Yuval Hart

Krill Prize 2023
The Hebrew University

Yuval Hart

 

Affiliation at the time of the award:

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology

 

Award citation:

“for unique contributions to understanding the computational principles of cognitive processes in health and illness”.

 

My research focuses on the computational principles that govern our cognition. With these computational principles, we can point to concrete mechanistic accounts of cognition in both health and disease.

Dr. Hart’s research in the field of creativity deals with understanding the questions: How do people find innovative and valuable solutions within huge mental search spaces? How does creativity develop in children, youth and adults? What is the brain mechanism of creative search? And what is common and different between creative processes in different people?
In the field of autism research, Dr. Hart’s research suggests that weighing trade-offs between precise encoding of a signal and rapid response to changes in the environment underlies many of the behavioral and brain differences observed between people diagnosed on the autistic spectrum and neurotypicals.

Another area being researched in his laboratory is the weighting of computational transformations in health and disease – in the laboratory, Dr. Hart is looking for ways to remap the activity of brain networks and the contexts between them for computational tasks. This mapping might make it possible to locate early markers for neuronal diseases in the future.

His work applies advanced analysis methods (based on data and mathematical models) to large databases that include many subjects and/or a very high temporal or spatial resolution.

Inbal Talgam-Cohen

Krill Prize 2023
Technion

Inbal Talgam-Cohen

 

Affiliation at the time of the award:

Technion

Faculty of Computer Science

 

Award citation:

“for unique contributions in the study of algorithmic game theory and contract design”.

 

Algorithms are the building blocks of computer science, and in practice they are the mathematical “recipe” that allows the computer to convert input (problem) into output (solution). Algorithms today do not operate in a vacuum, but affect almost every field in the economy and society. Therefore, in the design of the algorithm, its interaction with people, who have their own interests, must be taken into account – the algorithm must encourage them to cooperate in order to succeed in solving the problem. Dr. Talgam-Cohen’s research focuses on the combination of algorithms and incentives and draws from fields of knowledge such as economics and game theory.
In a study conducted by Dr. Talgam-Cohen in recent years, she turns the algorithmic spotlight on “contract design”, a field that won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2016. The study shows how combining algorithms and contracts can not only lead to better algorithms, but also to significantly improved contracts. It may, for example, shed light on the most common forms of contract, enable personalized incentives, and tie contracts to machine learning.

 

Nitzan Gonen

Krill Prize 2023
Bar-Ilan University

Nitzan Gonen

 

Affiliation at the time of the award:

Bar Ilan University

Faculty of Life Sciences, Center for Nanotechnology

 

Award citation:

“for original contributions in the study of the molecular mechanisms that mediate the determination of embryo’s sex in mammals, and future development of artificial testicles for sperm production under laboratory conditions”.

 

The field of embryo sex, male or female, has fascinated humanity for generations. The sex of the embryo in mammals is determined on the basis of the sex chromosomes: the embryo carrying XY chromosomes will develop as a male while the embryo carrying XX chromosomes will develop female. While most of the time the distinction between female and male is easy and clear, many applicants get the gender determination procedure wrong, meaning that there are people who are XY but female, and people who are XX but male. Hundreds of genes are known to be involved in the process of sex determination and the transformation of the primary gonads into testicles or ovaries. Mutations in many of these genes cause a syndrome called DSD – disorders of sex development, which is characterized by a mismatch between the sex chromosomes, the gonads and the sex anatomy. One in every 4,000 babies are born with DSD, and all of them are infertile. Despite many years of research, more than 50% of sex reversal cases have not been genetically diagnosed .
Using innovative genomic methods, in Dr. Gonen’s laboratory, they investigate the involvement of elements in the genome that do not code for genes but are involved in the process and can provide a basic explanation (in cases that have not been explained to date) for deciding whether testicles or ovaries will develop. Also in the laboratory, embryonic stem cells are used in an attempt to create An artificial testicle that will serve as a research and treatment model for cases of gender determination problems and infertility, and in the hope that in the future a path will be broken to create artificial sperm that will allow infertile people to give birth to a biological child.

