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Jeff Dangl is surrounded by greenhouse plants as he looks at the camera.
Jeff Dangl (photo by Donn Young)

Jeffery Dangl, the John N. Couch Distinguished Professor of Biology and an HHMI investigator at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society, the U.K.’s national academy of sciences and the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence.

Dangl, a geneticist interested in the molecular intricacies of the plant immune system, is one of 80 outstanding researchers elected by the academy, 19 of whom are Foreign Members (from outside the U.K.). The distinction recognizes electees’ substantial contribution to the advancement of science. With his election to the Royal Society, Dangl joins the ranks of Stephen Hawking, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Lise Meitner, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar and Dorothy Hodgkin.

Dangl’s citation from the academy reads:

Jeff Dangl pioneered definition of the plant immune system. He discovered important classes of plant intracellular immune receptors and pathogen effector proteins that trigger their action, and he continues to provide key insights into plant immune receptor mechanisms. Dangl and Jones synthesized the notion of a two-tiered plant immune system, comprising extracellular pattern-recognition receptors and intracellular nucleotide-binding, leucine-rich repeat (NLR) immune receptors, in profoundly influential and widely cited reviews. He also pioneered reductionist experimental platforms to study the plant microbiome and investigates community structure of plant microbiomes to define design rules for bacterial consortia that enhance plant health and productivity.

“This honor is a real surprise,” said Dangl. “It is of course a ‘team honor’ shared with over 100 doctoral and postdoctoral scholars and over 70 undergraduates who have contributed to our lab’s research since 1989 when I started my lab in Cologne, Germany, and since 1995, when we moved to UNC.”

The Dangl lab contributed significantly to the development of Arabidopsis as a model organism to analyze plant-microbe interactions. Dangl and his colleagues study plant immune receptors and immune signaling, and pathogen virulence factors and their action inside plant cells. The lab more recently pioneered the study of the organization and function of plant-associated microbiomes.

Dangl was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2007, the German National Academy of Sciences (Die Leopoldina) in 2003 and the American Academy of Microbiology in 2011. He is a co-founder of AgBiome, a company based in Research Triangle Park that explores the crop microbiome to develop products that reduce environmental risk and improve plant productivity.

Read more about Jeff Dangl’s research.

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