Ada Yonath

Next generation eco-friendly antibiotics and thoughts about origin of life

December, 17th 2019 | 12:15 | Forum Rolex

Department of Structural Biology, Weizmann Institute, Israel

Structures of complexes of eubacterial ribosomes with antibiotics paralyzing them illuminated common pathways of inhibitory-actions, synergism, differentiation and resistance. Comparisons to structures of ribosomes from multi-resistant pathogenic bacteria illuminated unique features that could be used for the design of next generation degradable species-specific antibiotics, thus being eco-friendly and microbiome preserving.

Inspection of the ribosome structure led to identification of a highly conserved region, in which peptide bonds are being formed, which was suggested to be the proto-ribosome, namely the origin of life. 

Ada Yonath focuses on genetic code translation by ribosomes, on antibiotics paralyzing this process, on designing novel antibiotics for multi resistant pathogenic bacteria, and on origin of life. She graduated from Hebrew University, earned her PhD from Weizmann Institute (WIS) and held postdoctoral studies at CMU and MIT, USA.

In 1971, she established the first biological-crystallography laboratory in Israel, which was the only lab of this kind in the country for almost a decade. Since 1989 she is serving as the Director of Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structures at WIS. In 1978-9 she spent a Sabbatical in Chicago University, and during 1980-2004 in parallel to her WIS activities as a PI, she headed the Max-Planck-Research-Unit for Ribosome Structure in DESY, Hamburg, and collaborated with Max Planck Inst. for Molecular Genetics in Berlin.

Among other academies, she is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the Israel Academy of Sciences & Humanities, the German Academy for Sciences (Leopoldina), European Molecular Biology Organization, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (Vatican), the Korean Academy of Sciences and Technology, the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), the UK RoyalSociety for Chemistry, the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rome, Italy, and the Royal European Academy of Doctors (RAED).

She holds honorary doctorates from over 20 universities worldwide, in Israel, USA, Latin America, Europe and the Far East. Her awards include the Israel Prize, Linus Pauling Gold Medal, Albert Einstein World Award for Excellence, UNESCO-L’Oréal Award, the Wolf Prize, the Golden DESY Pin, the Indian Prime-Minister medal, the Paul Ehrlich-Ludwig Darmstaedter Medal, the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize, the Erice Peace Prize, and the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.