyclic peptides. Prof. Suga used oligonucleotide display and directed evolution to create the RaPID system, a platform for producing and selecting billions of macrocyclic peptides as high-affinity binders to protein targets, including many that had previously been considered undruggable.

In 2006, Prof. Suga co-founded PeptiDream to advance and apply the RaPID system, which quickly became a widely used technology for finding small molecule protein binders, particularly disrupting protein-protein interactions. His discoveries have enabled the construction of complex molecules on a large scale, not possible using conventional methods alone. Suga’s work has produced more unique non-natural molecules than other approachs, which possess the unique stereochemistry, rich functional group density, and 3D-architecture necessary for interrogating and controlling biological processes. This paved the way for a new generation of drugs. PeptiDream became a publicly traded company on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and is one of Japan’s most successful startup companies.

Hiroaki Suga is awarded the Wolf prize for developing an exceptionally innovative in-vitro selection system for cyclic peptides as inhibitors of protein-protein interactions. He invented an RNA-based catalyst, flexizyme, that transcends natural mechanisms and vastly expands the range of amino acids that can be incorporated with ribosomal machinery. Suga’s strategy enables rapid construction and screening of enormous cyclic peptide libraries. His unique discovery has established a new approach to medicinal chemistry and generated new tools for drug discovery.

Ingrid Daubechies

Wolf Prize Laureate in Mathematics 2023

The 2023 Wolf Prize in Mathematics is awarded to Ingrid Daubechies, Duke University, USA, “for work in wavelet theory and applied harmonic analysis”.

 

Ingrid Daubechies is a Belgian mathematician and physicist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. She earned her bachelor’s degree in physics from the Free University of Brussels in 1975. She then continued her research at the same university, earning her doctorate in physics with a thesis on the Representation of quantum mechanical operators by kernels on Hilbert spaces of analytic functions.

Ingrid Daubechies’ love for math and science was nurtured from a young age. Her father fostered her curiosity and interest in these subjects while she was in school. As a child, she was fascinated by how things worked and how to construct them, as well as the mechanisms behind machinery and the truth behind mathematical concepts. She would even calculate large numbers in her head when she couldn’t sleep, finding it captivating to see the numbers quickly grow.

Professor Ingrid Daubechies has made significant contributions to the field of wavelet theory. Her research has revolutionized the way images and signals are processed numerically, providing standard and flexible algorithms for data compression. This has led to a wide range of innovations in various technologies, including medical imaging, wireless communication, and even digital cinema.
The Wavelet theory, as presented by the work of Professor Daubechies, has become a crucial tool in many areas of signal and image processing. For example, it has been used to enhance and reconstruct images from the early days of the Hubble Telescope, to detect forged documents and fingerprints. In addition, wavelets are a vital component of wireless communication and are used to compress sound sequences into MP3 files.

Beyond her scientific contributions, Professor Daubechies also advocates for equal opportunities in science and math education, particularly in developing countries. As President of the International Mathematical Union, she worked to promote this cause. She is aware of the barriers women face in these fields and works to mentor young women scientists and increase representation and opportunities for them.

Ingrid Daubechies is awarded the Wolf Prize for her work in the creation and development of wavelet theory and modern time-frequency analysis. Her discovery of smooth, compactly supported wavelets, and the development of biorthogonal wavelets transformed image and signal processing and filtering.
Her work is of tremendous importance in image compression, medical imaging, remote sensing, and digital photography. Daubechies has also made unparalleled contributions to developing real-world applications of harmonic analysis, introducing sophisticated image-processing techniques to fields ranging from art to evolutionary biology and beyond.
Daubechies’s most important contribution is her introduction in 1988 of smooth compactly supported orthonormal wavelet bases. These bases revolutionized signal processing, leading to highly efficient methods for digitizing, storing, compressing, and analyzing data, such as audio and video signals, computed tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging. The compact support of these wavelets made it possible to digitize a signal in time linearly dependent on the length of the signal. This was a critical ingredient for researchers and engineers in signal processing to be able to rapidly decompose a signal as a superposition of contributions at various scales.
In subsequent joint work with A. Cohen and J.C. Feauveau, Daubechies introduced symmetrical biorthogonal wavelet bases. These wavelet bases give up orthonormality in favor of symmetry. Such bases are much more suitable for treating the discontinuities arising at the boundaries of finite-length signals and improving image quality. Her biorthogonal wavelets became the basis for the JPEG 2000 image compression and coding system.

