Written by Eliana Benador
“The process of scientific discovery is, in effect, a continual flight from wonder.” Albert Einstein
At the dawn of life, as babies are born, they enter a welcoming world filled with surprises that will woo them to the exquisiteness of life. It was that awakening that filled men with the necessary curiosity and the innate wish to improve our lives through discovery and creation. Thus, the embryo of Science was set in place. According to the dictionary, Science is: “The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.”
Among the different institutions devoted to the study of Science, The Weizmann Institute of Science shines, since its inception in 1934, in Rehovot, Israel, as one of the foremost and leading multidisciplinary research institutions worldwide.
Thus, Dr. Chaim Weizmann’s dream of establishing such an institution became reality, now with 2,700 scientists working in a garden-like 280-acre beautifully landscaped campus that provides for peace sine qua non to the creative minds of scientists and researchers allowing them to put their energy and effort to finding discoveries and developing inventions for the benefit of mankind.
The Institute has five faculties: mathematics and computer science, physics, chemistry, biochemistry, and biology, with 250 research groups headed by senior scientists and professors who can cross the borders of their own disciplines in order to work together combining the powerful actions and reactions of their fields to try to achieve encompassing results. For instance, biology research applies mathematics, physics, and even chemistry, and so on. Such inter-disciplinary interaction is readily available to Weizmann scientists.
Each year, the school bestows around 1,000 MSc and PhD degrees to outstanding young scientists from dozens of countries. Postdoctoral fellows are integrated in campus to continue their studies in the labs of the Institute’s renowned scientists.
Countless are the groundbreaking medical and technological applications that have emerged from basic research conducted by Weizmann Institute scientists. They include:
Amnocentesis, which is a pre-natal diagnostic test for the fetus as well as new fertility treatments. Weizmann scientists have worked on two of the frontline treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS); and have developed a technology used in advanced medical imaging scans. They are creating diabetes vaccines and flu vaccines, they are using stem cells to grow new organs and a potential T cells treatment to regenerate damaged spinal-cord nerves after injury, and are investigating conditions ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists at Weizmann have found a universal multi-season, multi-strain flu vaccine, which is in clinical trials. They are developing a method to halt Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes. Their research has also invented Copaxone® and Rebif®, two leading FDA approved drugs for multiple sclerosis. Now, they are also working on the creation of human kidneys in mice, which has implications for growing replacement organs for transplants.
The 2009 Chemistry Nobel Prize winner for her pioneering work on the structure and function of ribosome, Prof. Ada Yonath, is an Israeli crystallographer and is currently the director of the Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly of the Weizmann Institute of Science.
Prof. Yonath became the first Israeli woman to win the Nobel Prize out of nine Israeli Nobel laureates, and the first woman in 45 years to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Her research should speed the development of antibiotic drugs that are more efficient, especially against antibiotic-resistant strains.
Weizmann Institute’s leadership is conspicuous in the battle against cancer, one of our era’s pandemic diseases, with roughly 50 research groups at the Institute focusing on developing better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer. In fact, about 40 percent of Weizmann’s life sciences research is cancer-related. Institute scientists were among the first to demonstrate that cancer develops in a multistage process.
Other cancer-related research includes: imaging to detect and diagnose breast cancer without invasive biopsies and photo-dynamic techniques to fight prostate cancer. Weizmann has designed a blood test to uncover risk for lung cancer; as well as a bone marrow transplant technique to treat leukemia; and have devoted studies to the treatment of ovarian cancer and brain tumors. The Institute’s collaborative teams are working to turn basic research into powerful diagnostic tools, drugs, and therapies to be used in mankind’s fight against cancer—and win.
Whether it’s about building sophisticated laser systems for high-precision diamond cuttinga a method for growing hybrid seeds that prevents the transmission of disease from one generation to the next and helps protect edible plants from pests, or research on affinity chromatography, a key tool for purifying biological materials in the biotechnology industry, or the living polymerization, one of the most fundamental techniques of the modern polymer industry -the scientists and researchers at Weizmann Institute commit their lives to the advancement of science for the benefit of humanity at large.
“The Scientist” magazine’s annual survey lists the institution as “number one among the best academic institutions to work in academia outside the United States.” That ranking is up from the second place they had in 2010 and 2009.
The Institute’s name is in the news on a daily basis, whether it is about autism or about boosting the body's defenses against cancer or about carbon dioxide-to-fuel conversion technology, or something as futuristic and amazing as how nano-sized bio-molecular computers implanted in the human body could autonomously scan for disease indicators, actually diagnose diseases, and control the release of the appropriate drugs...”
Well, just leave it to Israeli scientists who passionately and tirelessly thrive in their daily mission to find more and better ways to constantly improve mankind’s standard and quality of life.
Goodwill Ambassador Eliana Benador is a national and international global strategist and the former CEO and founder of Benador Associates. You can find Eliani at the Goodwill Ambassador or at her website, on Twitter, at her political page on Facebook and her business page on Facebook.