The following is a excerpt from Dr. Ray Shillito’s Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance Speech at the 2023 in Vitro Biology Meeting.
You never know when something you learn will be useful! – Ray Shillito
Tissue culture was the bedrock on which I built my career. I consider myself lucky to have been involved in one of the most exciting developments in Agriculture from the beginning to its present day.
The theme of my acceptance speech was “You never know when something you learn will be useful”. Over and over, I have found that something I had previously learned (often serendipitous) turned out to useful many years later, like quantitative biochemistry, working with low concentration cultures, cryopreservation, and learning Dutch and German.
I was fortunate to learn from many inspiring leaders along the way. I therefore accepted this award on behalf of all the people who have mentored and taught me – from Edwin Dawes whose quantitative Biochemistry book I still have, and particularly Herbert Street, who introduced me to the magic of tissue culture, and Alan Gould, Lyndsey Withers and Bill Cockburn, Rob Schilperoort who smoked awful cigars, introduced me in Leiden to Agrobacterium and protoplasts, Ingo Potrykus, who fanned that interest and built a fantastic team in Basel, alongside the Hohns, and Pat King, and later went on to conceive of golden rice. MaryDell Chilton supported me in my first talk at the Gordon conference, and later gave me the opportunity to come to the USA, where I got to work particularly with Martie Wright, and John Ryals, as well as bunch of others – most/all of whom have retired. When I joined AgrEvo, and successor companies, Larry Somerville, Rheinhardt Fischer, Sue MacIntosh, Margaret Gadsby, Judy Speas, and finally Claire Carlton, and so many others.
I feel privileged to have been involved with almost every phase from the first transformations, to the regulatory phases and aspects of international trade and to see the burst of innovation brought by genome editing.