Chuan He

Wolf Prize Laureate in Chemistry 2023

The 2023 Wolf Prize in Chemistry is awarded jointly to Professors Chuan He, Jeffery W. Kelly, and Hiroaki Suga “for pioneering discoveries that illuminate the functions and pathological dysfunctions of RNA and proteins and for creating strategies to harness the capabilities of these biopolymers in new ways to ameliorate human diseases.”

 

The Wolf Prize is awarded to Professor Chuan He, The University of Chicago, USA,  for discovering reversible RNA methylation and its role in the regulation of gene expression.

 

Chuan He is a Chinese-American chemical biologist, the John T. Wilson Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, and an Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He graduated from the University of Science and Technology of China with a B.S. in Chemistry (1994), Ph.D. at MIT, and postdoctoral research at Harvard University. He joined the Department of Chemistry at the University of Chicago in 2002 and served as the Director of the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics (2012 -2017).

More than 150 structurally distinct post-transcriptional modifications of cellular RNA molecules occur at thousands of sites. Some of these modifications are dynamic and may have critical regulatory roles analogous to protein and DNA modifications. Therefore, understanding the scope and mechanisms of dynamic RNA modifications represents an emerging research frontier in biology and medicine.

Prof. Chuan He is a world-class expert studying RNA’s post-transcriptional modifications, the role these modifications play in cellular processes, and their broad impact on mammalian development and human diseases. His research, spanning a wide range of chemical biology, nucleic acid chemistry, biology, epigenetics, and bioinorganic chemistry, focuses on understanding both RNA and DNA’s modifications and their roles in regulating gene expression.
He was the first to champion the idea that RNA modifications are reversible and can control gene expression. His work is fundamental in developing potential therapies that target RNA methylation effectors against human diseases such as cancer. His research group was the first to identify proteins that can erase, and undo changes made to RNA molecules, which sparked the emergence of the epitranscriptome field. Prof. He explained how RNA methylation functions through characterizing reader proteins—processes that play critical roles in many types of cancer, including endometrial cancer, acute myelogenous leukemia, and glioblastoma.

Chuan He is awarded the Wolf prize for his pioneering work elucidating the chemistry and functional consequences of RNA modification. He discovered reversible RNA methylation, leading to a conceptual breakthrough regarding the functional roles of RNA modifications in the regulation of gene expression. The He laboratory discovered the first RNA demethylase, an enzyme that removes the methyl group from N6-methyladenosine, the most prevalent mRNA modification in eukaryotes.

 

 

Daniel Joshua Drucker

Wolf Prize Laureate in Medicine 2023

The 2023 Wolf Prize in Medicine is awarded to Prof. Daniel Joshua Drucker, University of Toronto, Canada, “for pioneering work in elucidating the mechanisms and therapeutic potential of enteroendocrine hormones”.

 

Drucker is a Canadian Endocrinologist and Professor of Medicine at The University of Toronto. He is a Senior Scientist at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, and a fellow of the Royal Society. Prof. Drucker is known for his research into intestinal hormones and their use in treating diabetes and other metabolic diseases.
Drucker was born and grew up in Montreal, and then enrolled at the University of Ottawa. He graduated in Medicine from the University of Toronto (1980) and received postgraduate training (Medicine and Endocrinology) at Johns Hopkins Hospital (1980-81), the University of Toronto (1980-84), and the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School (1984-87).
Prof. Drucker’s lab has gained worldwide recognition for its research and its focus on applying scientific breakthroughs to clinical treatment. The lab has made significant contributions to the development of new therapies for type 2 diabetes and a new therapy for short bowel syndrome. His research holds great potential for treating obesity.
Prof. Drucker studies a family of hormones produced in the pancreas, gastrointestinal tract, and brain. Controlling blood glucose and insulin secretion, these hormones also regulate our appetite, the absorption of nutrients from the food we eat, and the conversion of those nutrients to energy. In his lab, Drucker studies the action of hormones that regulate multiple aspects of metabolism. Since enhanced gut hormone action may be beneficial in diabetes, obesity, and inflammatory bowel disorders, these hormone analogues have the potential to lead to new treatments for diseases that afflict millions of people worldwide.

 

Prof. Drucker is awarded the Wolf prize for having made seminal contributions to our understanding of the physiology and pharmacology of glucagon-like peptides (GLPs) and their use for the benefit of patients. His discoveries of GLP-1, GLP-2, and dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) activity have enabled the development of multiple new innovative classes of medications for the treatment of diabetes, obesity, and obesity-associated comorbidities. He demonstrated that GLP-1 directly stimulates insulin secretion from pancreatic beta cells.

