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Sir Ian Wilmut to speak Oct. 6 on his 20-year legacy with Dolly the cloned sheep

September 19, 2016

Sir Ian Wilmut and Dolly
Sir Ian Wilmut with Dolly the sheep. Photo courtesy of The Roslin Institute, The University of Edinburgh.

Sir Ian Wilmut, who in 1996 led the team that cloned the first mammal using an adult cell, will present “The Dolly Experiment: The First 20 Years” on Oct. 6, at 4 p.m. at The Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg.

An embryologist and chair of the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, Wilmut will speak about the legacy of his work to clone a Finnish Dorset lamb named Dolly. The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program (IGEP) in Regenerative Medicine, and the Department of Science and Technology in Society in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

“Before Dolly, most scientists — including me — were convinced that an adult cell could never be ‘reprogrammed’ to an embryonic state and then give rise to a clone,” said Will Eyestone, research associate professor of reproductive biology at the veterinary college. “Dr. Wilmut and Dolly proved us wrong and in the process revolutionized our understanding of biology. Since then, cloning and cellular reprogramming have evolved into fields unto themselves, have provided an important tool for agricultural and biomedical research, and have helped to breathe real life into the new and promising the field of regenerative medicine.”

Virginia Tech researchers use cloning and regenerative medicine in their work today. “The announcement of Dolly made me decide to pursue my career in animal sciences and embryology,” said Kiho Lee, assistant professor of animal and poultry sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “The approach Dr. Wilmut used to create Dolly has been widely used in various species. His work is the foundation of my research program, which is to study early development.”

During his visit, Wilmut will also meet with Virginia Tech students and faculty. In addition to giving presentations to undergraduate students in a Humanities, Technology, and the Life Sciences course and a reproductive biology seminar, he will speak with graduate students in the Regenerative Medicine IGEP. Wilmut will also tour the Virginia Tech campus and the veterinary college.

Born in Warwickshire, England, Wilmut studied agriculture at the University of Nottingham before pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge, where he worked in the laboratory of Christopher Polge, the scientist credited with developing cryopreservation. After his Ph.D., Wilmut began working at the Roslin Institute, an animal science research institute at the University of Edinburgh. In 1996, he and his colleagues at the Roslin Institute made international headlines for using somatic cell nuclear transfer to create Dolly the sheep. Although researchers still use this technique to investigate regenerative medicine treatments for disease, they have since developed alternative approaches to cloning animals.

Now an emeritus professor at the University of Edinburgh, Wilmut was knighted for his contributions to science in 2008. 

The Lyric Theatre is located at 135 College Ave. in downtown Blacksburg. Parking is available on nearby streets and public lots. If you are an individual with a disability and desire accommodation, please contact Flavio Carvalho, general manager of The Lyric, at genmanager@thelyric.com or (540) 951-4771 at least three business days before the event.

Read more about the lasting legacy of Dolly the sheep.

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