Wolf Prize Laureate in Agriculture 2013
Affiliation at the time of the award:
Rutgers University, USA
“for innovations in recombinant DNA cloning that revolutionized agriculture and deciphering the genetic codes of crop plants”.
Research of the two recipients is conducted at two distinctly different levels.
Professor Joachim Messing’s work emphasizes the micro level; gene function, gene cloning, gene sequencing – all geared towards crop understanding and agricultural improvement. This work contributed not only to the realization of the importance of unraveling plant genomes but publicly available tools were developed proving to be absolutely essential to feasibly conduct such studies. Methods were developed to harness plant gene biodiversity to improve utilization of plants as providers of food, feed and fiber. Prof Messing developed the unique “shotgun DNA sequencing” method, a pioneering cloning technology that served as the basis for analysis of large size genomes as found in crop plants. His consequent technological innovations allowed sequencing genomes of complex organisms, and particularly those of importance to agriculture. Importantly, Messing’s work was freely available to the public, thus he contributed directly to plant production, improved agronomic traits and food safety, and developed the necessary tools for such analyses that have been used by countless researchers. His contributions were critical for the development of Bt-resistant strains of maize and cotton that have been remarkably successful and still widely used. Recognizing the importance of maize in many diets, and its relatively poor protein content, he strived to improve the protein value of maize by developing improved maize cultivars with increased levels methionine and lysine. These improvements, too, have been made available without monetary compensation. As founder of the plant genome initiative at Rutgers (PGIR), he directly contributed to the genome sequencing of rice, sorghum and maize. The Wolf Prize in Agriculture is a worthy recognition of Joachim Messing’s contribution towards the quest to produce nutritious and safer food and is entirely consistent with the spirit of this award