The highest honor given by the Society for In Vitro Biology is the Lifetime Achievement Award. It is presented to scientists who are considered pioneers or highly influential researchers to the science and art of cell culture. They are men and women who have devoted their careers to exemplary research and/or teaching. The recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award are selected by vote of the Board of Directors from a list of nominations recommended by the Awards Committee. The Society for In Vitro Biology honored Dr. Dwight Tomes with the SIVB Lifetime Achievement Awards at the 2020 World Congress on In Vitro Biology Meeting.

2020 SIVB Lifetime Achievement Award

President Allan Wenck with Dwight T. Tomes at the 2019 In Vitro Biology Meeting

Dr. Dwight Tomes Receives the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award

We would like to congratulate Dr. Dwight Tomes as the recipient of SIVB’s 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Tomes is one of the pioneers in the agriculture biotechnology industry and has made great contributions to the Society for many years.

Dr. Dwight T. Tomes, 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

Dr. Tomes has been involved in agricultural biotechnology since the birth of the industry and has been a strong advocate for agricultural biotechnology since the 1980s.  He started his professional career in an academic institution as a professor of Genetics at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.  In 1982, at the dawn of agricultural biotechnology, he moved from academia to industry to become a research manager at Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc located in Johnston, Iowa. There, he helped establish their initial program in crop biotechnology.  It took great courage to make the move from a tenured professorship to a seed company that did not have a program, personnel, or any foundation in plant biotechnology.  Dwight spent over 30 years of his career at Pioneer, taking on many research leadership roles as Research Manager, Research Coordinator, Technology Director, Senior Scientist and Research Fellow.

Dr. Tomes has made significant contributions to the development and/or understanding of in vitro biology of great historical importance and practical application.  One of his chief contributions was the development of methodology for the initiation and maintenance of embryogenic callus cultures of maize suitable for genetic transformation of elite public and proprietary corn inbreds and hybrids from 1982-1989.  Dwight played a critical role and was instrumental in the establishment of the early industrial scale transformation techniques (particle gun, particle gun + Agrobacterium, and Agrobacterium) for corn, soybeans, sunflower, and alfalfa starting in the 80’s.  His leadership resulted in one of the first demonstrations of expression of a gene delivered via particle gun into intact plant cells and he developed the first published (or patented) methods for transformation of corn, sunflower, alfalfa, and sorghum.  Dwight, along with Arthur Weissinger and Ted Klein, received the first issued patent from the USPTO Department of Biotechnology Research for particle gun transformation of plant cells (patent #5,240,855).

In the early ‘90s, Dr. Tomes supervised and conducted the first field tests of transgenic crops in alfalfa, corn, sunflower, sorghum, and other crop species for Pioneer.  He also developed and implemented a molecular strategy for Pioneer Vegetable Genetics, developed a comprehensive research strategy for increasing harvestable yield in corn, industrial scale DNA extraction and developed high throughput phenotypic assays for genetic research or product characterization at Pioneer.  Dr. Tomes led research programs that dissected the genetic and molecular basis of traits as diverse as stalk lodging, plant stature and early maturity, identifying molecular control points amenable for genetic manipulation. The research activities he led resulted in significant intellectual property protection, publications and strategies for product development for Pioneer Hi-bred.

Dr. Tomes is the inventor or co-inventor for 24 issued patents.  He has also published 35 peer-reviewed manuscripts, book chapters and books. Within Pioneer and DuPont Pioneer, Dr. Tomes has been the recipient of the Pioneer Inventor Hall of Fame Award, the esteemed Henry A. Wallace Revolution Award, the Rich McConnell Leadership Award and the DuPont Pederson Medal for innovative research.

Dr. Tomes was a Professor at the University of Guelph for 7 years before he moved to industry.  During his tenure as an Assistant and Associate Professor, he taught Plant Breeding classes to senior undergraduate students with an average of 70 students per class each year.  Among the students who completed this course, over 15 became professional plant breeders or Professors in Genetics or Plant Breeding.  This course resulted in a textbook entitled “Plant Breeding Theory and Practice” (by Stoskopf, N.C., D.T. Tomes and B.R. Christie), 1993, by Westview Press. Boulder, CO.

Words of Wisdom from Dr. Dwight Tomes acceptance speech presented during the 2020 World Congress Virtual Pre-recorded Meeting. Image from Dwight Tomes Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance Speech.

While he was at Pioneer, Dr. Tomes continued to train and mentor many junior scientists. He was a valuable resource and mentor within the company for many topics including plant tissue culture, plant physiology, genetics, molecular biology and plant breeding.  He served as the chair of a committee that administered an internal peer reviewed competitive research grant program within Pioneer-Dupont with an annual budget that varied from $200K to $1M per year.

Dr. Tomes is an active and longtime SIVB member.  In the past 40 years, Dwight has made great contributions to the Society, both in science/technology and in organization/management.  He served in several different officer positions and on numerous committees of SIVB from 1980 to the present.  From 1986 to 2011, he served as an Associate Editor, Editor and Editor-in-Chief for the Society’s journal In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology – Plant. Dwight also served on the Program Committee of Plant Biology from 1987 to 1992.  He was elected Vice President of SIVB from 1988 to 1990, and from 2008 to 2012.  In 2016, Dwight became the President of SIVB and he recently completed his term as the Past President of the Society in June of this year.

Dwight has also actively contributed to other scientific societies.  He served as a chairman for the Molecular and Cellular Biology Section of Crop Science Society of America from 1988 to 1989, Associate Editor for Crop Science from 1991 to 1997.  Dwight was Vice Chairman of the Biotechnology Section of the Iowa Academy of Science in 1985 and 1994, and Chairman in 1986 and 1995.

In summary, Dr. Dwight Tomes has made significant contributions to the development and understanding of in vitro biology and his work continues to provide value to the plant community. His service to the Society has been exemplary.  In addition, Dr. Tomes has been a delightful colleague, a generous collaborator, and a skilled photographer, as well known for his good humor and infectious laugh as his scientific acumen. We congratulate Dr. Dwight Tomes on his many accomplishments and for his recognition by SIVB with the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Submitted by:

Kan Wang, Professor
Iowa State University

Todd Jones, Research Director
Corteva Agriscience