Testimonials for Pioneer Member Peter Beyer

Salim Al-Babili – I worked for very long time with Peter and, actually, it is quite difficult for me to describe the impact he has had on my life and what I learned from and sometimes with him! I just want to highlight a major pillar of the “Beyer Chemistry”: IN CIS VERITAS!

Adrian Alder – About 15 years ago I started my PhD in Peter’s lab, under the supervision of Salim Al-Babili. They attracted me with the promise to fight worldwide malnutrition by improving Vitamin A stability in golden rice, but soon I found myself in basic research, isolating rice embryos at the sterile bench and extracting carotenoids. Sitting in the dark room for the latter task, the only ray of light was Peter entering and literally lightening up the lab with the glow of his cigarette, notably next to bottles of petrol ether and other solvents used for the different extraction procedures. Peter is a warm-hearted, grounded person, and even though he never remembered my real name, his door was always open and has been ever since I left the University of Freiburg. He gave me a lot of freedom and support whenever needed, through scientific advice or by connecting with the right collaborators. I hope he remembers the Cheese Fondue that we enjoyed together with the team several times at my apartment, but the memory is probably only vague due to the liquid side dishes traditionally offered with this type of menu. I definitely remember the parties at his house, where his hospitable wife prepared all kinds of foods while Peter provided for entertainment. I’ve honestly have nothing but the fondest memories fom the time I spent in Peters lab, and of Peter himself and the friends I met at this beautiful place.

Jacobo Arango – My name is Jacobo Arango, and I’m a Senior Scientist at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT (CGIAR center) located in Cali, Colombia. At a very young age (26), when I was starting my scientific career in Colombia, I had the opportunity to do an internship in the laboratory of Prof. Dr. Peter Beyer in Freiburg, Germany. I was very nervous, as it was my first time in Europe, but that changed very rapidly when I met Peter in his office. I still remember a very strong smell of cigarettes when I entered the room, and Peter immediately started to talk about many specific details regarding the project we were working on. He was very kind and informal, and at the same time he was very serious and passionate about the scientific challenges we were facing: the synthesis, accumulation, and degradation of carotenoids in the roots of cassava. Peter is a hands-on scientist. He was always starting his own experiments when we were leaving the lab at the end of the day. As my home was near the institute, I remember seeing the lights on in his office and lab at very late hours of the night… and it was always Peter with one student or alone traying different things (including fixing very complicated machines) to make experiments work! This was the way Peter showed us how to do science with passion. Lots of analytics were applied to different research areas, including chemistry, biology, and genetics, among others. Four years later when I successfully finished my PhD, he arranged everything to make sure I had the opportunity to do postdoctoral work at one of the best laboratorys working on vitamin A and E biosynthesis, which was located at Michigan State University. Soon after my arrival in the US, I was diagnosed with a stage four lymphoma. Despite the long distance between Lansing and Freiburg, Peter did many things to support me and my family during this difficult process. I would not have been able to recover from my medical treatment without Peter’s support, which was extended to my family. Thanks Peter, for being a Pioneer in the field of Plant Biology. You left a strong legacy in my professional and personal life. My scientific colleagues, friends, family, and I believe that I would not have been able to build my scientific career without you support.

Javier Avalos – I have not had the opportunity to work directly with Peter, but he hosted me as a visiting researcher in his laboratory for a short time in the summer of 1995, and we have met several times since. He always treated me wonderfully, and I was always impressed by his enormous scientific culture. His always open mind positively nfluenced my attitude to science.

Beyer Family – His passion for science and biology left traces in this family, positive ones, for which children and grandchildren are extremely thankful

Howarth E. Bouis – I am an economist by training. I had to Google Peter to find out that he was/is a Professor of Cell Biology. I am sure he is a brilliant scientist because so many of my brilliant scientist friends tell me that he is brilliant and therefore deserving of being recognized as a Pioneer from an academic perspective. I am sure it is no small scientific feat to be an inventor of Golden Rice, but what do economists know! In the end, the science should lead to impact on the ground, and that – in a way – is our connection. I joined the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board in 2001. For biofortification to realize its full potential, it was necessary to move beyond conventional plant breeding and apply transgenic methods. Golden Rice is now approved for commercial propagation in the Philippines. Soon it will be combined with high iron and high zinc traits, also through transgenic methods. Rice is the most widely-eaten food staple in LMICs. Single rice varieties will be able to contribute significantly (up to 50%) to daily requirements of all three micronutrients – deficiencies that are major public health problems. This project will take off. The benefits are much too large to be ignored. I am now retired and living in the Philippines, and I am going to work with Peter and others to see that it succeeds. More than all of this, however, I count myself truly fortunate to be Peter’s friend. What some of you may not know is that Peter, personally, collects tropical small fish from various distant locations around the globe, raises and studies them in his basement, and publishes articles about his hobby. I learned this many years ago when my family were guests in his home near Freiburg, part of a European vacation, and recipients of his warm hospitality. But beware, his main fault is a preference for single malt over bourbon. This is an ongoing and still unresolved difference of opinion. What do economists know!

