University of Illinois animal sciences professor Harris Lewin is a recipient of the 2011 Wolf Prize in Agriculture. He shares the prize with James R. Cook, of Washington State University.
The $100,000 Wolf Prizes are awarded each year, with recipients in agriculture, chemistry, physics, mathematics, medicine and the arts. The prize committee selected Lewin for his "highly significant discoveries" in the field of animal agriculture.
"Through studies on genetics and genomic studies in cattle, Prof. Lewin has greatly expanded our understanding of immunogenetics and disease resistance," the committee wrote in an announcement on the Wolf Prize website.
Lewin has directed the Institute for Genomic Biology since its founding in 2003. He was part of an international team that sequenced the cow genome in 2009, and is widely known for his research in comparative mammalian genomics and immunogenetics. He established the immunology program in the department of animal sciences to study genes associated with immune responses of cattle to infectious diseases, which led to the identification of genes conferring resistance to the bovine leukemia virus and to a patent on a method to detect 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.
Lewin, a native New Yorker, earned his doctorate in immunology at the University of California at Davis in 1984. He has been at Illinois since then, and holds the Gutgsell Endowed Chair in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. He is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry, and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Lewin announced earlier this year that he will leave Illinois this spring to become vice chancellor for research at his alma mater, UC Davis.
Wolf Prize laureates receive their awards from the president of Israel. The award presentation ceremony will be May 29 at the Knesset Building in Jerusalem.