Peter D. Nagy was born in Csorna, Hungary. He received his M.Sc. degree in plant protection (a 5-year undergraduate/graduate program) from the University of Keszthely in 1985, and in 1990, he received his Ph.D. degree, summa cum laude, in plant virology and plant pathology from the same institution. His Ph.D. work was conducted in the Plant Protection Institute in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. In 1983, he won first prize at the International Student Conference in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, as well as the Most Outstanding Young Undergraduate Student Award from Hungary’s Ministry of Agriculture, and from 1985 to 1988, he was a recipient of a Hungarian Academy of Sciences doctoral fellowship. Following his Ph.D. degree, Nagy was awarded a United Nations’ International Development Organization postdoctoral fellowship to support his virology studies in Italy. Thereafter, Nagy undertook additional postdoctoral research at Northern Illinois University with Jozef Bujarski and at the University of Massachusetts with Anne Simon. In 1999, Nagy joined the University of Kentucky’s Plant Pathology Department as an assistant professor. Nagy was given accelerated promotion to associate professor, with tenure (2003), and professor (2007). He was recognized with a Science and Engineering Award from the governor of Kentucky (2002), with the College of Agriculture’s Principal Grantsmanship (2006) and Research (2007) Awards, and as a university research professor (2007–2008).
Nagy’s foremost scientific achievements, which have made him a world authority on RNA virus replication and recombination, can be summarized as follows. (i) Introduction of a systems biology approach to identify host factors influential in the replication of Tomato bushy stunt virus (TBSV) via utilizing the “model” host, yeast. (ii) Identification of the first host factors suppressing or enhancing TBSV recombination based on genome-wide screens in yeast. To date, 32 such host genes have been detected through screening 95% of yeast genes. (iii) Employment of a highly tractable, yeast-based replication system for TBSV, thus accessing the power of yeast genetics. (iv) Analysis of the assembly requirements for the TBSV replicase using a proteomics approach, revealing two viral proteins and four host proteins that are integral parts of the tombusvirus replicase complex. (v) Development of cell-free systems employing purified recombinant TBSV replicase from yeast and plants that led to the discovery of novel, cis-acting, silencer and enhancer regulatory RNA elements in the TBSV genome. (vi) Demonstration of the recruitment of host factors to the subcellular site of tombusvirus replication. (vii) Formulation of in vitro assays for viral RNA recombination, allowing the dissection of the molecular mechanisms involved.
Nagy’s accomplishments, so briefly outlined here, reflect exhaustive studies of high intellectual challenge. It is of particular significance that Nagy’s studies have made the plant virus TBSV, which infects vegetables and fruit trees, one of the best characterized among all viruses with regard to RNA replication and recombination, as well as one of the most thoroughly understood with respect to molecular perspectives of host interactions. Nagy’s pioneering investigations have opened up new ways for virologists studying human and animal diseases. For example, his insights gained with a plant virus are opening new vistas, generally, about how more-virulent viral strains evolve. Clearly, Nagy has made outstanding, innovative research contributions that have changed—and will continue to change—the direction of research in plant pathology and beyond.
Nagy’s publication record is truly exceptional, and while certainly representing a major influence in plant science and plant virology, his research has implications well beyond the boundaries of these disciplines.
In 2000, Nagy joined the editorial board of Virology, a considerable honor especially considering that he was an assistant professor at the time. In addition to his editorial duties for Virology, and recently for Journal of Virology, Nagy serves as an ad hoc reviewer for numerous leading journals. He has sat on multiple NSF, NIH, and USDA National Research Initiative grant review panels. In 2004, the EPA called on him to serve on a scientific advisory panel for his expertise regarding viral-transgenic plants. From 2002 to 2005, Nagy was a member of the American Society for Virology’s Planning Committee, a role of considerable importance to that society.