Two Israeli professors from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University have walked away with this year’s Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize. The prize is the latest in a long list of prestigious honors for New York-born Dr. Howard Cedar, 73, and his long-time collaborator, 81-year-old Dr. Aharon Razin.
Cedar and Razin are experts in the field of epigenetics, the study of changes in gene activity not caused by changes in the DNA sequence. Dr. Gary Felsenfeld of the National Institues of Health was also a recipient.
Lee Goldman, Chief Executive of Columbia University Medical Center, said in a statement that the award was for “advancing our understanding of how gene regulation works and what happens when the processes go wrong.” Goldman added, “These are fundamental medical discoveries that may lead to innovative treatments for a range of diseases.”
The Horwitz Prize is considered a top honor for achievement in biological and biochemical research. Over 40 Horwitz Prize winners have gone on to win Nobel Prizes.
The scientists are professors emeritus in the Department for Developmental Biology & Cancer Research at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Previously they won the Israel Prize (Cedar in 1999 and Razin in 2004), as well as the Wolf Prize (2008) and Canada Gairdner Award (2011), both of which are considered significant precursors to a Nobel Prize.
Israelis have won 12 Nobel Prizes in total, placing the country 15th in the world, ahead of countries including India, China and Spain. Most promisingly for Cedar and Razin, Israeli scientists have won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry four times in the past 12 years, most recently in 2013.
Howard Cedar’s son, Joseph Cedar, is the award-winning movie director of Beaufort and Footnote, both shortlisted for the “Best Foreign Language Film” Oscar.