Hebrew University of Jerusalem professors Howard Cedar and Aharon Razin have been named as winners of the Canada Gairdner International Awards, which are presented annually to researchers from around the world for outstanding contributions to medical science.
Both Prof. Cedar and Prof. Razin are members of the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC) at the Hebrew University Faculty of Medicine. They are the first Hebrew University faculty members to have won the Gairdner Awards.
The awards were created by the Gairdner Foundation to recognize the achievements of medical researchers whose work contributes significantly to improving the quality of human life.
Professors Cedar and Razin are being honored for their contributions to the control of gene expression and cancer research. The pair is renowned for explaining the role of DNA methylation in the biological function of higher organisms.
“All components of the human body are constructed by reading the information encoded in our genes. The entire information booklet, present in every cell of the body, has been completely deciphered as part of the human genome project and serves as the basis for understanding genetic diseases,” explained Prof. Cedar. “We discovered that the text of this gene booklet is actually annotated through a chemical process called DNA methylation. These methyl groups provide a sophisticated system for marking which genes should be turned on or turned off in every tissue of the body. This represents a completely new form of biological information that is responsible for regulating the process of human development.”
Professors Cedar and Razin won the 2008 Wolf Prize in Medicine for their research on DNA methylation.
Prof. Razin, a native of Tel Aviv, has been a member of the faculty of the Hebrew University since 1971 and is currently a full professor in biochemistry. Prof. Cedar, a native of New York, immigrated to Israel in 1973 and joined the medical faculty of the Hebrew University, becoming a full professor in 1981.
The Canada Gairdner International Awards will be presented in October in Toronto.