Viviane Slon

Krill Prize 2023
Tel-Aviv University

Viviane Slon 

 

Affiliation at the time of the award:

Tel Aviv University

The Sackler Faculty of Medicine,

Department of Anatomy and Anthropology

 

Award citation:

“for her contributions in the development of research methods and tools in the study of the genome of ancient humans and the evolution of the human genome”.

 

Sequencing the DNA of ancient humans is an important tool for researching the genetic history of humanity and for understanding who were the people who lived in the world in prehistoric times. What was the social organization in their communities? What was their interaction system with the environment? But it is actually rare to find prehistoric human remains.

Another promising way to investigate the past is the extraction of DNA from sediments (particle sediments), such as soil accumulated in a cave, since at any archaeological site sediments may represent thousands of years of human presence in a place. Dr. Slon’s research deals with improving the methods for collecting sediment samples from archaeological sites and the methods required to process the genetic data – with the aim of studying the genome of ancient humans in new ways. The study of ancient DNA from sediments may become a standard procedure in every archaeological dig, which will open new avenues for researching our history and the evolution of the genome.

Ido Goldstein

Krill Prize 2023
The Hebrew University

Ido Goldstein

 

Affiliation at the time of the award:

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Food and Environmental Agriculture

The Institute of Biochemistry, Food Sciences and Nutrition

 

Award citation:

“for unique contributions to the study of the genetics of hunger and to understanding the dynamics of fasting and its breaking and its consequences in metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity”.

 

In Dr. Goldstein’s laboratory, the body’s reaction to fasting is studied. During fasting, a series of processes are activated in the liver to provide energy to the rest of the body’s organs. The supply of energy occurs thanks to the production of fuel (such as glucose) by the liver. The production of fuel in the liver is made possible thanks to thousands of genes that are activated during fasting and drive complex metabolic processes.

Thanks to these changes in gene expression, we are able to survive prolonged fasting of up to two months! On the other hand, if these processes take place without control, the liver will produce fuel even in states of satiety, and this situation may cause the development of diseases such as diabetes (a disease in which increased and uncontrolled production of glucose occurs). Dr. Goldstein uses advanced techniques of molecular biology, metabolism and genome-wide sequencing to study the complex networks of gene expression that enable the body’s response to fasting.

Benjamin F. Cravatt III

Wolf Prize Laureate in Chemistry 2022

Benjamin F. Cravatt

 

Affiliation at the time of the award:

Scripps Research Institute, USA

 

Award citation:

“for developing activity-based protein profiling, a chemical proteomic strategy, to characterize enzyme function in native biological systems, and describe numerous enzymes which play critical roles in human biology and disease, including the endocannabinoid hydrolases whose lipid products regulate communication between cells”.

 

Prize share:

Benjamin F. Cravatt

Carolyn Bertozzi

Bonnie Bassler

 

“for their seminal contributions to understanding the chemistry of cellular communication and inventing chemical methodologies to study the role of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins in such biological processes”.

 

Cravatt, the Gilula Chair of Chemical Biology and Professor in the Department of Chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute. His research aims to understand proteins’ roles in human physiological and pathological processes and use this knowledge to identify novel therapeutic targets and drugs to treat diseases.

Cravatt was inspired to think about biology by his parents and credits his high school mathematics teachers for nurturing his interest in the quantitative sciences. Cravatt obtained his undergraduate education at Stanford University, receiving a B.Sc in Biology and a B.A. in History. He then received a Ph.D. from The Scripps Research
Institute (TSRI) in 1996 and joined the faculty at TSRI in 1997.

Bridging the fields of chemistry and biology, Cravatt and his research group have developed and applied technologies to discover biochemical pathways in mammalian biology and disease. Cravatt pioneered an approach to identify protein classes based on their activity. His multidisciplinary approach generates all tools and models required to assign molecular, cellular, and physiological functions to enzymes and, as an essential corollary, assess their suitability as therapeutic targets. He achieves a unique balance that cultivates the creation and rapid implementation of cutting-edge technologies to advance basic and translational science.

