Marc Van Montagu

Marc Van Montagu (born 10 November 1933 in Ghent) is a Belgian molecular biologist. He was full professor and director of the Laboratory of Genetics at the faculty of Sciences at Ghent University (Belgium) and scientific director of the Genetics Department of the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB). Together with Jozef Schell he founded the biotech company Plant Genetic Systems Inc. (Belgium) in 1982, of which he was Scientific Director and member of the board of Directors. Marc Van Montagu was also involved in founding the biotech company CropDesign, of which he was a Board member from 1998 to 2004. He is president of the European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB) and of the Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI).
Although Marc Van Montagu, et al. were credited with the discovery of the Ti plasmid, the first person to isolate the “Tumor Inducing Principle” later called the Ti plasmid from Agrobacterium and complete Koch’s postulates with it in a plant system was Floyd Poruban, a graduate student in the Department of Plant Pathology at The Ohio State University, in 1964. However, together with his colleague Prof. Jeff Schell, Marc Van Montagu discovered the gene transfer mechanism between Agrobacterium and plants, which resulted in the development of methods to alter Agrobacterium into an efficient delivery system for gene engineering and to create transgenic plants. He developed plant molecular genetics, in particular molecular mechanisms for cell proliferation and differentiation and response to abiotic stresses (high light, ozone, cold, salt and drought) and constructed transgenic crops (tobacco, rape seed, corn) resistant to insect pest and tolerant to novel herbicides. His work with poplar trees resulted in engineering of trees with improved pulping qualities.

He has received numerous outstanding awards for his pioneering work, including the prestigious Japan Prize. He has been a foreign associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences since 1986, the agricultural Academy of Russia and France, the Academy of Engineering of Sweden and the Italian Academy of Sciences dei XL. He holds 6 Doctor Honoris Causa Degrees. In 1990 he was granted the title of Baron by Baudouin of Belgium.