Harris Lewin, newly appointed vice chancellor of research at the University of California, Davis, has been named a recipient of the 2011 Wolf Prize in Agriculture.
Lewin, a UC Davis alumnus who is currently an animal sciences professor at the University of Illinois, shares the prize with James R. Cook of Washington State University. Lewin will assume his new post at UC Davis on March 30.
The $100,000 Wolf Prizes are awarded annually by the Wolf Foundation to outstanding scientists and artists in the fields of agriculture, chemistry, physics, mathematics, medicine and the arts. This year the prizes were awarded internationally to 11 individuals.
Wolf Prize laureates will receive their awards May 29 from the president of Israel and Israel’s minister of education during a ceremony at the Knesset Building in Jerusalem.
In selecting Lewin, the Wolf Foundation committee wrote: “Through studies on genetics and genomic studies in cattle, Prof. Lewin has greatly expanded our understanding of immunogenetics and disease resistance. Lewin has led efforts to establish research and programs that ensure training of the next generation of animal scientists.”
Lewin has been a member of the faculty of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, for 26 years and is founding director of its Institute for Genomic Biology, which was established in 2003. He was part of an international team that sequenced the cow genome in 2009. His research has been directed at understanding how mammalian genomes evolve, and the relationship between chromosome evolution and cancer.
Lewin, who earned his doctorate in immunology at UC Davis in 1984, established the immunology program in the animal sciences department at the University of Illinois to study genes associated with immune responses of cattle to infectious diseases. Research from that program led to the identification of genes that confer resistance to the bovine leukemia virus and to a patent on a method for detecting animals that can pass resistance to the disease to their offspring.
His research group pioneered technology for functional genomics in cattle, and he has made significant contributions to the understanding of mammalian chromosome evolution.
Five annual Wolf Prizes have been awarded since 1978, to outstanding scientists and artists. A total of 262 scientists and artists from 23 countries have been honored with this prestigious prize.
The Wolf Foundation was established in 1975 by the late German-born inventor, diplomat and philanthropist Dr. Ricardo Wolf. A resident of Cuba for many years, he became Fidel Castro's ambassador to Israel, where he lived until his death in 1981.