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Baulcombe to receive first McClintock Prize

Athens, Ga. – Sir David C. Baulcombe, University of Cambridge, U.K., is the first recipient of the McClintock Prize for Plant Genetics and Genome Studies awarded by the Maize Genetics Executive Committee. The announcement was made Dec. 18 by Jeff Bennetzen, chair of the committee and the Norman and Doris Giles Professor of Genetics and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar at the University of Georgia.

This inaugural award was presented to Baulcombe in recognition of his career of scientific accomplishments. His work includes the characterization of mechanisms of viral pathogenesis in plants and identification of virus resistance genes. He also recognized the importance of gene silencing as a natural antiviral defense mechanism. In addition, he revealed many aspects of gene silencing mechanisms relevant to all eukaryotes, including the discovery of short silencing RNA molecules, a pivotal discovery in the RNAi field. Baulcombe was a postdoctoral fellow at UGA from 1979 to 1980.

“This award is in recognition of Baulcombe’s exceptional contributions in the field of plant epigenetics, a field where [Barbara] McClintock was one of the earliest pioneers,” said Bennetzen.

Barbara McClintock (1902-1992), one of the foremost women scientists in 20th century America, is most noted for her pioneering research on transposable elements in maize. For this work she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1983. She was the third woman to receive an unshared Nobel Prize in the sciences.

The Maize Genetics Executive Committee awards the Barbara McClintock Prize for Plant Genetics and Genome Studies in memory of McClintock’s many contributions. The prize will be awarded annually to one of the most creative minds and productive scientists in the study of plant genome structure, function and evolution, including the analysis of gene regulation and epigenetics.

It is the mission of the Maize Genetics Executive Committee to identify both the needs and the opportunities for maize genetics, and to communicate this information to the broadest possible life science community. This community includes scientists, funding sources for scientists, and the end users for the accomplishments of maize genetics, from farmers to consumers.