Over the past 35 years, Drucker has led the field in delineating the importance of GLP-1 action for the control of pancreatic beta cell proliferation and survival, regulation of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, and beta cell plasticity. Drucker is widely recognized for his ongoing contributions to multiple new actions of GLP-1 in the brain, gut, in the endocrine and exocrine pancreas, the immune system, and the heart and blood vessels. He played a pivotal role in identifying cardiovascular mechanisms of action for incretin agents, including studies of heart rate, blood pressure, atherosclerosis, inflammation, and cardioprotection, thus laying the scientific groundwork for the exciting results of recent cardiovascular outcome studies. Collectively, these findings have provided broad support for the development, use, and safety of GLP-1 therapeutics in human subjects with diabetes and obesity, and have identified new disease areas (NASH, CNS disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease) that may benefit from therapy with GLP-1R agonists. He also described the basic mechanisms linking DPP-4 activity to metabolic control. His pioneering studies validated DPP-4 as a drug target and described the importance of DPP-4 for the control of the enteroinsular axis.

Fujiko Nakaya

Wolf Prize Laureate in Arts 2023

The 2023 Wolf Prize in the Arts is awarded jointly to Fujiko Nakaya and Richard Long “for redefining the possibilities of art-making and transforming the parameters of visual art”.

 

Fujiko Nakaya was born in Sapporo, Japan. Her early interest in the connections between art and science was inspired by her father’s work and his belief that the realization of scientific truths depended on collaboration between human beings and nature. Like her father, a physicist renowned for his work in glaciology and snow crystal photography, Nakaya’s lifelong artistic investigation engages the element of water and instills a sense of wonder in everyday weather phenomena.

Fujiko Nakaya studied at the High School of Japan Women’s University in Tokyo and at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Her first solo exhibition was held at the Tokyo Gallery in 1962. Her work took a significant turn when she joined the Experiments in Art and Technology collective of artists and engineers (E.A.T.).

A bridge between the metaphysical and physical world, the fog has fascinated by its ability to blur the boundaries between reality and imagination. For Nakaya, it “makes visible things become invisible and invisible things—like wind—become visible.”
Working as part of the collective, she enshrouded the Pepsi Pavilion at the 1970 World Exposition in Osaka in vaporous fog, becoming the first artist to create a sculptural fog environment. Nakaya has worked with artificial fog extensively since, creating fog sculptures, and developing immersive and unstable environments, making her a pioneer of the genre. Nakaya is widely known for her early experiments in art and technology, as well as her work in video art. She co-founded the collective Video Hiroba and opened Japan’s first video art gallery. She has collaborated with many international artists and has participated in many international exhibitions.

Fujiko Nakaya, one of Japan’s leading artists, is awarded the Wolf Prize for being a longtime pioneer of work that intermingles the realms of art, nature, science, and technology. Her sculptures, films and videos, installations, and paintings, produced over a seven-decade career, engage fundamental subjects such as the environment, perception, and communication. Nakaya’s early concern with the artistic potential of natural resources, her embrace of nascent technologies, and her exploration of human interaction with our planet, have proven remarkably prescient. Half a century after she first developed the concept of fog sculptures, she continues to astonish audiences with the magic of work made at the junction of art and nature, poetry and science. At heart Nakaya is an experimentalist who disregards predetermined categories and, in so doing, expands the definition and experience of art.

Martinus Th. van Genuchten

Wolf Prize Laureate in Agriculture 2023

The Wolf Prize in Agriculture 2023 is awarded to professor Martinus Th. “Rien” van Genuchten, The Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, “for his groundbreaking work in understanding water flow and predicting contaminant transport in soils”.

 

Martinus Theodorus Van Genuchten, born in Vught, Netherlands, received his early education at the Agricultural U, Wageningen, and his Doctorate in the United States, at the New Mexico State University. Van Genuchten has had an exemplary and influential career, with numerous collaborations across the globe. He further served as co-editor and deputy editor, of nine journals and launched the Vadose Zone Journal, dedicated to the science of the near-surface environment.

The vadose zone is the undersaturated portion of the subsurface that lies above the groundwater table. The soil and rock in the vadose zone are not fully saturated with water; that is, the pores within them contain air as well as water. The movement of water within the vadose zone is important to agriculture, contaminant transport, and flood control. It is intensively used for the cultivation of plants, construction of buildings, and disposal of waste, and crucial in determining the amount and quality of groundwater that is available for human use.

