Tom (Twng-Wah) Mew
Tom (Twng-Wah) Mew, a Malaysian citizen was born in Shandong, China. He received a B.S. degree in plant pathology from Chung-Hsing University, Taiwan, in 1965. He then completed M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in plant pathology at the University of Rhode Island and the University of Minnesota, respectively. After graduation, Tom was a research scientist at the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center in Taiwan.
In 1975, he joined the IRRI in the Philippines to begin his distinguished career in rice pathology research. Currently, he serves as plant pathologist and head of the Entomology and Plant Pathology Division, head of the Seed Health Unit, and program leader of “Improving Productivity and Livelihood for Resource-Poor Environments,” all at IRRI. Dr. Mew is recognized as the world authority on rice bacterial blight, caused by Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae. He was the first to firmly establish the physiological specialization of X. oryzae pv. oryzae. He pioneered the investigation of bacterial blight resistance genes through the production of near-isogenic lines with individual resistance genes. The genetically well-defined pathogen races and isogenic rice lines provided the foundation for molecular analysis of the host–pathogen interaction. Dr. Mew and his collaborators performed extensive analyses of the population biology of X. oryzae pv. oryzae, which led to practical applications that benefit millions of farmers in the developing world. Blight-resistant rice varieties carrying different Xa genes are planted over millions of hectares in Asia.
Dr. Mew initiated the application of biological control of rice diseases in the tropics. The emphasis on diversity and local biological resources represented a fundamental change to reduce sheath blight and bakanae disease in China and Southeast Asia. Dr. Mew also helped establish seed health in both quarantine and routine rice farming practices on “healthy seed for healthy crop to a better harvest” throughout Asia. He also led the study of microbial community of rice seed and seed-associated microorganisms for rice disease management in tropical environments.
Dr. Mew serves APS on the Board of Directors for OIP, and was honored by the Philippine Phytopathological Society as Outstanding Plant Pathologist in 1986 and an honorary researcher at China National Rice Research Institute.