The plant biologist Joanne Chory, director of the Salk Institute in La Jolla (USA) and member of the Leopoldina, has been awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. She was given the prize for her pioneering work in deciphering how plants optimize their growth, development and cell structure in order to transform sunlight into chemical energy. The award ceremony took place during a gala in Silicon Valley on 3 December 2017.
Joanne Chory´s work has greatly contributed to the identification of plant hormones. She investigates the natural variations in plant species as well as the reactions of plants to different light and temperature conditions. Her studies have furthered the understanding of how plants adapt to climate change. Chory´s laboratory has made a significant contribution to the decoding of three important plant hormones. For example, she and her colleagues explained how plants produce the important growth hormone auxin.
Chory studied biology at Oberlin College in Ohio (USA) and obtained her doctorate in microbiology from the University of Illinois. From 1984 to 1988 she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard Medical School. Since 1988, she is at the Plant Biology Laboratory, Salk Institute in La Jolla, first as Assistant and Associate Professor, from 1998 on as Full Professor and Director of the Plant Biology Laboratory. Since 1997, she is an Investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute and, since 1994, Adjunct Professor at the University of California, San Diego. The Leopoldina elected Chory to the Organic and Evolutionary Biology Section in 2008.
The Breakthrough Prize has been awarded every year since 2013. Each prize is endowed with 3 million US dollars. It is thereby the highest endowed science prize that can be awarded to an individual person. This year´s prizewinners also include another member of the Leopoldina in the person of Peter Walter. There are now five Leopoldina members that have received this award.