REHOVOT, Israel -- October 17, 1996 -- Prof. Leo Sachs of the Weizmann Institute of Science has been named this year s recipient of an award for an outstanding contribution to society.
Prof. Sachs, 72, received the Ot Hanagid (Medal of the Governor) award, presented annually by Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center, for his pioneering work in cancer research.
Previous award recipients include former Israeli prime ministers Golda Meir, Menahem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin, former Israeli president Prof. Ephraim Katzir (also a Weizmann Institute scientist), authors Elie Wiesel and Herman Wouk, maestro Zubin Mehta, former Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek, and former Russian dissident and current Knesset member Natan Sharansky.
This year's ceremony, held in Jerusalem on October 6, marked the 25th anniversary of the awards. Prof. Sachs, of the Institute's Molecular Genetics Department, began studying the development of normal and cancerous blood cells in the early 1960s, and continues to do research in this area.
His findings are a cornerstone of current blood cell research. He discovered and identified a group of proteins among them colony-stimulating factors and some interleukins that control the viability and growth of blood stem cells and their development into different types of mature blood cells.
He identified both normal and malignant development factors, and showed that these proteins and some other compounds can be used to induce leukemic cells to differentiate and to behave once again like normal cells. Colony-stimulating factors are now used clinically to boost the production of normal blood cells in cancer patients after chemotherapy or radiation therapy, to improve the success of bone-marrow and blood cell transplants, and in other procedures.
His groundbreaking research in the 1950's on the use of amniotic fluid to diagnose a fetus's genetic properties has formed the basis for today s prenatal diagnosis of human diseases.
Prof. Sachs, who holds the Otto Meyerhof Chair of Molecular Biology, has received numerous awards, including the Israel Prize in natural sciences, the Wolf Prize in medicine, the Rothschild Prize in biological sciences, the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation Prize, the Bristol-Myers Award for a cancer research achievement, and the Royal Society Wellcome Prize.
He is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, and a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences.
The Weizmann Institute of Science is a major center of scientific research and graduate study located in Rehovot, Israel.