Ralph Bock

Martin Gibbs Medal

Ralph Bock (Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology) is awarded the 2017 Gibbs Medal recipient for his groundbreaking research on horizontal gene transfer and experimental evolution.  After receiving his Ph.D. in 1996 from the University of Freiburg, Ralph quickly rose to the rank of Full Professor and Department Chair in 2001, and then Director of The Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in 2004. Peers note Ralph’s exceptional originality, creativity, scholarship and intellectual rigor. Ralph’s research has focused on plastid genetics and the utilization of plastid transformation to manipulate plastid genomes. His research has advanced our understanding of fundamental questions in plastid biochemistry and achieved important biotechnological and synthetic biology breakthroughs, including engineered insect resistance and the transfer of the entire metabolic pathway for artemisinic acid from a medicinal plant to a biomass crop. Ralph’s research also pioneered the field of experimental evolution in plants. In a series of groundbreaking studies, he and his group experimentally recapitulated endosymbiosis, horizontal gene transfer, and organelle-to-nucleus gene transfer.  This work hints at an asexual path to the formation of new species. Because of these numerous contributions to plant science, Ralph exemplifies the spirit of the Martin Gibbs Medal, which honors “an individual who has pioneered advances that have served to establish new directions of investigation in the plant sciences”.