Belgian Queen to Present the Award


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Weizmann Institute's Prof. Michael Sela First Israeli Winner of Interbrew-Baillet Latour Health Prize

REHOVOT, Israel - April 13, 1997 - Prof. Michael Sela of the Weizmann Institute of Science has been awarded the 1997 Interbrew-Baillet Latour Health Prize of Belgium.
Prof. Michael Sela

The prize, which is given every two years for scientific research with practical applications, will be presented to Sela by Belgium's Queen Paola at a ceremony in Brussels on June 17. It is the first time an Israeli scientist has been named a recipient of the award, which involves prize money of 6 million Belgian francs (about US$175,000).

Sela, Deputy Chairman of the Institute's Board of Governors and a former President of the Institute, is being awarded the prize for his pioneering work on synthetic peptides, or protein fragments, which has contributed to greater understanding and control of the immune system.

He is known in the scientific world for his seminal work in immunology, particularly for his research on synthetic antigens, molecules that trigger the immune system to attack. These efforts have led to the discovery of the genetic control of the immune response, as well as to the design of vaccines based on synthetic molecules.

One of Sela's major research efforts culminated recently in the approval by the US Food and Drug Administration of copolymer-1 (Copaxone), a new drug for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Copolymer-1 was originally synthesized and developed by Sela with the Institute's Prof. Ruth Arnon and Dr. Dvora Teitelbaum.

Sela, who has worked at the Weizmann Institute since 1950, has won numerous prizes and awards for his research, among them the Israel Prize in Natural Sciences (1959); the Rothschild Prize (1968); Germany's Emil von Behring Prize (1973); Canada's Gairdner Foundation International Award (1980); France's Institut de la Vie Prize (1984); Germany's Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit Award (1986); France's Officier de l'Ordre de la Legion d'Honneur (1987); and UNESCO's Albert Einstein Golden Medal (1995).

In February last year, Sela became the first non-German to be given the Max Planck Society's highest award, the Harnack Medal, which was first awarded in 1925 and has since been presented to 25 eminent German scientists and officials.

Sela is a member of scientific bodies in Israel and abroad, including the U.S.'s National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the French Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Sciences, Germany's Leopoldina Academy of Natural Sciences, the Italian Academy of Sciences and the Romanian Academy of Sciences.

He also holds honorary doctorates from academic institutions around the world and is an honorary member of many major scientific bodies. He is an Institute Professor in the Weizmann Institute's Immunology Department and holds the W. Garfield Weston Chair of Immunology.

Interbrew Baillet-Latour, which produces Stella Artois lager, is one of the world's leading brewery groups, as well as one of the oldest. The brewery was founded in the 14th century in Leuven, Belgium, under the name Den Horen, and was acquired by Sebastien Artois in the late 17th or early 18th century. In 1988, Artois Breweries merged with another major Belgian brewery, Piedboeuf, to create the Interbrew group.

The Interbrew-Baillet Latour Foundation (originally named the Artois-Baillet Latour Foundation) was set up in 1974 with a significant donation of company shares by long-time brewery director Count Alfred de Baillet Latour (1901-1980). In its biennial awards, presented for the first time in 1979, the Foundation aims to honor applications of fundamental scientific research.

The first winner was Britain's Sir James Black, honored for his contribution to medications for high blood pressure, peptic ulcers and other disorders. The 1995 winner was the U.S.'s Prof. Roger Tsien, honored for his work in clarifying the events inside cells critical to the actions of hormones and other molecules.

The Weizmann Institute of Science is a major center of scientific research and graduate study located in Rehovot, Israel.