The challenge: How do cells know which genes to use and which to ignore?
The work: Howard Cedar – along with Aharon Razin and Adrian Bird – demonstrated how adding a simple chemical group (a methyl group) to DNA affects how and when genetic information is used.
Why it matters: Understanding how to turn methylation on and off could lead to treatments for cancer and other diseases.
Prof. Howard Cedar was born in New York in 1943. He received his BSc in Mathematics from M.I.T. and went on to do an MD and PhD in microbiology under the tutelage of Dr. James Schwartz at N.Y.U., graduating in 1970. He carried out postdoctoral research with Dr. Eric Kandel at N.Y.U. and then with Dr. Gary Felsenfeld at the N.I.H. in the framework of the Public Health Service. In 1973 he emigrated to Israel where he joined the faculty of the Hebrew University, becoming a full professor in 1981. Prof. Cedar is the recipient of the Hestrin Award for Biochemistry (1979) and the Hebrew University Outstanding Investigator Award (1991). He was elected to EMBO in 1982, received the Israel Prize in 1999 and became a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences in 2003. He received the Wolf Prize in Medicine in 2008 and the Emet Prize in Life Sciences in 2009. Three of his students have independently won the prestigious GE-Science Prize for the best doctoral work in the world.