Wolf Prize Laureate in Agriculture 2014
Affiliation at the time of the award:
University of California Davis, USA
“for providing groundbreaking contributions to plant and animal sciences, respectively, by using modern technologies of genomic research”.
For providing groundbreaking contributions to , by using modern genomic tools, was able to clone important genes in wheat, study their allelic variation and incorporate the best alleles into outstanding wheat varieties. This combined basic and applied approach was able to dramatically improve the nutritional value of wheat, and the impact of the discoveries was increased when they were made available to the scientific community.
The list of traits investigated by Prof. Dubcovsky reveals many genes that have direct effect of wheat yield, such as cold tolerance, grain nutritional value and many more. Impressively, this list includes more than half of the wheat genes cloned worldwide! These achievements are truly impressive when considering the size of the wheat genome, its polyploidy nature and unto fore lack of sequenced genome. To promote the creation of genomic tools for cloning wheat, his group was directly responsible for providing the primary technology to make positional cloning feasible (gene libraries). These libraries were made available worldwide. Currently his laboratory has developed, for the first time, a technology that allows to knock out any wheat gene.
One of Prof. Dubcovsky major scientific contributions has been to discover the genes in wheat governing flowering, their regulation allelic variation and consequently generated an integrated model of flowering regulation in temperate cereals. The genetic markers for the flowering genes are being employed worldwide for breeding programs. From a practical point of view, the most significant contribution of Prof. Dubcovsky has been the discovery of the high-grain protein content gene. Expression or re-introduction of this gene to wheat raises its zinc and protein content by 10-15%. This discovery is of major international impact due to global zinc deficiency and lack of protein in foods for infant nutrition. This discovery and application earned him the “2007 Discovery Award” from the USDA, and the 2009 “Hoagland Award” from the American Society of Plant Biologists.