Leif Andersson was chosen as a recipient of the 2014 Wolf Prize in Agriculture, an award that will grant him $100,000. According to the Wolf Foundation’s announcement on Thursday, Andersson, a scientist from Uppsala University, Sweden, who is currently a faculty fellow at Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study (TIAS), will be sharing the award, as well as the prize, with Jorge Dubcovsky, from the University of California, Davis. Both Andersson and Dubcovsky are being honored for their use of cutting-edge genomic technologies that contribute to animal and plant research, respectively. The Wolf Prize is often referred to as equivalent to the Nobel Prize.
Professor and director of the Whole Systems Genomic Initiative at Texas A&M David Threadgill told the TAMU Times that Andersson is “highly deserving” of the Wolf Prize in Agriculture. “He is the leading geneticist using the latest genomic tools to reveal the genetic control of many important production traits in agricultural animals. There is no other scientist who has been as successful over the last 10 years as Dr. Andersson has been in studying many different species and traits”, Threadgill said.
Andersson has been collaborating as a TIAS fellow with the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) since November 2013. According to the TAMU Time, his research involves comparing the genomes of many species of domestic animals to discover the molecular mechanisms and underlying traits that are important to human and veterinary medicine. Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, who initiated the investment in TIAS, said to this publication that Dr. Andersson’s work “will influence the future of sustainable food production for the entire world.”
In order to identify the genes and mutations that affect specific traits, Andersson analyzes interbreeding among species of domestic animals. This research has led to the development of genomic and marker-assisted selection, as a means to identify breeding stock with specific useful and economically important characteristics. These advances in livestock selection have replaced the more classic selection methods based on visible traits, and are an essential contribution to sustainable feeding of a growing world population.
One area of Andersson’s research with potential crossover to humans is his work on the genetic basis of muscle physiology and motor coordination in horses. This has led to insights into how their genes affect gait. These discoveries may also have important implications for human diseases such as cerebral palsy.
For Eleanor M. Green, Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Andersson’s international reputation and expertise in functional genomics, combined with the world-class genomics faculty already in place at the CVM, “will be integral in fostering innovative One Health collaborations and leading-edge discovery”.
The new Wolf Prize laureates will receive their awards in May from the president of Israel, Shimon Peres, and Israel’s minister of education, Shai Piron, during a ceremony at the seat of Israel´s Parliament in Jerusalem, the Knesset Building.
Since 1978, five or six Wolf Prizes have been awarded annually to outstanding individuals in the fields of agriculture, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, physics, and the arts. A total of 253 scientists and artists from 23 countries have been honored to date. This year, five prizes were awarded to eight individuals in four countries. Andersson is the fourth agriculture winner of the Wolf Prize associated with Texas A&M; Perry Adkisson won in 1995, James Womack in 2001, and Fuller Bazer in 2002.
According to John Junkins, distinguished professor of aerospace engineering, and founding director of TIAS, of the first 15 scholars that this institute has brought to Texas A&M, two have won the Nobel Prize, one has been awarded the National Medal of Science, not to mention Dr. Andersson.
The prizes are given by the Wolf Foundation, established in 1975 by Ricardo Wolf, a German-born inventor, diplomat, and philanthropist, who lived the last few years of his life in Israel. The winners are chosen by international prize committees made up of experts in each field.
A world-renowned scientist who has published more than 330 scientific articles and has received six patents and filed applications for two more, Andersson directed the Animal Genetics component of the Nordic Centre of Excellence in Disease Genetics (NCoEDG) that was in operation until 2011 and his research group has done pioneering work in this field. NCoEDG involved investigators from Denmark, Finland, and Sweden working in five Nordic Universities pooling their expertise, methodological power, and resources to study the genetic background of metabolic syndrome, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, and colon cancer. Andersson’s expertise in animal model development and experience with multi-institutional collaborative research in NCoEDG can provide exceptional insights as the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences positions itself to become a major contributor to the WSGI and the One Health program.
You can learn more about the Texas A&M Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences on their website.