(photo credit: courtesy)
Two outstanding researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have won
prestigious international medicine/science awards that are considered possible
predictors of becoming Nobel Prize laureates.
Prof. Howard (Chaim) Cedar
and Prof. Aharon Razin are among five who will receive the 2011 Canada Gairdner
International Awards in October. The announcement was made from Toronto on
Both Cedar and Razin are members of the HU Faculty of
Medicine’s Institute for Medical Research Israel- Canada.
The awards were
created by the Gairdner Foundation to recognize and reward the achievements of
medical researchers whose work contributes significantly to improving the
quality of human life. The Gairdner prizes have become Canada’s foremost awards
in the field of biomedical science. Seventy- six of the awardees have gone on to
win Nobel Prizes.
Cedar, a native of New York, came on aliya to Israel in
1973 and joined the HU’s medical faculty, becoming a full professor of molecular
biology in 1981. He has received numerous awards for his research, including the
Israel Prize and the Wolf Prize, which is described as Israel’s equivalent to
the Nobel Prize. He received the highly prestigious EMET Prize in 2009. He
became a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities in 2003 and
more recently was named a Man of the Year in science by The Jerusalem
“The components of the human body are constructed by reading the
information encoded in our genes,” said Cedar. “The entire information booklet,
present in every cell of the body, has been completely deciphered as part of the
human genome project and serves as the basis for understanding genetic
“We discovered that the text of this gene booklet is actually
annotated through a chemical process called DNA methylation. These methyl groups
provide a sophisticated system for marking which genes should be turned on or
turned off in every tissue of the body. This represents a completely new form of
biological information that is responsible for regulating the process of human
Razin, who was born in Tel Aviv in 1935 and has been a
member of the HU faculty in biochemistry since 1971, is also the recipient of
many prizes, including the Israel and Wolf Prizes and is a member of the Israel
Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
He, too, received the EMET
He received his B.Sc. from HU and then went on to do an M.Sc. and
Ph.D. on the subject of nucleotide metabolism. He did postdoctoral research in
the laboratory of Dr. Robert Sinsheimer at the California Institute of
Technology (Caltech) and since 1971 has been on the HU faculty, where he is a
full professor of biochemistry.
The three non-Israeli recipients are
Prof. Shizuo Akira, Prof. Jules A. Hoffmann and Prof. Adrian Peter Bird. Akira
is director of the WPI Immunology Frontier Research Center in Osaka.
was cited for groundbreaking discoveries and definition of the family of
receptors and the array of microbial compounds that they recognize to provide
innate resistance to infection.
Hoffman, of the Institute of Molecular
and Cellular Biological Institute in Strasbourg, was born in
He began studying the origins and roles of blood cells in a
type of grasshopper and went on to biochemical studies on insect hormones and
Bird, of the The Wellcome Trust Center for Cell Biology at the
University of Edinburgh, was cited for his basic biological work and
understanding of the biomedical significance of DNA methylation.
established a mouse model of Rett Syndrome and showed that the resulting severe
neurological phenotype can be cured.