Norway's largest charitable organization, the Olav Thon Foundation, which invests heavily in medical research, awarded its first international research award in the medical and natural sciences to Tel Aviv University's Prof. Yosef Shiloh and Prof. Judith Campisi of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, California. The prize money, NOK 5,000,000 (approximately $660,000), was split between the two winners.
Prof. Shiloh, the Myers Professor of Cancer Genetics and Research Professor of the Israel Cancer Research Fund at TAU's Sackler School of Medicine, was recognized for his pioneering research on the mechanisms that maintain the survival of human cells and the stability of human genetic material.
A member of the Israel National Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Prof. Shiloh was a recipient of the prestigious Israel Prize (considered "Israel's Nobel") in Life Sciences in 2011, the 2011 American Association of Cancer Research G.H.A. Clowes Award, and the 2005 EMET Prize in Life Sciences.
"A prize means scientific recognition," said Prof. Shiloh. "Scientists do not work in order to get prizes or any other monetary benefits, but the award of a prize means that our work is recognized by our colleagues, and this is probably the true reward of a scientist."
Unraveling the genome
Prof. Shiloh has spent much of his career investigating the processes that maintain genome stability and the defense mechanisms against substances that damage our DNA. He has investigated how the harmful effects of such substances can be countered and offered insights into how mammalian cells react to DNA damage produced by environmental factors, such as radiation and carcinogenic chemicals.
According to the Foundation, "The laureates have provided us with new insights into the molecular basis of aging, aging-related diseases, and cellular degenerative processes."
Prof. Shiloh has dedicated most of his scientific career to understanding the genomic instability syndrome, ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T). He began his work on A-T while working on his PhD thesis, and this quest culminated in 1995 with the identification of the responsible gene, ATM, in his lab. He and his team have since been engaged in exploring its function, its mode of action, and its many roles in cellular metabolism.
Prof. Shiloh obtained his BSc degree at the Technion Institute of Technology and his PhD in Human Genetics at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. A Fogarty Fellow at the National Institutes of Health, Prof. Shiloh also studied at Harvard Medical School, the University of Michigan, and New York University Medical Center.
In addition to his research, Prof. Shiloh devotes considerable time to giving popular scientific lectures to the general public and high school students on the medical, social, and ethical implications of the genome revolution and its effect on cancer research and therapy.
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