Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize - 2005
Ada Yonath, Ph.D., the director of the Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and
Assembly of the Weizmann Institute of Science, is a Professor in the Department of Structural Biology.
She focuses on the mechanisms underlying protein biosynthesis, by ribosomal crystallography, a research
line she pioneered over twenty years ago despite considerable skepticism of the international scientific
community. She determined the complete high-resolution structures of both ribosomal subunits and discovered
within the otherwise asymmetric ribosome, the universal symmetrical region that provides the framework and
navigates the process of polypeptide polymerization. Consequently she showed that the ribosome is a ribozyme
that places its substrates in stereochemistry suitable for peptide bond formation and for substrate-mediated
catalysis. Two decades ago she visualized the path taken by the nascent proteins, namely the ribosomal tunnel,
and recently revealed the dynamics elements enabling it's involvement in elongation arrest, gating,
intra-cellular regulation and nascent chain trafficking into their folding space.
Additionally, Dr. Yonath elucidated the modes of action of over twenty different antibiotics targeting
the ribosome, illuminated mechanisms of drug resistance and synergism, deciphered the structural basis for
antibiotic selectivity and showed how it plays a key role in clinical usefulness and therapeutic effectiveness,
thus paving the way for structure-based drug design.
For enabling ribosomal crystallography Dr. Yonath introduced a novel technique, cryo bio-crystallography,
which in an amazingly short time, became routine and revolutionized structural biology, allowing intricate
projects otherwise considered formidable.
Dr. Yonath earned her Ph.D. at the Weizmann Institute of Science, and undertook postdoctoral studies at MIT
and Carnegie Mellon University. In 1970, she established what was for nearly a decade, the only protein
crystallography laboratory in Israel. After returning from a sabbatical year at the University of Chicago, during
1986 - 2004 she headed a Max-Planck Research Unit in Hamburg, Germany, in parallel to her research activities at
the Weizmann Institute.
Dr. Yonath is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, USA; the American Academy of Arts and Sciences;
the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities; the European Academy of Sciences and Art and the European Molecular
Biology Organization. Her awards and honors include the Israel Prize, the first European Crystallography Prize,
NIH Certificate of Distinction, the Harvey Prize, the Kilby Prize, the Cotton Medal of the US Chemical Society,
the Anfinsen Award of the International Protein Society, the Zurich University's Paul Karrer Gold Medal, the
University of Southern California's Massry Award and Medal, the Datta Medal of the Federation of European
Biochemical Societies, and the Fritz Lipmann Award of the German Biochemical Society. At the Weizmann Institute,
Prof. Yonath is the incumbent of the Martin S. and Helen Kimmel Professorial Chair.
ADA YONATH, CURRICULUM VITAE