Israeli-Canadian Scientist Wins Wolf Prize for Medicine

Prof. Nahum Sonenberg awarded $500,000 for discovering a protein expression regulation mechanism.

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

The winners of the prestigious Wolf Prize for 2014 were announced by Education Minister Shay Piron at a ceremony at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv on Thursday. This year’s eight winners include Israeli-Canadian scientist Prof. Nahum Sonenberg of McGill University in Canada.

The internationally renowned Wolf Prize, seen as second in importance to the Nobel Prize, will be awarded in May at a state ceremony in the Knesset in the presence of President Shimon Peres.

The $500,000 prize has been awarded annually in Israel since 1978 to a number of outstanding, living scientists and artists for “achievements in the interest of mankind and friendly relations among peoples.”

This year it will be divided among eight winners from four countries – the United States, Canada, Sweden and Taiwan – for their exceptional work in medicine, agriculture, chemistry, mathematics and painting and sculpture.

The prize in medicine will be awarded this year to Professor Sonenberg for his discovery of the proteins that control the protein expression mechanism and their operation. It will also be awarded to Professors Gary Ruvkun of Mass General Hospital Department of Molecular Biology and Harvard Medical School, and Victor Ambros of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the United States for the discovery of the micro-RNA molecules that play a key role in controlling gene expression in natural processes and disease development.

In agriculture, the prize will go to Professor Jorje Dubcovsky of the University of California Davis in the United States and to Professor Lief Andersson of Uppsala University in Sweden for their breakthrough contribution to the study of plants and animals, by using cutting-edge genomic technologies.

Professor Chi-Huey Wong of Academia Sinica in Taiwan will be awarded the chemistry prize, while the prize in mathematics will be given to Professor Peter Sarnak of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, United States for his contributions to analysis, number theory, geometrics and combinatory logic.

Swedish artist Olafur Eliasson will get the prize in arts for his “cutting-edge” work that integrates arts and science. Eliasson applies “an artistic vision to scientific concepts and a scientific spirit of experimentation in art,” the prize committee said of his work.

The Wolf Foundation began its activities in 1976, with an initial endowment fund of $10 million donated by the Wolf family intended to award prizes to outstanding scientists and artists for achievements in the “interest of mankind and friendly relations among peoples;” and to award scholarships and grants to students and scientists engaged in research at Israeli higher education institutions. The State Comptroller oversees all the Foundation’s activities and the Education Minister acts as Chairman of the Council.

An Illustration of a globular protein.Credit: Dreamstime
Piron in November 2013, before surgery. Credit: Ofer Vaknin

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