National Academies of Science Prize in Food & Agriculture Sciences


Lucyna Kurtyka, M.S.

Recognizing Extraordinary Contributions to Agriculture Research

In partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), we established The National Academies of Science (NAS) Prize in Food & Agriculture Sciences in 2017. The award recognizes extraordinary contributions to agriculture and understanding the biology of species important to food and agriculture production. The NAS Prize elevates food and agriculture research and highlights the critical need for scientists working toward more productive, sustainable agriculture.

The prize recognizes mid-career scientists at US institutions, working in scientific fields applicable to agriculture, including plant and animal sciences, microbiology, nutrition and food science, soil science, entomology, veterinary medicine and agricultural economics.

Annually, we award the prize to one recipient, who receives a medal and a $100,000 cash award.

NAS Prize Recipients

Year: 2020

Dr. Zachary B. Lippman

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Dr. Zachary B. Lippman, a Jacob Goldfield Professor of Genetics at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Investigator, is the 2020 recipient of the NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences.

A growing population, climate change and environmental sustainability inhibit crop productivity and threaten food security. Lippman’s research focuses on increasing crop productivity in the face of declining agricultural land and population growth. His research demonstrates that yields can be increased, new crops created and adapted to new environments, by harnessing genes that determine when, where and how many flowers are produced on a plant.

Specifically, Lippman studies how groups of stem cells become flowers, which ultimately give rise to fruits and seeds, making flowers vitally important to food production. He discovered timing mechanisms that control how many flowers a plant produces. This discovery allows him to control how much fruit and how many seeds a plant generated.

When combined with hormones that control flowering and gene editing, Lippman and his team embarked on a new frontier of quantitively fine-tuning traits in ways that were previously impossible, revealing principles that can improve productivity in all crops. Moreover, this newfound control of plant gene function and activity allows Lippman and his team to accelerate the time-consuming domestication process of a wild plant, the groundcherry, opening the door to the taming of many new and under-utilized crops to help meet global food demands.

Read more about Dr. Lippman’s research

Want to do more to support the NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences?

Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates.