Aiming Wang was born and raised in Dongtai, Jiang Province, China. He received his BSc and MSc from Yangzhou University and Nanjing Agricultural University, respectively. In 1995, he went to Vancouver, Canada, to conduct his PhD studies in plant molecular virology at the University of British Columbia with Dr. Helene Sanfaçon. After completing his PhD in January 1999, Wang pursued post-doctoral research at the Plant Biotechnology Institute at the National Research Council of Canada. In 2003, he joined the London Research and Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) as a research scientist in genomics virology, and he was appointed adjunct professor by the University of Western Ontario. He was promoted to principal research scientist at AAFC in 2018.
Wang is widely recognized as a leading international authority in plant virology—particularly, the molecular biology of potyviruses, the largest group of known plant viruses. The potyviruses include many agriculturally important viruses, such as plum pox virus, soybean mosaic virus, and turnip mosaic virus. Wang has made breakthrough discoveries in the co-evolutionary “arms race" between potyviruses and plant hosts by showing how plants trigger resistance responses via diverse cellular pathways (such as sumoylation, autophagy, and RNA decay) and how potyviruses manage to overcome such immunity responses to establish infection. Wang advanced the theory of potyvirus replication and intercellular movement by elucidating novel functions of viral proteins and underlying mechanisms.
Wang and colleagues revealed the molecular mechanism by which a viral transcriptional slippage product functions in viral cell-to-cell movement. They also demonstrated the essential role of a small viral protein in viral infection and the master role of another small viral protein in the formation of the viral replication complex that originates from the endoplasmic reticulum and targets chloroplasts for robust potyviral genome replication in plant cells. Since viruses have small genomes with limited coding capacity, they are evolutionarily empowered with the ability to recruit host factors to fulfill the infection cycle. Mutation or silencing of the host factor or factors would lead to recessive resistance. Wang has made significant contributions to development of the concepts “host factor" and “recessive resistance" by identifying and characterizing more than 10 novel host factor genes required for potyvirus infection and by demonstrating that several of them can be manipulated through RNA silencing against viral pathogens. For those host factors that are also essential for plant viability, he creatively suggested a novel approach: precise deletion or mutation of the motifs essential for viral infection but not for plant viability via precise genome-editing technology to generate antiviral resistance. He coined the term “green mutants" to describe this concept in his recent review in Annual Review of Phytopathology.
For the transformation-recalcitrant fruit trees (such as peach) that often suffer from viral diseases, Wang took advantage of well-known virus-induced gene silencing by development and modification of viral vectors to silence the host factor or factors of the target viral pathogens to generate antiviral resistance. He has successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach against plum pox virus (PPV), a notorious virus affecting stone fruit production in many countries, including the United States and Canada. His research has not only advanced knowledge in fundamental virology but has also opened new avenues to crop improvement for the control of viral diseases. His work has directly impacted the federal PPV Monitoring and Management Program in Canada.
Wang and colleagues also developed several technologies that have been widely accepted by the plant research community. One of them is named “dsRNA binding-dependent fluorescence complementation (dRBFC) assay" and can be used to efficiently monitor dsRNA distribution and dynamics in planta. This technology has been requested by numerous plant virology labs to monitor viral replication. Another technology is the development of a novel protocol for generation of chemically induced mutations using in vitro-propagated shoot tip tissues for genetic improvement of fruit trees and perennial woody plants. This technology has been implemented by several Canadian and international laboratories.
Wang has published more than 105 peer-reviewed research articles—many of them in highly respected journals such as Nature Communications, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Plant Cell, Plant Journal, PLoS Genetics, PLoS Pathogens, Plant Physiology, and Plant Biotechnology Journal. Wang has edited or co-edited five books and authored or co-authored 25 book chapters and more than 200 other articles. He has trained 19 graduate students and 26 post-docs/visiting scholars, and most of them have been appointed faculty positions. As an internationally recognized authority in the field of plant virology, he has been invited to deliver more than 50 seminars at various institutions and to chair and make symposium or keynote speeches at numerous international scientific conferences.
Wang has been awarded millions of dollars of research funds from diverse resources and has played instrumental roles in many funded research programs. His original research has also resulted in many new collaborative research projects and new research opportunities at both the national and international levels. These have been evidenced in numerous signed material transfer agreements (MTAs) and in implementation of funded research programs at many international institutions.
In recognition of his outstanding and exceptional contributions to plant virus research, Wang received a Gold Harvest Award from AAFC in 2010. In 2013, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal from the Canadian government in recognition of his excellence in research and his significant contributions to the nation's agriculture.
Wang has also provided substantial service to the scientific community. He is a manuscript-handling editor for several journals, including MPMI, PLoS Pathogens, Scientific Reports, Virology Journal, and Canadian Journal of Plant Pathology, and he serves on the editorial boards of Journal of Virology, Molecular Plant Pathology, and Virology. In addition, he is an ad hoc reviewer for a number of prominent journals. He is frequently called on to review research proposals by major funding agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, and to conduct on-site reviews as a panel member. He is a member of both the Potyviridae study group and the Bromoviridae study group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, and he is a member of the International Plum Pox Virus Scientific Committee.