Deadline for registration
May 31, 2023
Prof. Michael Sela a preeminent, world-renowned scientist, pioneer and leader in the field of Immunology passed away on May 27,2022 at the age of 98.
Sela has been widely known in the scientific world for his seminal, trail-blazing research in immunology. He aimed early on at resolving the chemical features that render molecules be recognized by the immune system. Taking advantage of the knowledge and expertise in the synthesis of amino‐acid polymers developed at that time in Rehovot, for preparation and their use as synthetic antigens, molecules that he has shown to trigger the immune system’s response. While his contributions employing synthetic polypeptides toward present-day understanding of immunology have been very broad, outstanding among them was and the discovery and the definition of the genetic control of the immune response. Thus, the synthesis and application of branched, multichain polypeptides by Sela, his students and colleagues led to the discovery of genes of the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) that play a key role in the immuneresponse.
Sela’s studies have also led to the design of vaccines and drugs based on synthetic molecules. Indeed, one of Sela’s major research efforts culminated in the approval by the U.S Food and Drug Administration of copolymer-1 (Copaxone®), a drug for multiple sclerosis. Copolymer-1, a random copolymer of amino-acids constituting myelin basic protein has originally been synthesized and developed by Sela jointly with Prof. Ruth Arnon and Dr. Dvora Teitelbaum.
Chemistry has also been the basis for another practical medical success of Sela's studies of combining monoclonal antibodies with small chemotherapeutic drugs: the former providing target specificity, the second its elimination. These efforts led to the discovery of synergistic effect of such combinations in the fight against cancer. Research in collaboration with Prof. Yosef Yarden at the Weizmann Institute, lead to uncovering of beneficial synergism of employing two different antibodies directed against the same receptor. Three different cancer drugs have emerged from this research. The first was Erbitux®, which was approved in 2009 by the FDA for the treatment of head and neck carcinomas and metastatic colorectal cancer. The second was Vectibix®, for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer and the third, Portrazza® was approved for use in the treatment of patients with metastatic squamous non-small cell lung cancer.
Sela was a leader of science on both national and global scales. He served as President of the Weizmann Institute for a decade, from 1975 to 1985. He also served as President of the International Union of Immunological Societies. He also served as Chair of the Council of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and on the Global Advisory Committee of the World Health Organization. Sela was a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, and a foreign member of the US National Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the French Academy of Sciences.
- Ruth Arnon
Weizmann Institute of Science
Conference Coordinator &