The EMET Prize is awarded to Prof. Michel Revel for being among the world leaders in biotechnology research. His prolific academic research has yielded new medical treatments for many illnesses, and has become a great biotechnological success.
Professor Michel Revel was born in 1938 in Strasbourg, France, where he completed his medical studies and obtained a doctorate in biochemistry. In 1965 he joined the group headed by Prof. Francois Gros of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and together they discovered the initiation factors of protein synthesis. This discovery opened up a field of research on the mechanisms controlling the translation of genetic information.
In 1968 Revel immigrated to Israel and joined the staff of the Weizmann Institute of Science, where in 1973 he became a full professor in the biochemistry department, and later in the molecular genetics department.
Revel’s research on Interferon, on its mechanisms of action and the isolation of the human Interferon-beta gene, have led to the biotechnological development of Interferon-beta and its application in medicine. Based on his work, the biotechnology company InterPharm was established in the Kiryat Weizmann industrial park, and he was appointed as its chief scientist. Through the genetic engineering process that he developed, the company produces Interferon-beta (Rebif), a drug approved for treating multiple sclerosis and marketed worldwide by the multinational Serono company. Revel also discovered the human gene for the cytokine Interleukin-6 which was developed at his laboratory and at InterPharm-Serono based on its activity for protecting nerve cells and the nerve myelin coating. In clinical trials, the drug’s effectiveness is being evaluated for the treatment of nerve damage in neuropathies resulting from diabetes or chemotherapy.
Alongside his research and development activity, Revel is deeply involved in the ethics of science and biotechnology, and serves as chairman of the Bioethics Advisory Committee of the Israel Academy of Sciences and as a member of the International Bioethics Committee of UNESCO. He integrates his work in science with traditional Judaism and Jewish philosophy in addressing bioethical issues such as use of human Embryo Stem cells, genetic intervention in man and cloning.
Revel’s work and research have won him the Israel Prize for medical research, the Michael Landau Prize for biotechnology, and honorary membership in the International Society for Interferon and Cytokine Research. Since its establishment, he has been a member of Israel’s National Committee for Biotechnology, serving for three years as its chairman.