During his 40-year career, Professor Van Genuchten transformed the broad fields of soil physics and vadose zone hydrology, which are central to modern agricultural operations and climate science. He created a much-needed scientific basis for understanding fluid flow and contaminant transport processes in unsaturated soils, including their interactions with the atmosphere above and groundwater below. Contemporary vadose zone hydrology is unthinkable without his many contributions, which established links between agriculture, soil science, geology, environmental sciences, and civil engineering. Particularly important were his studies on the basic processes governing water and chemical transport in soil systems, with his work on the nonequilibrium transport of
agricultural chemicals remaining a landmark.
He pioneered the representation of dual-porosity and dual-permeability models considering mobile and immobile liquid regions in unsaturated porous media, derived novel analytical and numerical solutions, and performed some of the most definitive laboratory and field experiments to test the models. His models profoundly improved predictions of complex field phenomena and motivated an avalanche of studies along similar lines to address water and chemical transport in natural soils and rocks. Because of their attractive mathematical properties and their simplicity, the “van Genuchten equations” are now universally used in numerical simulators of subsurface flow and transport processes.
Prof. van Genuchten is awarded the Wolf Prize for reshaping the disciplines of soil physics and vadose zone hydrology. He not only published hundreds of scientific journal papers but wrote user manuals of his many computer programs now being used worldwide. He brought enormous visibility and credibility to the agricultural sciences profession. He facilitated the formation of productive links between theoreticians and practitioners, young students and accomplished scientists, and institutions in developed and less-developed countries. For all his numerous contributions to agriculture, soil science, and hydrology, Prof. Genuchten receives the 2023 Wolf Prize in Agriculture.

Richard Long

Wolf Prize Laureate in Arts 2023

The 2023 Wolf Prize in the Arts is awarded to Fujiko Nakaya and Richard Long “for redefining the possibilities of art-making and transforming the parameters of visual art”.

 

Sir Richard Julian Long is an English sculptor and one of the best-known British land artists. He lives and works in Bristol, the city in which he was born. Long studied at the West of England College of Art (1962-1965) and continued his studies at the St. Martin’s School of Art and Design, London (1966-1968). Considered one of the most influential artists, Richard Long’s works have extended the possibilities of sculpture beyond traditional materials and methods. Long’s works engage with the landscape, investigating nature and his experience within nature. His work is typically displayed with materials or through documentary photographs of his performances and experiences.

When Richard Long was 18, he walked on the downs near his native Bristol. He began rolling a snowball through the snow, and when it became too big to push further, he took out his camera – then, instead of snapshotting the giant snowball, he photographed the dark meandering track it had left in the snow. This image, one of his earliest works of land art, was named “Snowball Track”. He was then a student at the West of England College of Art in Bristol, but he was dismissed from the course because his work was considered too provocative and perhaps ahead of its time.

Walking is central to Long’s work as a way of perceiving and recording landscape; early in his career, he established the precedent that art could be a journey and that a sculpture could be deconstructed over the distance of a journey. Walking as a medium has enabled him to articulate ideas about time and space. He seeks freedom of movement and expression and a balance with the natural world through a physical and personal engagement with the land, working with nature to reflect its impermanence and the changing processes of time. His beguilingly simple works commonly take the form of geometric shapes-circles, lines, ellipses, and spirals and use raw materials,
such as stones and driftwood, found along the way. These works are often simple interventions, marks of passage, and leave little or no trace, and are documented through photographs or text works that record his ideas, observations, and experiences.

Richard Long is awarded the Wolf Prize for being a pioneer of conceptual art centered on personal interaction with the natural world. In 1967, his work A Line Made by Walking introduced a contemporary reimagining of human experience in nature as a subject for art. Over the course of nearly six decades, his solitary walks throughout the world have generated a complex body of work comprising sculptures, photographs, drawings, and texts. The materials for these artworks, echoing the walks themselves, are nature-based: rocks and stones, logs and twigs, mud and soil. The tools of time-marking and map-making, place-naming and record-keeping all figure together to create works that commingle factual observation and artistic invention. Long’s deep engagement with the natural environment as process, subject, material, and vocabulary has established him as a key figure of his generation and one whose work resonates powerfully with present-day concerns.

Benjamin F. Cravatt III

Wolf Prize Laureate in Chemistry 2022

The 2022 Wolf Prize in Chemistry

is awarded to Professors Bassler, Bertozzi, and Cravatt

“for their seminal contributions to understanding the chemistry of cellular
communication and inventing chemical methodologies to study the role of
carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins in such biological processes”.

