Wolf Prize Laureate in Medicine 1987
Affiliation at the time of the award:
Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
“for the invention and development of affinity chromatography and its applications to biomedical sciences”.
Affinity chromatography is a novel technique which was conceived by Cuatrecasas and Wilchek and has become a powerful tool for the isolation and purification of many biologically important molecules. Few if any other new techniques have so markedly and rapidly affected the growth of biomedical sciences.
The principle of affinity chromatography is based on the covalent attachment to agarose beads of molecules that can selectively bind and thereby remove specific constituents from a mixture. This permits novel approaches to the study of enzyme mechanisms and the properties of cell surfaces, and enables separations of numerous other biological constituents to be carried out. This technique has also been employed in clinical diagnosis and therapeutics.
Professor Meir Wilchek was the first to use antibody columns for the isolation of antigenic peptides from proteins. This approach has proved essential for the field of synthetic vaccines. Antibody columns are also being used currently for the isolation of proteins synthesized by genetic engineering (e.g. interferon, growth hormone and other lymphokines).