Emet Prize Laureates

Prof. Hanna Engelberg-Kulka

2018 Laureates of Emet Prize

In Category: Life Sciences
In Field: Genetics

Hanna Engelberg-Kulka

Jury Statement

“The Emet Prize is awarded to Prof. Hanna Engelberg-Kulka for her groundbreaking research in the field of bacterial genetics, her pioneering work of worldwide impact in unveiling new mechanisms for translating proteins under conditions of stress, which will yet serve as a basis for development of new antibiotics.”



Prof. Hanna Engelberg-Kulkawas born in Vienna in 1932 and immigrated to Israel at the age of 8. She was a member of the United Youth Movement, and later served in the Nahal Branch of the IDF, at Kibbutz Maayan Baruch in the Galilee. She was one of the first teachers in the Kiryat Shemona elementary school. She studied microbiology and biochemistry at the Hebrew University and in 1964 completed her Ph.D. there. Her thesis subject was The Mode of Action of the Antibiotic Streptomycin.She pursued her Post-Doc studies in the department of Molecular Biology at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in New York. In 1963 she returned to Israel and joined the Department of Molecular Biology in the Medical School of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Since 1958 she has been a professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at the Hebrew University Medical School.

Her work in molecular biology and genetics of bacteria led to several fundamental discoveries: development of a method to determine DNA sequence homologies, initiating the field of bioinformatics, currently at the forefront of medicine; the impact of the codon context and conditions of stress upon the reading of the genetic code; the discovery of the mazEF genes, the first chromosomal Toxin-Antitoxin (TA) system to be defined, which opened the way towards study of TA systems found to be abundant on the chromosomes of most bacteria; the E.coli toxin MazF, the first bacterial programmed cell death to be defined; the toxin MazF, which produces stress proteins leading to cell death; identification of a signaling communication peptide known as Extracellular Death Factor (EDF), which are secreted from bacteria and trigger inter-species cell death. These peptides provide a basis for a novel class of antibiotics currently under laboratory study.

Her work has earned her several awards, including the Israel Society of MicrobiologyUlitzky Prize, an elected Fellowship to the American Academy of Microbiology, the Hebrew University Faculty of Medicine Prize, the ILANIT-Ephraim Katzir Prize awarded by the Federation of the Israel Societies for Experimental Biology, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Vienna upon its 650th anniversary.