James R. “Jim” Hudson received the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Service to Agriculture Award at the organization’s 100th annual meeting in Montgomery Dec. 5. The award is the highest honor given by the state’s largest farm group.
Hudson and the late Lonnie S. McMillian founded the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology to encourage corporations, scientists and nonprofit organizations to cooperatively seek answers to life’s most perplexing challenges through animal and plant DNA. The nonprofit research facility in Huntsville is a world-renowned incubator for innovation.
“By mapping the human genome, scientists there have created a road map to help cure deadly diseases,” said Federation President Jimmy Parnell, who presented the award to Hudson. “Now, through the Center for Plant Science and Sustainable Agriculture, HudsonAlpha is developing crop solutions for water, nutrient and pesticide management.”
Through Hudson’s visionary leadership, Alabama is planting seeds of discovery to help farmers feed a growing world with fewer resources and less environmental impact, Parnell said.
“I am pleased to accept this honor in the name of HudsonAlpha and especially on behalf of Lonnie McMillian, my late friend and mentor,” Hudson said. “I want to thank all the hard-working farmers because they keep my plate full at home and my family satisfied.”
A lifelong learner and entrepreneur, Hudson earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in Vietnam after graduating from the University of Alabama. He returned home to his family’s foundry business, later establishing Research Genetics, a pioneer in the human genome project.
That work foreshadowed HudsonAlpha, which opened its doors in 2008.
At HudsonAlpha, employees of for-profit companies of all sizes work alongside nonprofit researchers. The model increases scientific understanding and decreases the time it takes for discoveries to reach the market, according to company officials.
Of all the high-quality plant-referenced genomes that have been assembled, half were sequenced at HudsonAlpha. In addition to work on plant and animal research, the company conducts groundbreaking research for diseases that include ALS, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Gov. Kay Ivey recently awarded HudsonAlpha nearly $1 million through the Alabama Research and Development advancement fund. HudsonAlpha, along with Auburn University’s departments of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences and Entomology and Plant Pathology, and Alabama A&M’s Winfred Thomas Agricultural Research Station, are working to develop better agriculture seed varieties to produce healthier and more productive crops.