Ralph Brock – A brilliant biochemist, and one of the most rigorous scientists I have met. Your work on the enzymology of the carotenoid pathway pioneered our understanding of its structure and regulation and opened our eyes to how plant genetic engineering can address global health problems. You inspired our thoughts in joint EU projects and enriched many consortium meetings with your presence, collegiality, and great sense of humor.

Paul Chavarriaga – With great pride to the man and scientist who believed in plant biotechnology and showed that it can be used for the well-being of the most vulnerable humanity

Eva Lotta Decker – I met Peter more than twenty years ago, when Golden Rice was still yellow, and he enduringly impressed me by his modest attitude towards his scientific achievements, which is in sharp contrast to their importance. I am still thrilled to know someone whose research really matters. And I feel honoured to belong to those he makes fun of. Always.

Adrian Dubock – Peter Beyer has been an understated colleague, friend, and sometime boss for more than the two decades I have been involved with Golden Rice. His deep knowledge of carotenoid biosynthesis is, together with the vision of Ingo Potrykus and his plant transformation work, what made Golden Rice possible, which also became a vocation for me. Peter is always realistic and patient to assist others with lesser understanding than his. Separately, he is an enthusiast and, I understand, respected scientist in the care of rare, very small freshwater fish, especially those from the tropics. Recognition as a Pioneer of Plant Biology is extremely appropriate: seldom have plant scientists been able to contribute so positively to humanity.

Alexander Grundmann – I did my Master’s thesis in Peter’s lab in Freiburg, Germany, and voluntarily spent much more time than anticipated. Peter was a fantastic group leader and mentor who managed to create an atmosphere of creativity and a sense of purpose and belonging. My career led me out of the academic world, but I proudly refer to my time of working with Peter whenever I can.

Joseph Hirschberg – Dr. Peter Beyer is a leading investigator and pioneer in the field of plant isoprenoid biochemistry. He is best known for his contribution to the development of Golden Rice, a paramount milestone in plant biotechnology. However, his contributions to understanding the chemical basis of carotenoid biosynthesis are of even greater significance. Dr. Beyer started his scientific endeavors as a ‘classical’ biochemist and completed a very successful transition to molecular biology. In addition to being an original and innovative scientist, he is an inspiring mentor to many students who are following his footsteps. Dr. Beyer is an enthusiastic supporter of implementing biotechnology for improving the agronomic and nutritional value of crop plants. He is a central player in several crop biofortification initiatives for Asia and Africa.

Li Li – I have known Peter as an outstanding, innovative, and prominent scientist. His research and activities not only have greatly advanced fundamental science but also have a tremendous impact on human welfare. Peter’s exceptional work has inspired me from the beginning of my career working with carotenoid metabolism and toward improving the nutritional quality of food crops.

Ingo Potrykus – Peter and I developed ‘Golden Rice’, rice varieties that accumulate provitamin A in the endosperm in amounts sufficient to prevent vitamin deficiency in rice-depending poor populations. This required pathway engineering of a plastid pathway involving eight genes. Our initial concept was to transfer one gene after the other (with endosperm-specific regulation) and combine them via crossing. Fortunately for us, the Ervinia double desaturase was discovered on the way, which made the task more realistic. And finally, the rice lycopene cyclase was activated by the initiated precursors, reducing, in the end, the required trans-genes to two for all further experimentation.

To achieve maximum efficacy, the rate-limiting steps were studied in cooperation with Syngenta, Peter, taking care of all the enzymes except for phytoene synthase, which was studied by the Syngenta lab and in the end turned out to be the rate-limiting enzyme. The project required intimate knowledge of the provitamin A.pathway and vector construction (Peters’ lab expertise) and genetic engineering of rice (the specialty of my lab). This collaboration was the highlight of my academic career thanks to personal chemistry and tight and fair collaboration.

