Avram Hershko

Banquet speech

Avram Hershko’s speech at the Nobel Banquet in the Stockholm City Hall, December 10, 2004.

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Honored Laureates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the three of us, Irwin Rose, Aaron Ciechanover and myself, I would like to express our deep gratitude to the Nobel Foundation and to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for bestowing upon us this greatest honor and scientific recognition. At times, a Nobel Prize is awarded to several people who did not work together, but contributed separately to a common discovery. At other times, the prize is given to a team of scientists whose collaborative research resulted in a discovery. However, it is rare that a Nobel Prize is bestowed upon a team of three, each of whom represents a different generation in science: a biochemist from Israel (myself), his graduate student at the time of the discovery (Aaron Ciechanover) and their host and collaborator in the United States (Irwin Rose). We each have a very different background, as well as very different personalities and talents. Perhaps, I may best describe myself as being intuitive and persistent, Ernie Rose as analytical and sharply critical and Aaron Ciechanover as a person of immense energies. It took the complementing talents and cumulative efforts of the three of us, together with huge efforts by dedicated research groups in Haifa and Philadelphia, building upon an important background of prior research, to reach the critical mass that resulted in the breakthrough in the research and the discovery of the ubiquitin system 25 years ago.

The discovery of this biochemical pathway has been recognized by awarding of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, even though its implications are primarily in the biomedical sciences and hopefully, in the treatment or prevention of human diseases in the future. However, the boundaries between chemistry, biology, physics and medicine are rapidly disappearing. Only a comprehensive understanding of the chemical and physical processes in our cells and organ systems, will yield the insights needed to develop rational approaches to the prevention and treatment of disease. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has recognized this intimate relationship between chemistry, biochemistry, physiology and medicine many times in the past, and now again with this year’s choice for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

At such an auspicious event, which recognizes the work of many years, one naturally feels the great debt owed for the support of the family and loved ones, without whom the achievement would not have been possible. Usually I thank only my wife and my own family, but now I am speaking for all three of us, and therefore I would like to thank all three spouses: Zelda Rose, Judy Hershko and Menuha Ciechanover. Thank you for many years of help and support, and for bearing with many times of absent mindedness, blank stares and strange moods when experiments didn’t go quite as expected. Thank you all.

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 2004

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