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Prof. Ehud Shapiro of the Weizmann Institute of Science has received the 2004 World Technology Award for Biotechnology. The award is one of 30 given yearly by the World Technology Network (WTN) to those individuals and organizations whose innovations are likely to have a major impact on the technology and society of the future.
Shapiro, who works in both the Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, and the Biological Chemistry departments of the Weizmann Institute, has been recognized for the creation of biomolecular computing devices. So small that more than a trillion fit into one drop of water, these devices are made entirely of DNA and other biological molecules. A recent version of the biomolecular computing device was programmed by Shapiro and his research team to identify signs of specific cancers in a test tube, to diagnose the type of cancer, and to release drug molecules in response. Though cancer-detecting computers are still in the very early stages, and can thus far only function in test tubes, Shapiro and his research team envision future biomolecular devices that may be injected directly into the human body to detect and prevent or cure disease.
Award winners are chosen by their peers in the WTN. The Network’s membership is made up of past and present award winners and finalists, and today comprises over 800 individuals and organizations from 50 countries. Its stated goal is to bring together the people judged the most innovative in their fields, and to foster cross-disciplinary dialogue and advance the development of new ideas by having them take part in the “virtual think tank,” as well as in yearly summits, global and regional events, and publications.
Previous recipients of the World Technology Award for Biotechnology include Dr. J. Craig Venter, founder of Celera Genomics, and Dr. Leroy Hood, whose inventions made genome sequencing possible. The Weizmann Institute received a corporate World Technology Award for Health and Medicine in 2003.
Yaakov Benenson, Shapiro’s graduate student who had a key role in creating the biomolecular computers, received a 100 Top Young Innovators Award the previous week from MIT’s Technology Review Magazine.
The award was presented to Prof. Shapiro in a formal ceremony at the closing of the World Technology Summit, held in the San Francisco City Hall. The summit was held in San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel on Oct. 7-8. The WTN is supported by, among others, Nasdaq, the AAAS, Science, Fortune and Microsoft.
More information on biomolecular computers can be viewed on Prof. Shapiro’s website http://www.weizmann.ac.il/udi. Information on the Summit can be found on the WTN website: http://www.wtn.net.
Prof. Ehud Shapiro's research is supported by the M.D. Moross Institute for Cancer Research, the Samuel R. Dweck Foundation, the Dolfi and Lola Ebner Center for Biomedical Research, the Benjamin and Seema Pulier Charitable Foundation, and the Robert Rees Fund for Applied Research.