Claude M. Fauquet is director of the International Laboratory for Tropical Agricultural Biotechnology (ILTAB) and member and principal investigator at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, MO, since 1999. He is adjunct professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia and at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He received his Ph.D. degree in biochemistry from the University Louis Pasteur in Strasburg, France, in 1974. Fauquet took a position at ORSTOM (now IRD [Institut de Recherche pour le Développement]), a French public research institute dedicated to helping developing countries, and served as plant virologist in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, West Africa, where he stayed 14 years. While in Africa, Fauquet worked with 45 different viral diseases affecting food crops, vegetables, and industrial crops. In 1983, Fauquet obtained one of the first research grants awarded by the European Community, and he developed an interdisciplinary project on the epidemiology of cassava mosaic disease (CMD). These efforts resulted in a comprehensive epidemiological study of this very important virus disease. At the end of this project, in 1987, Fauquet organized a pan-African meeting on CMD in the Ivory Coast, where it was proposed to develop cassava biotechnology to better control this disease. In 1988, Fauquet undertook a 2-year sabbatical at Washington University with R. N. Beachy. Because of his African experience, he obtained grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and IRD to work on rice and cassava biotechnology.
In 1991, Fauquet cofounded ILTAB at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) with Beachy. IRD provided full support for seven scientists. ILTAB focused research on tropical biotechnology for virus diseases of tomato, cassava, and rice. ILTAB scientists were the first to develop a routine rice transformation system and obtained the first transgenic cassava in 1995. More than 17 different viruses were studied and novel control measures using genetic engineering were developed for tomato and rice. In 1996, an international scientific review team concluded that ILTAB’s research and training were excellent and recommended continuation of the project.
When Beachy became president of the Danforth Center in 1998, he invited Fauquet to join the institute, where he currently leads ILTAB in research projects concerning cassava genetic transformation for virus resistance and biofortification, promoter studies, gene silencing, and molecular plant virology of geminiviruses. Fauquet was the first to find that geminiviruses encode for at least two gene silencing protein suppressors. Their complementary and combinatorial action is responsible for the synergistic symptoms observed in cassava in Uganda in the 1990s that led to a pandemic disease now spreading westward across Africa. He also discovered that the mode of action of the AC4 suppressor is unique in that it binds to small miRNAs of the host and consequently induces drastic malformation symptoms. Fauquet is also cofounder and cochair of the Global Cassava Partnership, a network whose goal is to enhance scientific and financial investment in cassava. Notably, he obtained from the U.S. Department of Energy a grant for sequencing the cassava genome.
Fauquet has provided innovative numerical approaches using sequence data for the taxonomy of geminiviruses and potyviruses. He is the world leader in developing the modern classification system for geminiviruses and their satellites. As part of these studies, he was the first to recognize the importance of interspecies recombination in the evolution of geminiviruses. He was secretary of the International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) for 18 years and continues his involvement in the classification of viruses through the creation of the International Virus Database Network. Fauquet has published more than 179 papers in scientific peer-reviewed journals and organized many scientific meetings. He has edited and coedited several books, including four ICTV Reports that are the definitive works on virus taxonomy, and two editions of the Encyclopedia of Virology and has participated in more than 200 meetings, symposia, and congresses. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the St. Louis Academy of Sciences and, in 2007, was knighted “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques” by the French Minister of Higher Education and Research.