Cravatt’s work on the endocannabinoid system has radically changed the landscape of proteome analysis by demonstrating how innovative chemical methods can be used to broadly and deeply investigate protein function directly in native biological systems.

The chemical proteomic technology Activity-Based Protein Profiling (ABPP), pioneered by Cravatt employs chemical probes to directly measure enzyme function. For example, a fluorescent label may be used to tag enzymes with certain chemical properties, allowing scientists to survey all active enzymes in a cell at once, and to determine
the targets of drugs in a global manner directly in living systems.

Cravatt has used this and related chemical proteomic technologies to conduct global analyses of protein activities and to elucidate the functions of several enzymes, including those linked to human cancers, neurological disorders, and the endocannabinoid system, which consists of lipid transmitters involved in appetite regulation, pain sensation, mood, memory, and other physiological processes.

Benjamin Cravatt is awarded the Wolf prize for developing activity-based protein profiling, which has emerged as a powerful and widely used chemical proteomic strategy to characterize enzyme function in native biological systems. He used this approach to characterize numerous enzymes which play critical roles in human biology and disease, including the endocannabinoid hydrolases whose lipid products regulate communication between cells.

Pamela Ronald

Wolf Prize Laureate in Agriculture 2022

Pamela Ronald

 

Affiliation at the time of the award:

University of California, Davis, USA

 

Award citation:

“for pioneering work on disease resistance and environmental stress tolerance in rice”.

 

Prize share:

None

 

Ronald, a distinguished professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and the Genome Center at the University of California, Davis. She also serves as the director of grass genetics at the Joint Bioenergy Institute in Emeryville, California, and as the faculty director of the UC Davis Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy.

One of the greatest challenges of our time is to feed the growing population without further destroying the environment. Because most of the world’s farmland is already under cultivation and fresh water is scarce, increased food production must largely take place more efficiently. To produce a successful crop each year, farmers must employ strategies to combat pests, diseases, and environmental stresses, which reduce global yields by 30-60% each year.

Ronald’s lab studies genes that control resistance to disease and tolerance of environmental stress with the goal of improving food security for the world’s poorest farmers. Together with her collaborators, she has engineered rice for resistance to disease and tolerance to flooding, which seriously threatens rice crops in Asia and Africa.

Pamela Ronald has spent three decades studying rice, a staple food for more than half of the world’s population. Her discoveries show an advanced understanding of fundamental biological processes and enhance sustainable agriculture and food security. Ronald’s team isolated a gene that allows rice to survive two weeks of flooding and increases yield by 60% compared with conventional varieties. Her research facilitated the development of flood-tolerant rice varieties now grown by more than 6 million subsistence farmers in India and Bangladesh, where 4 million tons of rice, enough to feed 30 million people, is lost each year to flooding.

Ronald’s isolation of the Xa21 immune receptor in 1995, the first member of this important class of receptors to be identified, revealed a new mechanism with which plants and animals detect and respond to infection. In 2015, her team isolated and characterized the receptor-ligand, a microbial immunogen, that triggers both developmental and immunological responses in the host. These breakthrough studies continue to have implications for studies of infectious diseases of both plants and animals.

Ronald is widely recognized for innovative and effective public engagement with the goal of advancing agricultural sustainability. Ronald’s lectures and writings, and in particular her book with her husband, Raoul Adamchak, established a new paradigm where biotechnologies and organic agriculture are integrated as a base for sustainable farming, and as a way of coexistence for environmentalists and technologists.

Ferenc Krausz

Wolf Prize Laureate in Physics 2022

Ferenc Krausz

 

Affiliation at the time of the award:

Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, Germany

 

Award citation:

“for pioneering contributions to ultrafast laser science and attosecond physics”

 

Prize share:

Ferenc Krausz

Paul Corkum

Anne L’Huillier

 

“for pioneering and novel work in the fields of ultrafast laser science and attosecond physics and for demonstrating time-resolved imaging of electron motion in atoms, molecules, and solids. Each of them made crucial contributions, both to the technical development of attosecond physics and to its application to fundamental physics studies”.

 

Krausz, an Hungarian-Austrian physicist whose research team was the first to generate and measure attosecond light pulses and used them to capture electron motion inside atoms.

