Peter M. Biggs
Wolf Prize Laureate in Agriculture 1989
Peter M. Biggs
Affiliation at the time of the award:
Agricultural and Food Research Council
Institute for Animal Health, United Kingdom
“for distinguished contributions to basic science and its successful translation into practice in the fields of animal health and crop protection”.
Dr. Peter M. Biggs has carried out pioneering work on virus-induced tumors in domestic poultry, which were a major problem in intensive production systems. Work in his laboratory showed that both retroviruses and herpes viruses were implicated in these diseases. Work in other laboratories over the same period showed that the avian retroviruses could be divided into several sub-groups with resistance in the last being controlled by a single recessive gene. This work led to the development of methods for the selection of genetically determined resistant breeding stocks. Work on the epidemiology and pathology of the most severe forms of lymphoids tumors in poultry known as Marek´s disease after the author of the initial description of the condition, showed it to be due to an unusual type of herpes virus with a high affinity for cell binding. Further development of these findings led to the development of a novel vaccine which was in fact the first effective vaccine against a tumor condition in any species. This vaccine is now used for protection against Marek´s disease throughout the world where extensive poultry production is carried out. Throughout his career Professor Biggs has made major contributions and is a recognized leader in the field of animal health, having established and encouraged the use of the techniques of genetic engineering and biotechnology for the study of infectious diseases.