REHOVOT, Israel, February 5, 1998 -- Profs. Michael Sela and Ruth Arnon of the Weizmann Institute of Science have been jointly awarded the 1998 Wolf Prize in Medicine.
The Prize committee announced that Sela and Arnon are being honored "for their major discoveries in the field of immunology." In citing their achievements, the committee noted that the two scientists were the first to introduce synthetic polypeptides, or protein fragments, into immunological research. Through their concept of synthetic vaccines, they paved the way for the production of safe and effective vaccines against infectious diseases, as well as specific peptides for autoimmune disorders. The Prize committee also cited Sela and Arnon for developing Copaxone (copolymer-1), a new drug for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.
The Wolf Prize, which is bestowed annually for outstanding achievements in agriculture, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, physics and the arts, and involves an award of US$100,000, will be presented to Sela and Arnon by President Ezer Weizman at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, on May 10. Two other Weizmann Institute scientists are among the previous recipients: Prof. Leo Sachs (1980) and Prof. Meir Wilchek (1987), also for achievements in medicine.
Prof. Sela, who holds the W. Garfield Weston Chair of Immunology, is Deputy Chairman of the Weizmann Institute's Board of Governors and a former President of the Institute, where he has worked since 1950. He has won numerous prizes and awards for his research, including the Israel Prize in Natural Sciences (1959); France's Legion of Honor Award (1987); UNESCO's Albert Einstein Golden Medal (1995); the Harnack Medal of Germany's Max Planck Society (1996), and Belgium's Interbrew-Baillet Latour Health Prize (1997).
Prof. Arnon, who holds the Paul Ehrlich Chair of Immunology, is a former Vice President of the Weizmann Institute, where she has worked since 1960. She has received numerous prestigious awards, including the Robert Koch Prize in Medical Sciences (1979), Spain's Jimenez Diaz
Memorial Prize (1986), France's Legion of Honor Award (1994), and a Women of Distinction Award (1997) from Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, for three decades of pioneering scientific research.
The Wolf Prize is awarded by the Wolf Foundation, which was established in 1976 by the late Dr. Ricardo Wolf, an inventor, diplomat and philanthropist, and his wife Francisca Subirana-Wolf, for the purpose of promoting science and art for the benefit of mankind.
The first Wolf Prize was awarded in 1978. A substantial number of Wolf Prize laureates have subsequently been awarded Nobel Prizes, most recently Stanley Prusiner in 1997 for achievements in the field of medicine.
The Weizmann Institute of Science, in Rehovot, Israel, is one of the world's foremost centers of scientific research and graduate study. Its 2,500 scientists, students, technicians, and engineers pursue basic research in the quest for knowledge and the enhancement of the human condition. New ways of fighting disease and hunger, protecting the environment, and harnessing alternative sources of energy are high priorities.