Professor Aaron Ciechanover,  1947-
Professor Avram Hershko, 1937-

Professor Aaron Ciechanover             Professor Avram Hershko
Photographs reproduced with permission from the Haifa Technion (C).

Israel's Nobel Prize Winners in 2004

Professors Aaron Ciechanover and Avram Hershko shared the 2004 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Professor Irwin Rose (USA) for contributing "ground-breaking knowledge" in "discoveries of ubiquitin-related protein degeneration" (The "Ubiquitin System"), identifying the staged process in cells to be marked for destruction - as published in 1978 and pursued in the 1980s. This discovery has opened the way to major progress in research on treatment of malignancies, asthma, and degenerative diseases over the past decade.

The Nobel Chemistry lectures took place at 12:00 on Wednesday, December 8th 2004, in the Aula Magna, Stockholm University, Stockholm Sweden. The Nobel Prize Award Ceremony was on Friday, December 10th, in Stockholm Concert Hall at 16:00 followed by the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm City Hall at 19:00.

Both Israel's Nobel winers work at the Bruce Rappaport Institute and Faculty of Medicine at the Israel Technion in Haifa and previously received the coveted Lasker Award for Basic Medical Sciences for their discovery in 2002, so that they were surprised to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the same research.

Both are recipients of the Israel Prize: Hershko in 1994 (Biochemistry and Medicine) and Ciechanover in 2003. They also shared the Wachter Prize from the University of Innsbruck, Austria, in 1999. Hershko received the Wolf Prize for Medicine in 2001.

Hershko was awarded a Ph.D. in 1969. The period in which they worked together was from 1977-1981, while Aaron Ciechanover was studying for his Ph.D. under Professor Hershko, which he received in 1981-2. Another interesting fact is that both completed their M.D. at the Hadassah Hebrew University School of Medicine prior to their IDF service: Hershko in 1965 and Ciechanover in 1974. Ciechanover also completed an M.Sc. in 1971, on the way to his M.D.

Mabat Sheni, IBA Channel 1, devoted part of its programme on Monday November 29th 2004 to their lives, achievements, approaches and the importance of excellence in Israel, creating portraits of them as bio-medical and bio-chemical researchers, personalities in their own right, in their professional and family environment, beyond the realms of conventional biography:

Professor Hershko was born in Hungary in 1937. His family survived the Shoah, coming to Israel in 1950, and he grew up in Jerusalem in a traditional home, filled with books and learning, where economies were made in order to invest in the children's education. His grandfather was a rabbi and his father a chazan, but he himself is not musical, although he enjoys classical music. Totally dedicated to research, he feels that Israel's scientific incubation away from the international research limelight prevented others from copying their research and claiming the fame. He is philosophical about the time it took to find the key to protein breakdown, as the quintessence of the meticulous and painstaking processes of bio-medical research. He does not see the Nobel Prize as an endpoint, and wishes to continue in research, rather than make guest appearances and attend conferences in his capacity as a distinguished person. His wife of 40 years is also a professional colleague.

Professor Ciechanover was born in Haifa in 1947 to an immigrant family from Poland and lost his parents during his school years. He was brought up by his aunt, but clearly recalls the emphasis on books and study in his parents' home, as well as retaining a strong and vital attachment to Jewish prayer and chazzanut. Formerly a student and collaborator of Professor Hershko, he now heads his own research laboratory at the Haifa Technion.

He is very outspoken on the need for all-round education and promotion of excellence to ensure Israel's very survival as a state, through its technological advantage, and of excellence in other fields, such as sport, music and the arts. A fast-talking, energetic interviewee, Ciechanover is a person of wide-ranging general and personal interests, but avoids public engagement on political issues.

Read more:

English - links (NB: links to English language newspaper articles no longer current)

Ciechanover - Israel Prize 2003

Nobel Institute





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27 Jan 2009 / 2 Shevat 5769 0