World-renowned Hebrew University biochemists Prof. Howard (Chaim) Cedar
and emeritus Prof. Aharon Razin were pleased to hear predictions late last week
that they would likely win the 2013 Nobel Prize in the fields of medicine or
“We have been mentioned numerous times in recent years,” the
US-born Cedar told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
“Just a prediction is a
compliment,” continued Cedar, who with Razin has worked for many years to make
fundamental discoveries about DNA methylation and gene
Thomson Reuters, the world leader in intelligent information
for businesses and professionals, has accurately forecast the names of 27 Nobel
laureates since the business was founded by merger in 2002. Its annual Thomson
Reuters Citation Laureates study involves data mining of scientific research
citations aimed at finding the most influential researchers in the fields of
chemistry, physics, medicine and economics.
Cedar was born in New York
City and made aliya to Jerusalem with his wife, Zipporah, 40 years ago, after
completing his bachelor’s degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
and an MD and PhD from New York University, and working at the US Army’s Public
Health Service and the US National Institutes of Health in Maryland. They have
six children, one of them the well-known Israeli film director and writer Joseph
At 70, he is a professor of the biochemistry and genetics of the
human cell at HU and chairman of developmental biology and cancer research at
the Institute for Medical Research, Israel- Canada.
Razin, born 78 years
ago in Tel Aviv, studied physics and mathematics at HU and received his master’s
degree in biochemistry and then a PhD. After completing his studies at the
California Institute of Technology, he began to work at HU.
Cedar and Razin received the Israel Prize in Biology, the Wolf Prize (“Israel’s
Nobel”) and the Canada Gairdner Award from the Gairdner Foundation.
work, with others, on DNA methylation (chemical changes in the DNA molecule)
focused on a basic aspect of animal cell biology that will affect medical
treatment of cancer and other diseases in the future. This molecular process
turns on and off the approximately 40,000 genes in the human body. Cedar
explains that everyone inherits genetic information, but that it “has to be used
in a programmed manner. That programming is called epigenetics. The older one
gets, the more likely the programming mechanism is to make mistakes.
thing that these changes in epigenetics control could predispose a person to
That would explain why cancer is largely a disease of old
Asked about their chances of getting the Nobel (the Medicine Prize
will be announced next Monday and Chemistry two days later), Cedar said on
Sunday: “There are lots of other good people around. Science is science, and I
don’t think anyone who decides is anti- Israel. But we would be very excited if
it happens to us.”
As the HU scientists have been mentioned before but
never before raised by Thomson Reuters as predicted laureates, Cedar said, “We
have a chance. Everybody has been hugging us since the prediction was made.”