Disease Defense: Ohio State Scientist Honored for Helping Keep World's Rice Safe

Guo-Liang Wang

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Guo-Liang Wang, an Ohio State University scientist who is an international expert on the molecular genetics of host-plant resistance to plant diseases, especially in rice, yesterday (4/25) won the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s (OARDC) Senior Faculty Research Award.

The award honors outstanding achievements by an OARDC faculty member at the rank of professor.

OARDC is the research arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

Wang, who is a professor in CFAES’s Department of Plant Pathology, has successfully cloned genes for disease resistance in rice, which is a staple food for more than half the world’s population. The genes, which help reduce yield losses to such major rice diseases as Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryizae and Magnaporthe grisea, have since been incorporated into rice-breeding programs in Asia, Africa and South America.

Video (1:49): Guo-Liang Wang discusses his research to protect rice crops from plant diseases.

He is credited, too, for determining the role of epigenetic regulation in plant disease resistance -- epigenetics have to do with certain kinds of changes in the expression of genes -- and for pioneering the use of technologies called LongSASE, MPSS and SBS for defense transcriptome analysis -- a transcriptome being a complete set of an organism’s RNA molecules.

“He’s an outstanding scientist who’s at the forefront of global research on host-plant resistance to pathogens,” one of his nominators wrote. “He has made outstanding contributions in research, published heavily on his findings, advised numerous graduate students, received tremendous grant support and been an invited speaker around the world.”

His lab, according to its website, uses the disease called rice blast “as a model pathosystem to understand the molecular basis of plant-microbe interactions.”

Since joining OARDC in 1999, Wang has helped secure more than $39 million in funding from such sources as the National Science Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Agency for International Development and industry. About $6.9 million of that funding has directly supported his research program.

He has published 15 book chapters and 97 peer-reviewed scientific articles, including in such prestigious journals as Plant Cell, Genetics and The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

He also co-developed Ohio State’s first agricultural genomics course, helped organize the university’s Kowlett Seminar series on plant molecular biology and biotechnology, has advised 10 Ph.D. students and numerous undergraduate students, and has hosted 11 visiting international graduate students.

His previous honors include election as Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society in 2012, OARDC’s Junior Faculty Research Award in 2005, the Chinese National Science Foundation’s Outstanding Overseas Young Scientist Award in 2001, and DuPont’s Young Professor Award in 2000.

OARDC’s Senior Faculty Research Award carries with it a plaque, $1,000 for Wang and $3,000 added to the operating expenses budget of his OARDC research program. OARDC Director Steve Slack presented the award during the center’s April 25 annual research conference in Columbus.

In addition to Slack, the conference’s speakers included Bruce McPheron, Ohio State’s vice president for agricultural administration and dean of CFAES; OARDC Associate Director David Benfield; Henry Thompson, director of Colorado State University’s Cancer Prevention Laboratory; Steve Schwartz, Carl E. Haas Endowed Chair in Food Industries and director of CFAES’s Center for Advanced Functional Foods Research and Entrepreneurship (CAFFRE); and physician-scientist Dr. Steve Clinton, associate director of CAFFRE and molecular carcinogenesis and chemoprevention program leader at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The conference’s theme was “How Food Impacts Human Health.”

OARDC is the largest university agricultural bioscience research center in the U.S. The center works not just on food and farming but also, for instance, on biofuels, bioproducts, health, nutrition, sustainability and the environment.

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Kurt Knebusch


Steve Slack, OARDC Director