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Dr M.W. Prins (1968) has been appointed professor by special appointment of Phytopathology, with a special focus on plant virology at the University of Amsterdam (UvA)'s Faculty of Science (FNWI). This chair was established on behalf of BioSeeds B.V. and KeyGene N.V.

Prof Marcel Prins
Photo: Jeroen Oerlemans

Marcel Prins conducts research into the infection process used by plant viruses, and on how plants defend themselves against viruses. His aim is to understand why some plants are more vulnerable to specific viruses while others are not. This knowledge will enable targeted approaches to developing new solutions to serious virus problems affecting agricultural and horticultural crops worldwide. In this way, his research is contributing to our future ability to supply the growing global population with sufficient food that is produced responsibly and is of high quality.

Working at the intersection of plant genetics, physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology, Prins conducts research into the components of plants that are essential to the life cycle of the pathogen, and on how viruses use these molecules to their own advantage. Although plants – unlike animals – do not have immune systems, they do possess mechanisms for defending themselves against viruses. One such mechanism is called RNA interference, and involves the targeted destruction of the viral genome. Another defence mechanism involves self-destruction of cells surrounding the heart of the infection, thereby eliminating the resources required by the virus for further reproduction. These processes are also a part of his research. Lastly, Prins is fascinated by viruses' ability to circumvent or thwart plant defences, or even turn them to their own advantage.

Following a career as an assistant university professor at the Wageningen UR Laboratory of Virology, Prins started working for KeyGene, an R&D company involved in the development and application of high-tech innovations for use in crop improvement, in 2007. Since 2013 he has been head of the vegetable crops division. Prins is a member of the KeyGene management team and chair of the R&D board that directs the research conducted at KeyGene. He is also a member of the executive committee of the European 'Plants for the Future' Technology Platform in Brussels, Belgium. Prins is listed as co-discoverer on various patent applications, and has written a large number of scientific publications in leading journals such as the Journal of Virology, PNAS, Genome Research, Journal of General Virology, Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions, and PLoS Pathogens.