The Cotton Biotechnology Award was endowed by a gift in 2000 from Dr. Norma Trolinder to recognize outstanding contributions in the field of biotechnology and to encourage and recognize education and scientific advancement. The award recognizes an individual or group for a major accomplishment or body of research. Nominations are sought and considered by a selection committee comprised of one representative from each of the following groups: USDA-ARS, university, private industry, Cotton Incorporated, and the most recent award recipient. All recipients of this award since inception are shown below.
Dr. Baohong Zhang
East Carolina University
Dr. Zhang has made unique and significant contributions to cotton biotechnology using genome editing and small regulatory RNAs. He was the first United States based researcher to publish on research that knocked out an endogenous gene in cotton using CRISPR/Cas 9 technology. Dr. Zhang used two molecular biology tools, CRISPR and VIGS, to develop a rapid method for studying gene function in cotton. His research will open a new paradigm for cotton improvement. Because of these contributions, he received the East Carolina University Lifetime Achievement for Research & Creative Activity Award in 2019 and the ICAC Cotton Researcher of the Year Award in 2018. He was also elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement the same year.
Dr. David M. Stelly
Texas A&M University
Commenting on the research efforts of Dr. Stelly, Dr. Jonathan Wendel of Iowa State University lauded his history of accomplishments: “His training was in classical plant cytogenetics, but over the years he has expanded into many different aspects of plant genomics, including comparative mapping, the development of new tools for germplasm characterization, the creation and genomic evaluation of chromosome substitution lines, and genome sequencing. Dr. Stelly has maintained a record of significant publication throughout his career, with more than 150 contributions to the scientific literature including many in high impact journals.”
Similar accolades came from Dr. Josh Udall, soon to be Research Leader at USDA-ARS in College Station, Texas and recipient of the award in 2014. “A consistent professional attribute that obvious to the cotton research community has been Dr. Stelly’s ability to work with others and establish collaborative research. These community building efforts include research projects in chromosome substitution lines, SNP markers, and genome sequencing to name a few. In each case, Dr. Stelly provided leadership and a collaborative vision that was always larger than his own professional aspirations”.
Dr. Z. Jeff Chen and Dr. Tianzhen Zhang
University of Texas & Nanjing Agricultural University
Commenting on the research efforts of Drs. Zhang and Chen, Dr. David Stelly of Texas A&M University lauded their accomplishment: “It is remarkable because of the complexity of the cotton genome, which is not only tetraploid, but riddled with extensive sequence redundancies from repetitive elements and residual duplications from multiple levels of paleopolyploidy. Each was jointly instrumental in leading this cotton genome sequence assembly project which involved 54 individuals at 11 institutions on 3 continents. It is a testament to their skill as global leaders in the development of genomic resources for cotton”.
Similar accolades came from Dr. Josh Udall, Associate Professor at Brigham Young University and recipient of the award last year. “Dr. Chen translates basic knowledge garnered in model organisms to the cotton system and was the first to investigate small RNAs in cotton and attribute their basic biological roles to important functions of cotton fiber. Dr. Zhang has authored numerous publications using DNA sequencing to investigate the genome of cotton. Because of his close ties to cotton breeders, he is a pioneer in functional genomics. Several of his recent efforts have cloned and sequenced genes contributing to the cotton phenotype”.
Dr. Josh Udall
Brigham Young University
Dr. Jonathan Wendel of Iowa State University commented on Dr. Josh Udall and lauded his leadership: “He has been a global leader in the development of genomic resources for cotton. Even more important than his role in generating genome sequences, Dr. Udall spearheads the development of the bioinformatic tools that are essential for actually using the genome sequences, and for understanding the complex architecture of the cotton genome. In this respect he is a shining star in cotton bioinformatics, leading the way in developing the software tools that are vital to modern cotton breeding programs.”
Similar accolades came from Drs. Candace Haigler, Professor of Crop Science and Plant Biology at North Carolina State University. “Dr. Udall has been developing genomic and bioinformatics resources on par with other model crops, keeping up with changes as the technology rapidly evolves”. Another North Carolina State University researcher, Associate Professor Dr. Vasu Kuraparthy, praised Dr. Udall for developing a software pipeline which addresses genome annotation, SNP index creation, and analysis of the genotyping by sequencing (GBS) data currently being generated in the cotton Nested Association Mapping (NAM) population effort. Dr. Udall’s innovative data analysis pipeline includes software developed with names such as PolyCat, PolyDog, and BamBam.
Cotton Incorporated provides financial support for Dr. Udall’s research. He recently was also awarded a National Science Foundation Plant Genome Program grant.
Dr. Andrew Paterson, Dr. Jonathan Wendel, Mr. Jeremy Schmutz, Dr. Dan Peterson, and Dr. Dan Rokhsar
This diverse and talented team led the collaborative community effort to complete the first ‘gold standard’ Gossypium genome sequence. The gold standard Gossypium raimondii genome sequence provides the reference blueprint that will revolutionize cotton genetic improvement in the next 5-10 years.
Over 10 years ago, the cotton research community began a conversation to determine the appropriate path forward to sequence the genomes of Gossypium. At the time, the community, via the International Cotton Genome Initiative, held open dialogue and ultimately determined a path forward. The consensus decision was to first sequence the diploid progenitor ancestors of Upland cotton. In concert with this community-based recommendation, this group of five from diverse scientific disciplines spearheaded the effort that was published in Nature on December 20, 2012. This landmark paper is the first cotton centric research to be published in this prestigious journal in over 50 years.
Dr. Robert Wright, Professor at Texas Tech University, pointed out the leadership this group exhibited in the effort: “Many individuals contributed to the background knowledge that led to this research, however, these five were the core group that contributed most significantly to the project, the interpretation of data, and writing of the Nature manuscript.” Similar accolades came from Dr. Josh Udall, Professor at Brigham Young University. “This gold standard sequence will be a meaningful foundation for all future genetic and biotechnological improvements of cotton and the significance of its publication cannot be overstated. For example, we now have a finite count, position, and genomic context for genes within a cotton plant.”
Dr. Paterson is Regents Professor and Director of the Plant Genome Mapping Laboratory at the University of Georgia, Dr. Wendel is Distinguished Professor and Department Chair of Ecology, Evolution, & Organismal Biology at Iowa State University, Mr. Schmutz is faculty investigator at HudsonAlpha and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute, Dr. Dan Peterson is Director of Mississippi State’s Institute for Genomics, Biocomputing and Biotechnology, and Dr. Daniel Rokhsar is Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California – Berkeley.