Krausz was awarded his MSc in Electrical Engineering at the Budapest University of Technology in 1985. His Ph.D. in Quantum Electronics is from the Vienna University of Technology, in 1991, and his “Habilitation” from the same university in 1993. He joined the Department of Electrical Engineering as Associate Professor in 1998 and became a full Professor in 1999. In 2003 he was appointed a Director in the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany. Since 2004, he is a Professor of Physics and Chair of Experimental Physics at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Krausz is fascinated by expeditions into ever smaller dimensions of space and time. As far back as the early 1990s, when he was working on his doctorate at the Vienna University of Technology, he was impressed by the idea to do so using extremely short pulses of light that new lasers were making possible at the time. The first attosecond pulses were generated and measured by Krausz’s group in the early 2000s. This allowed Krausz to make real-time observations of electron movements on atomic scales for the first time. Today, we are using such pulses to gain a better understanding of microscopic processes involving electrons, atoms, and molecules, and to find how they affect the macroscopic worlds.

Krausz’s recent work at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics includes several exciting new applications. With his group, he attempts to use femtosecond and attosecond technology to analyze blood samples and to detect minute changes in their composition. The group investigates whether these changes are specific enough to allow diseases to be diagnosed, unambiguously, in their initial stages.

Krausz showed that the harmonic pulses have durations in the attosecond range. He also contributed to the generation of few-cycle laser pulses and the study of the time dependence of numerous atomic and molecular physics processes. He realized the feasibility of experiments with time resolution in the attosecond range. This has allowed the study of photoionization in the time-domain and evidenced Wigner-like time delays in the photoemission of electrons from atoms or molecules.

 

Paul Corkum

Wolf Prize Laureate in Physics 2022

Paul Corkum

 

Affiliation at the time of the award:

University of Ottawa, Canada

 

Award citation:

“for pioneering contributions to ultrafast laser science and attosecond physics”

 

Prize share:

Paul Corkum

Ferenc Krausz

Anne L’Huillier

 

“for pioneering and novel work in the fields of ultrafast laser science and attosecond physics and for demonstrating time-resolved imaging of electron motion in atoms, molecules, and solids. Each of them made crucial contributions, both to the technical development of attosecond physics and to its application to fundamental physics studies.”

 

Corkum, a Canadian physicist, a leader, and a pioneer in the field of ultrafast laser spectroscopy. For three decades he has been a major source of insight regarding the great potential of this field. He is known primarily for his remarkable contributions to the field of high harmonic generation and for proposing intuitive models which helped to explain the complex phenomena associated with attosecond spectroscopy.

Corkum has stated that he owes his career to his high-school physics teacher, Anthony Kennett, who pushed him to prove everything. According to Corkum, in physics, that is what you want to do. Corkum grew up in Saint John, New Brunswick, a small port city on Canada’s east coast. The son of a fisherman and tugboat captain, he spent much of
his time around boats, sailing with his father, and working on various types of engines. Corkum started his career as a theoretical physicist. He graduated from Lehigh University, PA, U.S.A., with a PhD in theoretical physics in 1973. Later, during a postdoctoral interview at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), when asked “Why do you think you can work in experimental physics?” he replied, with confidence gained by his childhood experience that “it’s no problem, I can take the engine of a car completely apart, repair it and put it back together so it will work”. They hired him! Today, Corkum directs the Joint NRC/University of Ottawa Attosecond Science Laboratory and holds a Canada Research Chair at the University of Ottawa. He is a fellow of the Royal Societies of London and of Canada and a foreign member of the US National Academy of Science, the Austrian Academy of Science, and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Corkum established the understanding of high harmonic generation through his semiclassical re-collision model that underlies the formation of attosecond pulses. Under the influence of a strong laser field, an electron can tunnel ionize from an atomic or a molecular potential, accelerated, and then recombine, emitting high-order harmonics. The emitted harmonic spectrum is sensitive to the evolution in time of the atomic or molecular structure. The so-called high harmonic spectroscopy allowed him
to demonstrate the feasibility to image a molecular orbital via a tomographic reconstruction procedure.