USDA Lab Renamed in Honor of Nobel-Winning
Researcher By Ann
Perry May 12, 2008
ITHACA, N.Y., May 12, 2008A U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) laboratory here will be
renamed today for a renowned USDA scientist who was awarded the
Nobel Prize in
Medicine along with two colleagues in 1968.
The U.S. Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory (PSNL),
operated by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), will be renamed The
Robert W. Holley Center
for Agriculture and Health during a ceremony today. ARS is USDA's chief
intramural scientific research agency.
Holley, a former ARS scientist, shared the Nobel award with Har Gobind
Khorana and Marshall W. Nirenberg. Holley is the only ARS scientist to receive
a Nobel Prize. From 1957 until 1964, he worked for ARS as a research chemist at
the PSNL, which is located on the Cornell
University campus in Ithaca. Holley died in 1993.
Holley and his research team determined the molecular structure of
transfer RNA from concentrated yeast cells, marking the first time that a
nucleic acid from any living organism had been sequenced. The majority of this
research was conducted by Holleys research group at the ARS laboratory.
"Dr. Holleys findings about the genetic structure of living
organisms served as a crucial foundation for studies in genetics and genomics,
which are essential for our agricultural research," said USDA Research,
Education, and Economics (REE) Under
Buchanan. "His work helped us devise tools to search the genetic makeup of
plants and animals for beneficial traits such as improved nutritional quality
and disease resistance that we can use for developing improved varieties of
food, feed and livestock."
Under the supervision of Holley Center Director
Kochian, scientists at the ARS lab in Ithaca conduct research that builds
on the discoveries of Holley and his team. These studies employ cutting-edge
technologies in genomics, molecular and statistical genetics, computational
biology, biochemistry and physiology.
Using these tools, ARS scientists investigate ways to improve
biologically-based integrated pest management, enhance plant nutritional
quality, and improve plant resistance to unfavorable environmental conditions
and diseases. A new $40 million facility is being designed for the Holley
Center, and will support Holleys legacy of research excellence.
Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey from New Yorks 22nd District will speak
at todays ceremony. Other speakers include USDA-REE Under Secretary
Buchanan, ARS Associate Administrator Antoinette Betschart, Kochian, and Steve
Kresovich, Cornell University associate provost for life sciences and director
of the Institute for Genomic