Marc Kirschner awarded Harvey Prize

May 6, 2016
Marc Kirschner awarded Harvey Prize

Harvey Prize winners for 2015: Prof. Marc Kirschner and Prof. Immanuel Bloch

At a festive ceremony on June 5, 2016, the Technion awarded the Harvey Prize for 2015 to Prof. Marc Kirschner of Harvard University (USA) and Prof. Immanuel Bloch of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Germany). The $75,000 prize, named after Leo Harvey (1887-1973), was established in 1972 as a bridge of goodwill between Israel and the nations of the world. It is awarded annually to men and women who have made a significant contribution to humanity. Around 17% of the prizewinners have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.

“Timing is everything”

Prof. Marc Kirschner

Prof. Marc Kirschner, of the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, will receive the prize for his groundbreaking and pioneering discoveries and contributions to three fundamental areas of modern biology: embryology, cell organization and the cell cycle.

Prof. Kirschner, born in 1945, earned his doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley (1971) and did his postdoctoral research at Berkeley and the University of Oxford. In 1972 he received an academic appointment at Princeton University, and then spent 15 years at the University of California, San Francisco, after which he joined Harvard Medical School, where he founded the Department of Systems Biology.

On his website, Prof. Kirschner wrote: “In the development of an organism, as in the theater, timing is everything. Imagine if, one night, the actors in a play were to miss every single cue, delivering each line perfectly, but always too early or too late. The evening would be a disaster. The same is true in embryonic development. Starting at the moment when sperm and egg meet, cells in the embryo send signals to each other to coordinate the growth of organs, limbs, and tissues. Not only do the signals have to be correct, they also must be perfectly timed. Otherwise, disasters like cancer can result.”

Using tools from the world of biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology, Prof. Kirschner analyzes the processes that control cells and tissues, and has made a substantial contribution to our understanding of the process of embryonic development: the characteristics of the cytoskeleton, controlling the cell’s life cycle and the embryonic development of vertebrates.