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Columbia University awards 2005 Horwitz Prize to Israeli structural biologist

Developer of technique for cell analysis; Infectious disease implications

Columbia University Medical Center

Columbia University will award the 2005 Louis Gross Horwitz Prize to structural biology professor and crystallography pioneer Ada Yonath, Ph.D., from the world-renowned Weizmann Institute for Science in Rehovot, Israel.

Dr. Yonath, the Martin S. and Helen Kimmel Professor of Structural Biology and director of the Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure at the Weizmann Institute, will be honored for her structural studies of the ribosome - the tiny but complex molecular machine responsible for the production of proteins, the building blocks of life, within cells.

"We are pleased to continue our Horwitz tradition by awarding this year's prize to Ada Yonath," said David Hirsh, Ph.D., executive vice president for research at Columbia University. "She has made seminal contributions to the understanding of the molecular basis of protein synthesis--one of the most fundamental processes carried out by living cells."

"I am delighted to receive such a prestigious and enduring honor--one that will allow me to share my life's work with some of the most distinguished scientific minds in the United States," said Dr. Yonath. "As a Horwitz Prize winner, I will be joining an amazing group of scientists and scholars, whose contributions to the world of discovery are both breathtaking and unsurpassed. I am truly thrilled and deeply flattered to be counted among them."

Awarded annually since 1967, the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize was established to recognize outstanding contributions to basic research in the fields of biology and biochemistry. The prize was named for the mother of Columbia benefactor S. Gross Horwitz. Louisa Gross Horwitz was daughter of Dr. Samuel David Gross, author of "A System of Surgery" and a founder of the American Medical Association.

The Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize Lectures, where Dr. Yonath will give presentations about her research, will be held on Monday, Nov. 21, 2005. The first lecture will be at noon in the Faculty Room of Low Memorial Library (535 West 116th Street) at Columbia University's Morningside Campus. The second lecture will be given at 3pm in the Hammer Health Sciences Building (701 West 168th Street), 4th floor, room 401, at Columbia University Medical Center. For more information about the lectures, visit

"As a pioneer in the crystallography of ribosomes, we are impressed with her incredible tenacity," said Andrew R. Marks, M.D., chair of the Horwitz Prize Committee, as well as the Wu Professor of Molecular Cardiology and chairman of the Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. "She was the first to believe that the structure of such a large assembly - ribosomes - could be obtained. And she stuck to this belief, despite widespread skepticism among her peers."

Ribosomes: Targets of Antibiotics

Dr. Yonath's work involves clarifying the internal mechanisms behind protein formation through the use of cryo-crystallography, a novel and groundbreaking technique that she envisioned and invented as part of her research. This technique is used to analyze ribosomes, which translate the genetic information of the cell into proteins that enable cells to specialize and function properly. Dr. Yonath's research, furthermore, has ramifications that go beyond basic scientific knowledge.

"Ribosomes are the targets of many antibiotics," said Dr. Marks. "Dr. Yonath's studies of bacterial ribosomes have allowed us to achieve greater insights into antibiotic action, selectivity, and resistance, with enormous implications for medicine in general--and the people who work so hard to develop drugs and treatments for infectious diseases in particular."

Dr. Yonath has received worldwide accolades and numerous awards for her breakthrough studies--including the National Institutes of Health Certificate of Distinction, the F.A. Cotton Medal for Excellence in Chemical Research, the 2000 Anfinsen Prize, the 2002 Harvey Prize for Natural Sciences, the 2002 Israel Prize for Chemical Research, the 2004 Massry Prize, and the 2004 Paul Karrer Gold Medal.

She has been further acknowledged with appointments to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, and the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Her work has also been featured in a number of prestigious, peer-reviewed scientific publications, including Nature, Cell, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

A graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (B.S, chemistry, 1962; M.S, biochemistry, 1964), Dr. Yonath has been affiliated with the Weizmann Institute since the late 1960s--first as a doctoral student (Ph.D., x-ray crystallography, 1968) and researcher, and later as a senior scientist, professor, and administrator. She has also held positions with Germany's Max Planck Institute and Israeli sister institutions Tel Aviv University and Ben Gurion University.


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