Public Release: 

Prof. Shmuel Ben-Sasson wins first prize in Kaye Awards

Hebrew University researcher devises method to generate pharmaceuticals based on his work on Human Genome Project

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Jerusalem, June 3 - One of the first concrete results of the Human Genome Project is a formula for developing medications. Prof. Shmuel Ben-Sasson, the Dr. Joseph I. Bluestone Associate Professor of Experimental Medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has used a method he designed, based on his work in bioinformatics, to generate drugs with the potential to treat a wide variety of diseases. This includes human tumors such as prostate cancer, Type I and II diabetes, and the control of inflammatory responses. The formula can be applied to produce medications for many other illnesses and problems, he said.

Prof. Ben-Sasson is to be awarded the first prize in the Kaye Innovation Awards at the Hebrew University for his work.

Prof. Ben-Sasson studied a collection of enzymes known as protein-kinases which belong to one of the largest protein families in the human genome. There are more than 1,000 members in this family and they regulate many different biological responses. When activated, the protein-kinases send signals to cells to perform a variety of actions including cell-division, enhanced metabolism, hormone production and secretion, and cell movement. These actions are part of the body's normal functioning, however, when protein-kinases become hyperactive or underactive in many cases a disease develops. Using his unique bioinformatic tools, Prof. Ben-Sasson was able to determine how the activity of protein-kinases is controlled and then design a method to produce synthetic compounds that can activate or inhibit a specific enzyme. He then produced 13 different compounds that can control the development of diseases by controlling the activity of a protein-kinase involved in the disease.

With the assistance of the Yissum Research Development Company of the Hebrew University and a group of investors, the Keryx biotechnology company was established to develop medications based on Prof. Ben-Sasson's method. The first medication should be ready for pre-clinical trials soon. The company, which has been traded on the Nasdaq since August 2000, has raised $58 million. The majority of the approximately 60 employees at the Jerusalem-based company are Hebrew University graduates.

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The Kaye Innovation Awards at the Hebrew University have been awarded annually since 1994. Isaac Kaye of England, a prominent industrialist in the pharmaceutical industry, established the awards to encourage faculty, staff, and students of the University to develop innovative methods and inventions with good commercial potential which will benefit the University and society. The Kaye Innovation Awards at the Hebrew University are being awarded Tuesday, June 4 at 10:30 a.m. during the 65th meeting of the University Board of Governors. The award ceremony will take place in the Atzmaut-Mexico Hall in the Faculty of Humanities at the Mount Scopus Campus.

Picture available upon request. For further information, contact:
Heidi Gleit, HU foreign press liaison: tel. 972-2-588-2904; cell, 972-64-454-593; email heidig@savion.cc.huji.ac.il
Orit Sulitzeanu, HU spokeswoman: tel. 972-2-588-2811

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