Detlef Weigel, Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, is being awarded with the Novozymes Prize for his groundbreaking basic research that has led to new knowledge of the genetic structure of plants. The prize particularly honors findings that have led to applications in biotechnology and plant breeding. It is endowed with 3 million Danish kroner (approx. 400,000 Euros).
One of his research focuses is the use of genomics technologies to study the developmental-genetic toolkit of model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. His findings enabled researchers worldwide to a more detailed understanding of the variation in plant genomes, with great potential to help to prevent diseases and increase crop yields.
Basic research in the face of global climate change
Arabidopsis thaliana has also formed the basis for Detlef Weigel’s recent basic research achievements on how plants react to climate change. According to him, plants in central Europe basically have no genetic toolkit to cope with extended drought, whereas the plants in the Mediterranean are already well equipped to deal with drought. Similar considerations almost certainly apply to crops, and this apparent danger has led the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to specifically mention the potential of modern breeding technology and genome editing to help plants to adapt faster to global change.
“Evolution may not work rapidly enough to save these plants, but we are fortunate since we now have genomic technologies that give these plants a head start. Just as genome editing is revolutionizing medicine and animal breeding, it is a revolutionary technology for plants. However, our first priority must be to stop climate change”, comments Detlef Weigel.
About the Novozymes Prize
The Prize is awarded to recognize a pioneering research effort or a technological contribution that promotes the development of biotechnology science to generate innovative solutions. Prize recipients must be employed at a public or non-profit research institution in a European country. The Committee on the Novozymes Prize awards the Prize on behalf of the Novo Nordisk Foundation.
The award will be presented during an official ceremony on 27 March this year in Bagsvaerd, Denmark.