JJ gained his PhD in Cambridge at the Plant Breeding Institute in 1980 , and then spent 2 years as a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard with Fred Ausubel working on symbiotic nitrogen fixation. From 1983-1988 JJ worked as a Research Scientist with AGS, an agbiotech startup company in Oakland, California, before moving to the UK where he was one of the first recruits at the Sainsbury Laboratory in 1988. He was among the first to clone and study plant disease resistance genes. He is currently Head of the Sainsbury Laboratory.
JJ was elected a Professor at the University of East Anglia in 1997, a member of EMBO in 1998, and was elected Fel ow of the Royal Society in 2003. He is a highly cited plant esearcher [ http://in-cites.com/top/2007/first07-pla.html ]. He is a cofounder of Mendel iotechnology (www.mendelbio.com) and (with Cathie Martin) of Norfolk Plant Sciences, established to combine improved crop disease resistance with consumer benefits. His publications include:
- The plant immune system, Jones JD, Dangl JL. Nature. 2006 Nov; 444 (7117) 323-9
- Plant pathogens and integrated defence responses to infection, Dangl JL, Jones JD. Nature. 2001 Jun 14; 411 (6839): 826-33.
See also http://www.tsl.ac.uk
He also contributes to the public debate on GMOs.
Prospects for reducing crop losses to plant disease
Plant disease results in reduced crop yield. Crop plants can be attacked at any phase of their life cycle; during seedling establishment, plant maturation, or grain or fruit setting. Pathogens and pests include nematodes, insects, fungi, bacteria, oomycetes and even parasitic plants. A multibillion dollar crop protection industry provides chemicals that reduce losses, but these chemicals (i) add to farmer costs (ii) require tractor trips that emit CO2 and cost fuel (iii) create a selection pressure that results in emergence of pathogen races that are resistant tothe chemical.
Control of pathogens by resistance (R) genes in the crop plant is preferable to chemical control. I will discuss important crop diseases and how they may be more effectively controlled by R genes. It is clear that plant breeding has been effective in some crops for improving resistance, but it is also clear that GM methods, in combination with modern genomics methods, could greatly improve and accelerate the identification, recruitment and deployment of R genes to reduce crop losses. In particular, GM methods could accelerate the use of R genes from wild relatives of crop plants that are sexually incompatible with the crop, dramatically expanding the repertoireof Rgenes at our disposal.
World food production needs to increase. We no longer have the luxury of spurning GM methods because of purely hypothetical hazards. The Sainsbury Lab is committing its own resources to new methods that will accelerate isolation of R genes that can act against important crop diseases. However, this commitment may be in vain if the regulatory burdens for deploying GM crops are not reduced.