Emet Prize Laureates

Prof. Alexander Levitzki


2017 Laureates of Emet Prize

In Category: Life Sciences
In Field: Cancer research

Prof. Alexander Levitzki

Jury Statement

“The Emet Prize is awarded to Professor Alexander Levitzki for his pioneering research in signal transduction that has proved the possibility of manufacturing tyrosine kinase inhibitors, paving the way to new and effective cancer therapies.”

C.V.

 

Prof. Alexander Levitzki was born in Jerusalem in 1940. He received his M.Sc. in Chemistry and Microbiology, summa cum laude, from the Hebrew University in 1963, and after his army service, he completed his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Biophysics at the Hebrew University and the Weizmann Institute, summa cum laude. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley with Prof. Daniel Koshland for three years, after which he returned to Israel and served as a senior researcher at the Weizmann Institute, followed by appointments as Associate Professor of Biochemistry at both the Weizmann Institute (1974) and at the Hebrew University (1975).

His scientific work led to pioneering research: in the field of enzyme regulation, his work was central to understanding molecular mechanisms that control protein behavior. Together with his students, he developed quantitative methods to study cooperativity. He studied the properties of proteins and oligomeric proteins, including receptors and transcription factors, and developed biochemical and mathematical methods for analysis of transcription of genetic information. His laboratory was the first to identify the beta-adrenoceptor protein and the operative mechanism of the adenylyl cyclase enzyme. Since 1983, his lab has conducted applied research in transduction in cancerous cells to develop new cancer therapies. The chemical and biochemical tools he acquired in the 1970s enabled him to develop tyrosine kinases inhibitors. In 1988, he published a seminal paper in which he proved that selective inhibitors could be manufactured that respond to the EGF (epidermal growth factor). He later published papers that demonstrated, for the first time, compound kinase inhibitors; this led to the development of the drug Gleevec, introduced in 2000.

His work has earned him numerous prizes, including the Israel Prize in Biochemistry, the Rothschild Prize in Biology, the Wolf Prize for Medicine, and awards from the European Federation of Medicinal Chemistry, the European Society for Medical Oncology and the American Association for Cancer Research.