Wolf Prize Laureate in Agriculture 2010
Sir David Baulcombe
Affiliation at the time of the award:
University of Cambridge, UK
“for pioneering discovery of gene regulation by small inhibitory RNA molecules in plants is of profound importance, not only for agriculture, but also for biology as a whole, including the field of medicine”.
David Baulcombe’s (born in 1952, Britain) pioneering discovery of gene regulation by small inhibitory RNA molecules in plants is one of the most remarkable discoveries in biology in recent times. He made his discoveries working with plant viruses, where he demonstrated how plants use these small RNA molecules to defend themselves against virus attack, through a mechanism now known as ‘gene silencing.’ Of equal importance, in practical terms, his work shows how viruses counter attack to overcome the defense mechanism used by plants. Through his discoveries, Dr. Baulcombe has revealed the potential for an entirely new approach to crop breeding of plants that are resistant to viruses. Even more importantly, he has led to an entirely new approach to the control of gene expression, with applications not only to plants, but also to animals, as well as to human medicine. As evidence of the scientific and practical significance of his research, in 2005, Sir Baulcombe was ranked as one of the ten most cited researchers in the world, in the plant and animal sciences.
A Fellow of the Royal Society, Dr. Baulcombe has served science and the scientific community generously and broadly, including as editor, or member of the editorial boards of the world’s ten leading scientific journals in plant and cell biology and genetics; as advisor in plant biology and genetics research to dozens of national and international institutes and programs worldwide; and as president of the International Society of Plant Molecular Biology. Among his other awards, for his paradigm-shifting discoveries, Dr. Baulcombe was elected as a Foreign Associate of the U.S National Academy of Sciences (2005); received the Royal Medal from the Royal Society (2006); and shared the Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research (2008). In 2009, he was bestowed with one of] the highest British honor for the civil service, with a Knighthood. Dr. Baulcombe currently serves as Professor of Botany and Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Cambridge.