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Prof. Ada Yonath


Life expectancy – wishes & reality

Prof. Ada Yonath is a pioneer of ribosome crystallography. Her research in this area earned her the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

After studying for her BSc in chemistry (1962) and her MSc in biochemistry (1964) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Prof. Yonath earned her Ph D from the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1968. She continued her postdoctoral studies at Carnegie Mellon University and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At the Weizmann Institute, Prof. Yonath holds the Martin S. and Helen Kimmel Chair and directs the Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly.

In 1970, she established the first protein crystallography laboratory in Israel at the Weizmann Institute, which remained the only lab of its kind in the country for almost a decade. She has spent most of her scientific career working to unravel how the ribosome, a multi-component cellular nano-machine, functions as the cell’s “protein factory" for translating the genetic code into proteins. In addition to leading a research group at the Weizmann Institute, she headed a research unit at the Max-Planck Society in Hamburg, Germany, between 1986 and 2004.
In 2000, Prof. Yonath’s two decades’-long research effort culminated in her solving the spatial structure of two of the ribosome’s subunits. Subsequent studies in her lab revealed how clinically relevant antibiotics hamper the function of ribosomes of bacteria, and showed how disease-causing bacteria may develop antibiotic resistance, paving the way for developing advanced drugs.
Among other honors, Prof. Yonath is a member of the U.S. National Academy for Science and the Israeli Academy for Science and Humanities. In addition to the Nobel, Prof. Yonath is the recipient of the Linus Pauling Gold Medal, Stanford University 2006; the Albert Einstein World Award of Science, Princeton University (2008); the Erice Prize for Peace (the Vatican, 2009); the a gold medal of distinction from India’s prime minister (2011);  the Wolf Prize in Chemistry (2007), the L’Oreal UNESCO Award for Women in Science (2008) and the Israel Prize (2002 She also has Honorary Doctorates from Oxford , NYU and  most of the universities in Israel.
Prof. Yonath enjoys sharing her scientific interests with her daughter, Dr. Hagith Yonath, and her granddaughter, Noa.