Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
2002 Laureates of Emet Prize
In Category: Life Sciences
In Field: Medicine
Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 2004
Prof. Avram Hershko was born in Hungary in 1937 and immigrated to Israel in 1950. He studied medicine at Hebrew University in Jerusalem (1956-1964) and served as a physician in the IDF. In 1967 he returned to Hebrew University, and two years later completed his doctorate in biochemistry summa cum laude.
While in residence at the University of California in San Francisco, he began to take an interest in the mechanisms of cellular protein degradation. While most of the staff at the laboratory in which he was working was researching the creation of a particular protein, he tried to understand how the protein is broken down. In his research, he found that cellular energy is required for the degradation of the protein he was studying, and this finding indicated that cellular protein degradation takes place by means of biochemical reactions of an unknown nature. In 1972 he returned to Israel and set up his laboratory at the Technion’s Faculty of Medicine in Haifa, where he has worked since in an attempt to discover how cellular proteins are broken down. The breakthrough was achieved when he found that proteins designated for degradation are marked by a link to a protein called ubiquitin. He was greatly assisted in this work by Aaron Ciechanover, who was his doctoral student at the time.
Prof. Hershko has recently been studying the roles of the ubiquitin system in controlling the cell division process, which is important for understanding cancer.
His discoveries have won him many prestigious awards, including the Israel Prize (1994), the Gairdner International Award, the Wachter Prize (1999), the Lasker Award, the Alfred P. Sloan Prize of the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation (2000), the Wolf Prize, the Massry Prize, Columbia University’s Horvitz Prize (2001) and the Wilson Medal of the American Society of Cell Biology (2002). He is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.