REHOVOT, Israel - March 22, 1998 - Prof. David Wallach of the Weizmann Institute of Science's Biological Chemistry Department has been awarded the 1997 Teva Founders Prize.
Wallach was honored for his pioneering research on the transmission of signals in cells. His studies for the first time provided a clear picture of the way such signaling controls mechanisms leading to cell death rather than to processes related to the life of the cell. Excessive cell death is a distinguishing feature of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and juvenile diabetes, while insufficient cell death leads to uncontrolled tissue growth and can result in cancer.
Prof. Wallach has spent some 14 years studying the tumor necrosis factor, or TNF, a molecule that plays a key role in the regulation of cell death. TNF is an effective killer of diseased cells but it is sometimes produced in excess, leading to pathologies in various parts of the body.
Wallach was one of the first researchers to isolate this molecule. He also discovered the TNF receptors, including their soluble forms that block TNF action - a finding that has opened the way to developing treatments for TNF-associated diseases.
More recently, he won widespread acclaim in the scientific community for clarifying the mechanisms by which TNF transmits death-inducing signals to cells. In 1996, the journal Science named his research on this topic the runner-up for the "Breakthrough of the Year."
The Teva Prize was awarded to Prof. Wallach at a festive ceremony in Jerusalem's Binyanei Ha'uma convention center on February 23.
At the same ceremony, Weizmann Institute Vice President Prof. Yoram Groner of the Molecular Genetics Department received the Teva Founders Prize for 1996. Groner was cited for his pioneering studies into the genetic and molecular basis of Down syndrome and for playing a leading role in this field worldwide. He shared the 1996 award with Prof. Yossi Shilo of Tel Aviv University.
The Weizmann Institute of Science is a major center of scientific research and graduate study located in Rehovot, Israel.