Profile: Xavier Delannay

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Science  28 May 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5675, pp. 1279
DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5675.1279

Country: Belgium

Field: Plant Genetics

Workplace: Monsanto Co.


Twenty years ago, soybean geneticist Xavier Delannay got a memorable taste of the uncertain life of an industry scientist: The California biotech start-up that he had joined right after a postdoctoral fellowship lasted less than a year. But the Belgian native decided that the opportunities in America were too good to pass up. So he joined Monsanto Co. in St. Louis, Missouri, and by the time his alma mater, the University of Louvain, offered the relative security and prestige of a plum academic job a few years later, “it was too late.”

“I'd planned to return home to a university, but the science and interactions I was experiencing here [at Monsanto] seemed much more interesting and exciting,” he says. He's now a senior scientist overseeing much of the company's soybean biotech research.

Delannay, age 52, arrived in 1979 to pursue graduate work at Iowa State University in Ames because “my professors said the U.S. experience would help me.” Soon, he was swept up by the commercial wave created by the biotechnology revolution. At Monsanto, he ran the first full field test of transgenic tomatoes and helped develop the first widely used transgenic crop variety: a soybean engineered to resist herbicides.

“If I had stayed in Belgium, I'd certainly be a university professor,” says Delannay, who became a U.S. citizen in 1993. “But I wouldn't have been able to achieve what I have done scientifically. It wouldn't have been possible; there weren't the resources or the capability.”

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