Trieste, Italy, 26 April 2007. An eminent Mexican biologist, whose research helped to spur the creation of the first genetically modified plants, and an internationally renowned Indian chemist, whose innovative laboratory techniques have led to the synthesis of more than 50 natural products, have been awarded the Trieste Science Prize for 2007.
The Trieste Science Prize, administered by TWAS and funded by illycaff, provides international recognition to outstanding scientists living and working in the developing world. Winners share a US$100,000 cash award.
Luis Rafael Herrera-Estrella, director of the National Laboratory for Genomics of Biodiversity and professor of plant genetic engineering at the Centre of Research and Advanced Studies in Irapuato, Mexico, helped to pioneer the field of plant molecular biology and genetic engineering. Plant transformation techniques developed by Herrera-Estrella and his colleagues have had a significant impact on the commercial production of genetically modified (transgenic) plants currently grown on more than 100 million hectares worldwide.
Herrera-Estrella's work has largely focused on crop species of economic importance to Latin America, including asparagus, maize and papaya. In addition, his analysis of the molecular mechanisms of toxins, produced by the disease-causing bacterium Pseudomonas syringae pv phaseolicola, has led to the development of transgenic beans resistant to the disease.
Herrera-Estrella has recently turned his attention to understanding the molecular mechanisms that make it possible for plants to tolerate toxic concentrations of aluminum and, more generally, that enable plants to adapt to nutrient-deficient soils. This is a critically important issue in Latin America, where some 500 million hectares of farmland are deficient in phosphorus, an essential nutrient for healthy plant growth and crop production.
Goverdhan Mehta, CSIR Bhatnagar fellow and honor
Contact: Daniel Schaffer
Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics