McGill researcher recognized for pioneering work in biochemistry

Nahum Sonenberg Photo - Rachel Granofsky cropped
Photo: Rachel Granofsky

Nahum Sonenberg, a James McGill Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and the Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Research Centre at McGill University, is one of eight winners of the prestigious Wolf Prize as announced in Tel Aviv yesterday.

Established in 1978 by the Wolf Foundation, the Wolf Prize is given out annually in five categories; agriculture, chemistry, mathematics, medicine and the arts. Prof. Sonenberg, who is internationally recognized for his pioneering work in the field of biochemistry, was named a co-winner in the medicine category for his discovery of the mechanism of protein synthesis and its control in infectious diseases, cancer and neurological disorders. He will share the $100,000 prize with Victor Ambros of the Harvard Medical School and Gary Ruvkun of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

The Wolf Foundation’s mandate is to recognize outstanding scientists and artists for achievements in the “interest of mankind and friendly relations among peoples,” and to award scholarships and grants to students and scientists engaged in research at Israeli higher education institutions.

“I am deeply honored to receive the Wolf Prize from Israel,” said Prof. Sonenberg. “The prize recognizes fundamental discoveries in basic research that lead to important advances in medicine. I would like to thank the Wolf Foundation and the selection committee for this support.”

“On behalf of the McGill community, I want to express my sincere congratulations to Prof. Sonenberg on this remarkable achievement and thank the Wolf Foundation for this prestigious distinction,” said Prof. Suzanne Fortier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill. “The contributions of Canadian researchers such as Prof. Sonenberg in the advancement of knowledge are immense. Along with his other significant awards, such as the Gairdner award in 2008 and last year’s Royal Society of Canada’s McLaughlin Medal, Dr. Sonenberg continues to be recognized at the highest levels around the world for his pioneering research on the control of protein synthesis in such diverse areas as cancer, autism, learning and memory and microRNA function. Bravo!”

“I am extremely pleased to see even more recognition for Nahum’s outstanding work and thank the members of the McGill community who put forward and supported his nomination,” added Dr. David Eidelman, Vice-Principal (Health Affairs) and Dean of Medicine. “His wide-ranging research has transformed our understanding of the way proteins are synthesized in cells, with implications for diseases that range from diabetes to hepatitis C; poliovirus to cancer. Nahum’s research has revolutionized understanding of processes that include the response to insulin, cellular development, and immunology, as well as learning and memory. The Faculty of Medicine and the Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Research Centre are very proud to count him as an important member of our team.”

Laureates of the Wolf Prize will receive their prize in May at a state ceremony in the Knesset in the presence of Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Over the years, Prof. Sonenberg has collected a number of prestigious prizes including the Robert L. Noble Prize from the National Cancer Institute of Canada (2002), the Isaak-Walton-Killam Award for Health Sciences (2005) and the Gairdner Foundation International Award (2008); the Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award (2011); and the Royal Society of Canada’s McLaughlin Medal (2013). Sonenberg was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2006, and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2010. In 2012, he was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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McGill Reporter

January 17, 2014