Professor Jonathan Jones of The Sainsbury Laboratory on the Norwich Research Park in the UK has been selected as the recipient of the 2012 E.C. Stakman Award, for his outstanding achievements in the field of plant pathology.
Professor Jones has made numerous and sustained contributions to the science of plant pathology. His group was among the first to isolate and characterize a plant disease resistance gene. By cloning the Cf-9 gene in 1994, he was the first to demonstrate that resistance induced in plants towards pathogens is based on specific classes of innate immune receptors. His work preceded the 1996 discovery of innate immune receptors in animal systems, which was recognized by the 2011 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology. In essence, Professor Jones’ discovery that an R gene codes for a receptor-like protein was a validation of the concept of gene-for-gene and elicitor-receptor interactions that originated from the work E.C. Stakman, Harold Flor, and other pioneers of plant pathology.
“Jonathan has played a leading role in plant molecular genetics for over 25 years, pioneering our understanding of plant disease resistance,” said Professor Sophien Kamoun, head of The Sainsbury Laboratory. “He continues to break new ground in this highly competitive field, with broad ranging discoveries on plant immunity and mechanisms of pathogenesis. He also deserves kudos for his important conceptual contributions to the plant-microbe interactions field and his public stand on plant biotechnology issues.”
Professor Jones has been a strong advocate of the use of transgenic approaches to control plant diseases, to ensure that his research can be applied to solve serious problems of disease in agriculture, and so be of greatest benefit worldwide. A field trial of late blight-resistant potatoes is testament to this practical approach and his efforts to engage with the public, media, farmers and NGOs during this trial have typified his open approach to talking about GM and plant biotechnology.
Jonathan Jones completed his Ph.D. in Plant Genetics at Peterhouse, Cambridge University in 1980. After completing his doctorate, he accepted a Post-doctoral Research Fellowship working on symbiotic nitrogen fixation with Professor Fred Ausubel at Harvard University. He then worked at Advanced Genetic Sciences (AGS), a startup agbiotech company, and in 1988 he joined the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, UK.
Professor Jones was elected a member of European Molecular Biology Organization in 1998, and Fellow of the Royal Society in 2003. He is one of the most highly cited plant and animal scientists.
The E.C. Stakman Award is presented by the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Minnesota to individuals of any country and nationality for outstanding achievements in plant pathology.