U.S. molecular biologist Joan Argetsinger Steitz honored in France. (AP Photo/Francois Mori) AP Photo/Francois Mori
Joan Argetsinger Steitz

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This year’s winners join a distinguished group of Wolf Laureates, around three dozen of whom have gone on to win Nobel prizes in the past.

By United with Israel Staff and AP

Israel’s Wolf Prize, which is bestowed upon individuals who have made outstanding contributions in the arts and sciences, was awarded on Monday at an event hosted by President Reuven Rivlin.

This year, the award was given to three scientists whose breakthroughs in RNA research helped Israel battle the coronavirus.

Prof. Joan Steitz, Prof. Lynne Maquat and Prof. Adrian Kraine study RNA regulatory mechanisms and “their work demonstrated that RNA plays an important role in regulating and diversifying gene expression,” the Jerusalem Post reported.

“This year, the three laureates in the field of medicine are pioneering researchers of RNA, the mechanism on which the coronavirus vaccines are based and which at this very minute is saving humanity from the pandemic,” said Rivlin.

The Wolf Foundation is a state-owned entity that issues the award to promote excellence in science and the arts. About three dozen Wolf Laureates have gone on to win Nobel prizes.

Wonder, who has received more than two dozen Grammy Awards, has produced a string of hits over a long career that began when he was a youngster who performed as Little Stevie Wonder. His classic hits include “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “Superstition,” “I Just Called to Say I Love You” and “Living for the City.”

Stevie Wonder and Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth, were also honored, notwithstanding Wonder’s refusal to perform in Israel in the past.

“Each one of them can bring us out of the depths and lift our souls in a way that sometimes we don’t even fully understand,” said Rivlin, who announced the awards.

Giorgio Parisi received the prize for physics and Leslie Leiserowitz and Meir Lahav won for chemistry.

Rivlin said the laureates were selected “for their achievements on behalf of humanity.” He described the medicine winners as “pioneering researchers of RNA, the mechanism on which the coronavirus vaccines are based.”

The prizes are usually awarded later in the year in a ceremony at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. But due to the pandemic, the awards will be given at the laureates’ place of residence.

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