Weizmann molecular biologist recognized as top scientist

Prof. Ada Yonath chosen to receive $100,000 Life's Work Prize "For Women in Science".

Prof. Ada Yonath 88 (photo credit: )
Prof. Ada Yonath 88
(photo credit: )
Prof. Ada Yonath, a world-class molecular biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, has been chosen to receive the $100,000 L'Oreal and UNESCO "For Women in Science" Life's Work Prize - one of only five awarded each year to outstanding female scientists on each continent. Yonath is the first Israeli to receive the prestigious prize after being nominated by the Education Ministry's UNESCO committee, which is the government's advisory body on UNESCO activities in Israel. As the recipient of the prize, Yonath is recognized as this year's leading woman scientist in Europe. Education Minister Yuli Tamir sent a message of congratulations to Yonath upon hearing the news Sunday. The five prizes will be awarded at UNESCO headquarters in Paris this March by UNESCO director-general Koichiro Matsuura and World L'Oreal director-general Sir Lindsey Evan-Jones. The prize was established in 1998 with a panel of international judges to promote the advancement of women in science. Yonath, who was born in Jerusalem in 1939, is a crystallographer best known for her pioneering work on the structure of ribosomes. She received her PhD at the Rehovot institute and accepted postdoctoral positions at MIT and Carnegie Mellon University. In 1970 she established what was for nearly a decade the only protein crystallography laboratory in Israel. Her research focuses on the mechanisms underlying protein biosynthesis by ribosomal crystallography, a research line she pioneered more than two decades ago despite much skepticism within the international scientific community. Yonath elucidated the modes of action of over 20 different antibiotics targeting the ribosome, explained the mechanism of drug resistance and the structural basis for antibiotic selectivity and showed how it plays a key role in clinical usefulness and therapeutic effectiveness, thus paving the way for structure-based drug design. Nava Ravid, the managing director of L'Oreal-Israel, the local branch of the international cosmetics company, said, "As a woman, I am proud and excited over the selection of Prof. Yonath in 2008, the 10th anniversary of the prize." She noted that in the 100 years of the Nobel Prize, 514 men and only 12 women have received it, but L'Oreal was committed and honored to support the advancement of women scientists all over the world.