Professor Dirk Inze
Director Center for Plant Systems Biology
VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology
Dirk Inze has been committed to the understanding of the molecular systems that govern plant organ growth, biomass productivity and seed yield. Dirk Inze was the first to identify and/or functionally characterize numerous core components of the plant cell cycle machinery, including cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs), cyclins, CDK inhibitors, E2F/DP transcription factors, components of the anaphase promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C) etc. This work led to many high-ranked publications and reviews. Due to his pioneering work, Dirk Inze was awarded the prestigious prize of the Körber Foundation (Germany), presented by the German President in 1994. In 2005, he was also awarded the prestigious Francqui Prize and a Francqui Chair at the University of Antwerp for his work on cell cycle.
The establishment of the UGent-VIB spin-off company CropDesign (1998) based on the cell cycle research of Dirk Inze;. In 2006, CropDesign was sold to BASF with 87 employees. Until today, CropDesign remained located in Ghent and greatly contributed to the name and fame of agricultural biotechnology research at UGent. In 2002, Dirk Inze was appointed director of the VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology. As a director of the VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology, Dirk Inze also led a very successful research group focusing on plant organ growth and biomass productivity. His group has approximately thirty scientists and is well supported by various large grants including a prestigious advanced ERC grant of the EU. During the past fifteen years, Dirk’s research has extensively contributed to the understanding of the molecular mechanisms of the five processes that govern organ size . Recently, it was found that binary combination of growth-promoting genes leads to significantly additive or synergistic effects on organ size in Arabidopsis and maize in many cases. Furthermore, triple gene combinations were shown to have significantly positive effects on the sizes of leaf, root, seed and flower. Dirk’s group showed early in 2017 that modulating the expression of the maize ZmPLA1 gene increases seed yield in hybrids by >10% in multi-year field trials. These findings have attracted the global awareness, both in academia and industry, that engineering gene combinations has a high potential to contribute significantly to yield improvement. The recent development of CRISPR/Cas9 technology for crop plants will accelerate this development.
Dirk Inze; is a global leader on molecular research on biomass productivity and crop yield. His fundamental research on growth mechanisms is very actively followed by the scientific community, as well as the industry. His work received more than 44,000 citations and Dirk has an H-factor of 114. Dirk Inze; is very active in bringing his knowledge to the scientific and industrial community. He has served on numerous scientific committees, editorial boards and international science advisory boards. Furthermore, Dirk remains passionately involved in teaching Plant Physiology (2nd bachelor); Plant Molecular Biology (3rd Bachelor), and Plant Yield (Master), and continuously contributes to teaching. During his more than 30-year career, he was the academic promoter of 81 PhD students, of which 21 are non-Belgian. Many of Dirk’s former students and postdocs are highly recognized scientists, often in leading positions at national and international institutes (France, Japan, Korea, Spain...). Six of his former students are now Professor at Ugent.
Dirk Inzea has a tremendous influence on the development of the Agrobiotech campus at Ghent University, now the second largest plant biotech cluster in the world, uniting top-notch basic plant research at UGent and VIB with a large presence of industry (Bayer, BASF, Syngenta, AgroSavfe…) active in the field of crop improvement. Recently, Dirk Inze committed, in collaboration with the Bioengineering Faculty of Ghent University, to take his knowledge to African developing countries, for which advanced breeding for varieties that perform better in the often poor soils would greatly improve human welfare.