Two Blades Foundation

David Baulcombe is a Royal Society Research Professor and the Regius Professor of Botany in the Plant Sciences Department of the University of Cambridge. He was a student in Botany at Leeds (BSc) and Edinburgh (PhD) Universities. After periods in Montreal, the University of Georgia and the Cambridge Plant Breeding Institute, he spent 20 years at the Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich. He joined Cambridge University in 2007.  Sir David is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a foreign associate member of the US National Academy of Sciences. His awards include the 2006 Royal Medal of the Royal Society, the 2008 Lasker Award for basic biomedical sciences, the Wolf Prize for Agriculture in 2010 and the 2012 Balzan Prize. He was knighted in June 2009.  Sir David's interests center on gene silencing and epigenetics – the science of how nurture can influence nature. These topics link to disease resistance in plants and understanding of hybrids including hybrid crops. He is also interested in the application of science to develop sustainable agriculture. He is a member of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and in 2009 he chaired a Royal Society policy study on the contribution of biological science to food crop productivity.

James C. Carrington joined the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center as president in 2011.  Previously he served as the Director of the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing, the Stewart Professor for Gene Research, and Distinguished Professor of Botany and Plant Pathology at Oregon State University.  He received his doctorate in Plant Pathology from the University of California, Berkeley, and began his prominent career as a professor in the Department of Biology at Texas A&M University, where he stayed for nine years. Dr. Carrington also served on the faculty at Washington State University before his tenure at OSU. His awards include the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation, the Ruth Allen Award from the American Society for Phytopathology and the Humboldt Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He has been elected a Member of the National Academies of Science and a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, the American Phytopathological Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Jeff Dangl is currently a HHMI-GBMF Plant Science Investigator.  He is also the John N. Couch Professor of Biology and a member of the UNC Curriculum in Genetics.  He received dual Bachelor’s degrees in Biology and English (Modern Literature) form Stanford University in 1981.  He received his Ph.D. in 1986 for work concerning structure-function relationships among of chimaeric monoclonal antibodies from the Genetics Department of the Stanford Medical School.  In 1986, Dr. Dangl was awarded an NSF Plant Biology Fellowship to pursue post-doctoral research at the Max Planck Institute of Plant Breeding in Cologne, Germany, in the department of Prof. Klaus Hahlbrock.  In 1989, he began his own group at the Max Delbrück Laboratory, also in Cologne.  In 1995, the Dangl lab moved to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  The Dangl lab has contributed significantly to the use of Arabidopsis genetics as a tool to analyze plant-pathogen interactions.  Dr. Dangl is an elected member of the US National Academy of Sciences (2007) and the German Academy of Sciences (“Die Leopoldina”, 2003).  He is a past member of the National Research Council’s Board of Life Sciences  and is a past member of the North American Arabidopsis Steering Committee (elected) and the NSF ‘Eukaryotic Genetics’ and NIH ‘Genetics, Variation and Evolution’ grant panels. He currently a member of the reviewing editorial boards of Science, Cell, PNAS and PLoS Biology and served as co-Editor in Chief of Current Opinions in Plant Biology. Research in the Dangl lab is funded by HHMI-GBMF NIH, NSF, and DOE.

Jeff Ellis leads a research group in CSIRO Plant Industry, Australia that was among the first to clone and characterize plant disease resistance genes and describe their products as a new class of nucleotide binding site-leucine rich repeat proteins.  His laboratory developed the Activator tagging system for cloning of the L6 and M rust resistance genes in flax in 1994 and 1997.  L6 was one of the first cloned R genes.  Since this time, the group has isolated a number of further genes that control other rust resistance specificities and have investigated the molecular basis of gene-for-gene resistance specificity through the study of chimeric L alleles in transgenic flax, showing that the leucine-rich repeat region is the main player.  Dr. Ellis and his research team remain one of the leading laboratories in plant disease resistance research and this team has recently isolated and characterized the flax rust avirulence genes that correspond to the flax L5, L6 L7 and M resistance genes and using yeast two hybrid analysis, demonstrated that there is direct interaction between L6 and AvrL567 proteins.  In addition to working with the model flax-flax rust system and the fundamental basis of rust resistance, the Ellis group has a strong grains industry focus on the delivery of improved rust resistance in wheat through increased efficiency of resistance breeding based on gene cloning and transfer and DNA marker technology.  Dr. Ellis was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in May, 2009.

Jonathan D G Jones FRS is a leading researcher in plant/microbe interactions.  He graduated in Botany from the Cambridge Natural Sciences tripos (1976) and completed his Ph.D. on cereal chromosomes supervised by Dick Flavell at the Plant Breeding Institute, Trumpington, in 1980.  Dr. Jones was a postdoctoral fellow with Fred Ausubel at Harvard University in 1981 and 1982, working on symbiotic nitrogen fixation.  From 1983-1988, he worked in the private sector at a startup agbiotech company (Advanced Genetic Sciences, Oakland, California) founded to exploit new developments in molecular biology for crop improvement.  In 1988, he moved to the UK to be one of the first recruits at The Sainsbury Laboratory, John Innes Centre, where he is currently Head of Laboratory.  After publishing many papers on plant resistance genes and mechanisms, his research now emphasizes investigating the effector complements of the oomycete pathogens Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis and Albugo candida using next-generation sequencing methods.  Dr. Jones has co-founded 2 companies; Mendel Biotechnology, founded in 1997 to carry out genomics experiments to discover and exploit key regulators of crop productivity, and Norfolk Plant Sciences Ltd, to combine health promoting traits and disease resistance traits in potato and tomato.  Dr. Jones was elected a Professor at the University of East Anglia in 1997, a member of EMBO in 1998, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 2003.  He currently participates in the Royal Society working group on food security.  Dr. Jones has posted comments at the Guardian “Comment is free” website.

Dr. Kamoun joined The Sainsbury Laboratory in 2007 and rose to Head of Laboratory in 2009. Dr. Kamoun received his B.S. degree from Pierre and Marie Curie University, and his Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of California at Davis in 1991. He then was a postdoctoral fellow at the NSF Center for Engineering Plants for Resistance Against Pathogens, UC Davis, and at the Department of Phytopathology, Wageningen University, Netherlands. From 1998-2007, Dr. Kamoun carried out research on oomycete molecular genetics on the faculty at the Ohio State University, Department of Plant Pathology, Wooster campus. At the Sainsbury Laboratory, Dr. Kamoun continues to exploit genomics resources to improve understanding of plant pathosystems, unravel novel processes and concepts in plant-microbe interactions, and devise original disease management strategies based on the gained knowledge. Throughout his career, Dr. Kamoun made a number of significant contributions to the science of molecular plant pathology. He pioneered the use of functional genomics strategies that link plant pathogen sequences to phenotypes and is credited with discovering several effector families from pathogenic oomycetes. Dr. Kamoun has also led community efforts to sequence and analyze the genome of the Irish potato famine pathogen Phytophthora infestans and continues to be actively involved in a variety of pathogenomics projects. His work on oomycete effector biology and pathogenomics has resulted in new approaches to breeding disease resistant crops. Dr. Kamoun received the American Phytopathological Society Syngenta Award in 2003, the Ohio State University Pomerene Teaching Award in 2004, the WE. Krauss Award for Excellence in Graduate Research Mentorship in 2006, the Daiwa Adrian Prize in 2010, and was elected to the Academia Europaea in 2011. He received a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Investigator Award in 2011.

Paul Schulze-Lefert was trained in biochemistry and genetics at Marburg, Freiburg, and Cologne Universities, Germany.  After a Ph.D. thesis on cis-and trans-active factors regulating plant gene expression in response to light, he became interested in fundamental processes controlling plant microbe interactions.  Major research areas are the innate immune system of plants, mechanisms of fungal pathogenesis, defense suppression, and the molecular basis of biotrophic lifestyle.  Dr. Schulze-Lefert worked from 1989 to 1990 as postdoctoral fellow in Francesco Salamini’s department at the MPIZ Cologne on the development of DNA marker technologies in plant genomes.  In 1991 he started his own research group at the RWTH Aachen with a focus on plant disease resistance mechanisms to fungal pathogens.  From 1995 to 2000, he held a senior research position and supervised a research team in the Sainsbury Laboratory at the John Innes Centre, England.  Since 2000 he is head of the Department of Plant Microbe Interactions at the Max-Planck-Institut für Züchtungsforschung (MPIZ), Cologne, and Honorary Professor at the University of Cologne since 2003.  Dr. Schulze-Lefert is an elected EMBO member since 2006.  In 2010 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, USA, and to the "Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina", Germany.  He was elected Fellow to the American Academy of Microbiology in 2011.  Much of his current work is dedicated to bridging traditional research areas like genetics, biochemistry, and cell biology in the endeavor of increasing our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that control plant microbe interactions. 

Brian John Staskawicz, Ph.D. is the Maxine J. Elliot Professor and Chair of the Plant and Microbial Biology Department at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Staskawicz received his Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley, M.S. from Yale University and B.A. from Bates College.  Dr. Staskawicz is recognized as a world leading plant molecular pathologist.  His contributions include cloning the first bacterial effector gene and plant disease resistant genes.  His current work involves elucidation of the molecular basis of plant innate immunity in both the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the agronomically important plant tomato.  He was elected a member of National Academy of Sciences in 1998 and is a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society and American Academy of Microbiology.  Dr. Staskawicz is the recipient of a number of awards, including being named a Fulbright Scholar in 1991, the American Phytopathological Society’s Ruth Allen Award in 1995, the U.S.D.A. Honors Award in 1995 and American Phytopathological Society’s Noel T. Keen Award for Excellence in Molecular Plant Pathology in 2004.  Dr. Staskawicz serves as an external advisor to the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, England and the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing at Oregon State University.  He also serves as an editor for P.N.A.S., Cell Host-Microbe, and Current Opinion in Plant Biology.