Max Planck researcher Gal Ofir honored with Early Excellence in Science Award 2023

November 30, 2023

Molecular biologist Gal Ofir from the Max Planck Institute for Biology in Tübingen has been honored with the prestigious Early Excellence in Science Award for 2023 by the Bayer Foundation. Ofir uses both computational and experimental methods in the discovery of new immune mechanisms in bacteria and plants.

Together with the molecular biologist Rotem Sorek at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, Ofir’s research yielded a groundbreaking discovery – the mechanisms and biochemical actions of bacterial antiviral immune systems bear a striking resemblance to plant immune systems.

This discovery not only provides crucial insights into the evolution of bacteria and plants but also opens a door to significantly advance our understanding of the biological defense mechanisms in plants. The scientists’ newfound knowledge holds substantial relevance for innovative applications in environmentally friendly crop protection. Together with colleagues in the laboratory of Detlef Weigel at the Max Planck Institute for Biology Tübingen, Ofir is now pursuing a high-risk/high-reward research program to track down new immune genes in plant genomes.

“Our discovery that immune systems share unifying principles across the tree of life allows us to use what we already know about immunity – in bacteria, animals, humans or plants – to guide discovery of the unknown parts of immune systems, which are the fastest evolving and most innovative components of genomes,” Ofir summarizes.

The award will be formally presented at the foundation’s 2023 Science Award Celebration in Leverkusen, Germany, in February 2024.


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