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Hershko, Avram (1937–) - PERSONAL HISTORY, INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS, BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS, PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:, THE WORLD’S PERSPECTIVE, LEGACY

prize biochemistry israel university

Avram (full name: Avraham) Hershko is a prominent Israeli biochemist and Nobel Prize winner.

PERSONAL HISTORY

Hershko was born on 31 December 1937 in Karcag, Hungary. During World War II, Hungary was a German ally. In 1944 German forces occupied the country and began deporting its Jewish population. Hershko’s father was drafted into a labor unit and sent to the Russian front, while he and some of the rest of his family were deported to a Jewish ghetto in Szolnok and then to Austria to work as forced laborers, as well. Both parents survived the war, and the family moved to Israel in 1950.

Hershko received his M.D. in 1965 from the Hadassah Faculty of Medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, and completed a Ph.D. in biochemistry there following his service as a physician in the Israeli army from 1965 to 1967. In 1969 and 1971, he was on a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California. In 1971, Hershko was invited to become the chairman of biochemistry at the faculty of medicine at the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) in Haifa, Israel. Hershko has remained at the Technion ever since, and is currently a Distinguished Professor at the Rappaport Family Institute for Research in Medical Sciences at the Technion, as well as an adjunct professor of pathology at New York University.

INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS

The home Hershko grew up in stressed education and knowledge. In medical school, Herskho studied organic chemistry with the renowned scientist Yeshayahu Leibowitz, and studied other subjects with the likes of Ernst Wertheimer, Jacob Mager, and Shlomo Hestrin. Attracted to biochemistry, he eschewed clinical medical practice to go into medical research. He later worked with Mager during his doctoral studies in biochemistry at the Hebrew University.

BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Name: Avram Hershko

Birth: 1937, Karcag, Hungary

Family: Wife, Judith (married 1963); sons, Dan, Year, and Ode

Nationality: Israeli

Education: M.D., Hadassah Faculty of Medicine, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1965); Ph.D., Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1969)

PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:

  • 1967: Serves as a physician in the Israeli army
  • 1969: Fills postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California
  • 1971: Invited to chair department of biochemistry at the faculty of medicine at the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology)
  • 1977: Begins research into the breakdown of proteins
  • 2000: Receives Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research
  • 2004: Corecipient of Nobel Prize for Chemistry

From 1977 to 1981, Hershko worked along with a junior Israeli colleague, Aaron Ciechanover, in studying the breakdown of proteins. Both also cooperated with an American colleague, Irwin Rose, at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. Years later, in 2004, Hershko, Ciechanover, and Rose were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation. The Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences lauded their research:

Proteins build up all living things: plants, animals and therefore us humans. In the past few decades, biochemistry has come a long way towards explaining how the cell produces all its various proteins. But as to the breaking down of proteins, not so many researchers were interested. Aaron Ciechanover, Avram Hershko and Irwin Rose went against the stream and at the beginning of the 1980s discovered one of the cell’s most important cyclical processes, regulated protein degradation. For this, they are being rewarded with this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry. (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Hershko.html)

THE WORLD’S PERSPECTIVE

Hershko is world-renowned for his contributions to the field of biochemistry, as attested to by many awards and honors. In addition to the Nobel Prize, he was awarded the Weizmann Prize for Sciences in Israel in 1997. In 1993 he was elected to the European Molecular Biology Organization, and the following year received the prestigious Israel Prize—Israel’s highest civilian award—in biochemistry and medicine. Along with his collaborator Ciechanover, he was corecipient of the Wachter Prize (University of Innsbruck, Austria) in 1994. Hershko was also a corecipient of the Gairdner International Award, given by the Gairdner Foundation of Canada in 1999. In 2000 Hershko received the prestigious Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research from the Lasker Foundation in the United States and the Alfred P. Sloan Prize. More recently, he received the 2001 Merck Award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; the 2001 Wolf Prize for Medicine; the 2002 E. B. Wilson Medal from the American Society of Cell Biology; and the 2005 Stein and Moore Award from the Protein Society.

LEGACY

Hershko will be remembered as a giant in Israel science and medicine, and one of the world’s foremost experts on protein degradation.

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