Wolf Prize Laureate in Agriculture 1989
Affiliation at the time of the award:
Agricultural and Food Research Council
Institute of Arable Crops Research, United Kingdom
“for distinguished contributions to basic science and its successful translation into practice in the fields of animal health and crop protection”.
Dr. Michael Elliot has demonstrated scientific vision in the field of crop protection against insects. In the 1940´s he recognized that the naturally occurring insecticidal compounds of plant in the Composite (Sunflower family) Chrysanthemum cinevariaefolium known as pyrethroids had important crop protective potential but suffered from serious disadvantages of lack of potency, stability and selectivity. He, therefore, embarked on an imaginative program for the development of synthetic analogues of the naturally occurring compounds and produced two, resmethrin (1962) and bioresmethrin (1985) which had greatly enhanced potency and insect specificity, combined with low mammalian toxicity. These compounds were particularly effective for use in domestic and stored products, but were photodegradable and therefore relatively ineffective under the field conditions. By 1973 Dr. Elliott had produced further analogues which combined crop surface stability and insecticidal potency with exceptionally low mammalian toxicity; they also had the advantage over the organochlorine insecticides of being readily biodegradable in the soil without the formation of toxic residues. These compounds have proved to be of enormous economic Importance in the protection of a very wide variety of herbaceous and tree crops. At the fundamental level Dr. Elliott’s work has made possible the establishment of relationships between chemical structure and insecticidal activity in pyrethroids; improved the understanding of factors which determine photostability selectivity and mammalian toxicity and provided a series of steroisomers with contrasting insecticidal activities which are proving to be powerful tools for neurophysiological “site of action’ studies.