 

Cravatt, the Gilula Chair of Chemical Biology and Professor in the Department of Chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute. His research aims to understand proteins’ roles in human physiological and pathological processes and use this knowledge to identify novel therapeutic targets and drugs to treat diseases.

Cravatt was inspired to think about biology by his parents and credits his high school mathematics teachers for nurturing his interest in the quantitative sciences. Cravatt obtained his undergraduate education at Stanford University, receiving a B.Sc in Biology and a B.A. in History. He then received a Ph.D. from The Scripps Research
Institute (TSRI) in 1996 and joined the faculty at TSRI in 1997.

Bridging the fields of chemistry and biology, Cravatt and his research group have developed and applied technologies to discover biochemical pathways in mammalian biology and disease. Cravatt pioneered an approach to identify protein classes based on their activity. His multidisciplinary approach generates all tools and models required to assign molecular, cellular, and physiological functions to enzymes and, as an essential corollary, assess their suitability as therapeutic targets. He achieves a unique balance that cultivates the creation and rapid implementation of cutting-edge technologies to advance basic and translational science.

Cravatt’s work on the endocannabinoid system has radically changed the landscape of proteome analysis by demonstrating how innovative chemical methods can be used to broadly and deeply investigate protein function directly in native biological systems.

The chemical proteomic technology Activity-Based Protein Profiling (ABPP), pioneered by Cravatt employs chemical probes to directly measure enzyme function. For example, a fluorescent label may be used to tag enzymes with certain chemical properties, allowing scientists to survey all active enzymes in a cell at once, and to determine
the targets of drugs in a global manner directly in living systems.

Cravatt has used this and related chemical proteomic technologies to conduct global analyses of protein activities and to elucidate the functions of several enzymes, including those linked to human cancers, neurological disorders, and the endocannabinoid system, which consists of lipid transmitters involved in appetite regulation, pain sensation, mood, memory, and other physiological processes.

“Benjamin Cravatt is awarded the Wolf prize for developing activity-based protein profiling, which has emerged as a powerful and widely used chemical proteomic strategy to characterize enzyme function in native biological systems. He used this approach to characterize numerous enzymes which play critical roles in human biology and disease, including the endocannabinoid hydrolases whose lipid products regulate communication between cells.”

Pamela Ronald

Wolf Prize Laureate in Agriculture 2022

The Wolf Prize in Agriculture ‚2022‚ is awarded to professor Ronald

“for pioneering work on disease resistance and environmental stress tolerance in rice”.

 

Ronald, a distinguished professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and the Genome Center at the University of California, Davis. She also serves as the director of grass genetics at the Joint Bioenergy Institute in Emeryville, California, and as the faculty director of the UC Davis Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy.

One of the greatest challenges of our time is to feed the growing population without further destroying the environment. Because most of the world’s farmland is already under cultivation and fresh water is scarce, increased food production must largely take place more efficiently. To produce a successful crop each year, farmers must employ strategies to combat pests, diseases, and environmental stresses, which reduce global yields by 30-60% each year.

Ronald’s lab studies genes that control resistance to disease and tolerance of environmental stress with the goal of improving food security for the world’s poorest farmers. Together with her collaborators, she has engineered rice for resistance to disease and tolerance to flooding, which seriously threatens rice crops in Asia and Africa.

Pamela Ronald has spent three decades studying rice, a staple food for more than half of the world’s population. Her discoveries show an advanced understanding of fundamental biological processes and enhance sustainable agriculture and food security. Ronald’s team isolated a gene that allows rice to survive two weeks of flooding and increases yield by 60% compared with conventional varieties. Her research facilitated the development of flood-tolerant rice varieties now grown by more than 6 million subsistence farmers in India and Bangladesh, where 4 million tons of rice, enough to feed 30 million people, is lost each year to flooding.

Ronald’s isolation of the Xa21 immune receptor in 1995, the first member of this important class of receptors to be identified, revealed a new mechanism with which plants and animals detect and respond to infection. In 2015, her team isolated and characterized the receptor-ligand, a microbial immunogen, that triggers both developmental and immunological responses in the host. These breakthrough studies continue to have implications for studies of infectious diseases of both plants and animals.

Ronald is widely recognized for innovative and effective public engagement with the goal of advancing agricultural sustainability. Ronald’s lectures and writings, and in particular her book with her husband, Raoul Adamchak, established a new paradigm where biotechnologies and organic agriculture are integrated as a base for sustainable farming, and as a way of coexistence for environmentalists and technologists.