There was no metabolic pathway engineering in plants before and long thereafter. A further ‘first’ was the execution of the ten-year project exclusively with public funding and for the public good. And another first was the follow-up work for deployment, for which we invested the next twenty years of our lives. Not many on the list of ‘ASPB pioneers’ have deserved that recognition for their work more than Peter, and I would like to support his recognition as strongly as I can. For details please visit our homepage www.goldenrice.org.

Ralf Reski – When I joined Freiburg University in 1997, Peter was already there. He helped me immensely to integrate into the new and vibrant community. It was, and still is, fun to discuss science with him and I admire him for making the horrendous complexity of plant metabolites relatively easy to understand. However, it took me some time to fully appreciate the beauty of Golden Rice. By now, Golden Rice is THE example for the many benefits of molecular plant science, and I do not know of any other legacy in plant science that is more often praised within the context of the improvement of humankind, except that of Norman Borlaug. During our daily lunch breaks, Peter shared the ups and downs of the incredibly long journey from scientific discovery to application. I learned about field trials destroyed by activists, hurricanes,and volcano eruptions. Nevertheless, Peter never lost confidence that one day his humanitarian project would help people in low-income countries to escape hidden hunger. Less known is Peter’s obsession with tropical fish and with diving. The number of aquariums in the basement of his house is stunning. During our long friendship, there was only one point at which Peter was far less optimistic than I was. He was so confident that he offered a bet of six bottles of French champagne. I agreed, and he paid a year later. Cheers Peter, here’s to you!

Michael Schledz – Peter, I wouldn’t want to have missed the time in your lab doing my PhD-thesis and thereafter working as a postdoc in the same department. You are an elaborate biochemist of well known scientific expertise. As my mentor, you taught me to be curious, to address questions and to try new experimental setups. And during the breaks, there was always time for a laugh. I remember the legendary Gerardmer-excursions, the whole team standing in thousands of daffodils, the flower picking and the isolation of chromoplasts for days. And the fun didn‘t end after work.

Carmen Schubert – Hello Peter! The Pioneer recognition you have more than earned. We have known each other for half a professional lifetime. We met when you started your diploma thesis under Prof. Dr. Kleinig and subsequently completed your doctoral thesis and habilitation. You became the successor of our working group after Prof. Dr. Kleinig retired. You were a great boss who always had an open ear for worries and needs. Whenever a new project came up, you talked it through with us, which was the best idea for implementation. The biggest project was “Golden Rice”. It was an incredibly exciting project – seeing the progress and being part of it. Best regards Carmen

Li Tian – Thank you for being a pioneer and inspiration for biofortification of essential nutrients in food crops. It has been an honor and privilege getting to know you through working in this field!

Dominique Van Der Straeten – Thanks to you, Ingo, and your team members for your tenacity on setting the stage with GR! Wishing you a long and healthy life, Warm salute from Ghent, Dominique

Johannes von Lintig – I had the pleasure of working as a postdoc in Peter’s lab in the 1990s. During this time the groundwork for carotenoid pathway engineering was established, which eventually led to the invention of Golden Rice. Peter was a generous mentor, and he offered the proper balance of providing space for independence while being available for guidance and support. It was a fun time, with Peter as entertainer and teacher. His contribution to research had a long lasting impact on the field and he deserves to be recongnized as a Pioneer of ASPB.

Ralf Welsch – Dear Peter, you are definitely a pioneer! With visionary energy, you have dared to do something that was completely unpredictable until then, but – contrary to some critics – has led to success! The long dry spell it took for Golden Rice to finally be grown in the fields was painful, but you used it with us to do solid basic research, which – I am quite sure – will be extremely useful for Golden Rice and other crops in the years to come! This research was not always easy; often it led into the unimagined vastness of the biological universe, and most of the time it was enormously exciting. Here, too, you were a pioneer who made the exploration of new worlds possible with the perseverance and patience that characterize you – many thanks for this! Ralf

Qiuju Yu – It was a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation project and the need for a person who had experience in rice transformation that led me to become a member of Peter’s group. After that, I stayed several years in his lab as a postdoc, which was a really valuable time for me. Peter has dedicated a great deal of his professional career to understanding carotenoid biosynthesis in plants. Although he has a great reputation as one of the co-inventors of golden rice and in pioneering carotenoid research, this didn’t prevent him from being in close contact with all his group members. From daily life to serious science, he took care of us from all angles. Our conversation topics covered a wide range, from hobbies and holidays, to enzymatic reactions, different isomers of carotenoids and protein crystallization. He was always willing to give his time and patience to listen, understand, discuss, and guide me. His spirit always inspired me, and I really enjoyed the friendly atmosphere he provided.