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The Israel Prize in Medical Sciences to Prof. Gideon Ravavi of Shiba, head of the "Genome-Based Hospital" program

"The award is given to Prof. Ravei, who embodies the best combination between excellence in clinical medicine and groundbreaking research achievements in understanding basic biological mechanisms," read the reasoning of the Israel Prize Committee

Prof. Gideon Ravavi, Head of the Cancer Research Department at the Sheba Medical Center. PR photo
Prof. Gideon Ravavi, Head of the Cancer Research Department at the Sheba Medical Center. PR photo

The Minister of Education, Rabbi Rafi Peretz, announced today (Thursday) the winner of the Israel Prize in the field of medical research - Prof. Gideon Raabi, and congratulated him on winning the prize. The award committee met under the chairmanship of Prof. Efrat Levy Lahad, chairman of the committee, with the members - Prof. Moshe Oren, Prof. Rafi Biar and Prof. Rivka Karmi.

In its reasoning, the committee stated that: "The Israel Prize in the field of medical research for the year XNUMX is awarded to Prof. Gideon Ravefi, who embodies the best combination between excellence in clinical medicine and groundbreaking research achievements in understanding basic biological mechanisms. In the field of medicine, Prof. Ravavi is a well-known pediatric hematologist-oncologist who for years managed a leading department for hematology, oncology and pediatric bone marrow transplantation at the Sheba Medical Center and trained generations of research doctors. In the field of research, he is responsible for key discoveries in the identification of new mechanisms for editing the genetic information in living cells. Understanding these mechanisms is of great importance in researching disease processes and developing future treatment options."

Prof. Ravavi's biography as provided by the Israel Prize committee

Gideon Rahabi was born in Israel in 1953. His injury in the Yom Kippur War exposed him to the world of medicine and led him to choose medicine as a way of life. In 1981 he received a Doctor of Medicine degree from Tel Aviv University, and in 1987 a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Weizmann Institute of Science. He is married to Keren, a family doctor, and his three sons are engaged in research and medicine.

He specialized and was certified in three medical specialties: pediatrics, hematology and children's hematology-oncology under the guidance of Prof. Zvi Shapirer and Prof. Bracha Ramot. In 1990 he was promoted to associate professor, and six years later to full professor. As part of his duties, he was entrusted with the Shapiro Chair of Hematological Malignancies and the Jersey Chair in Oncology on behalf of Tel Aviv University. He served as the head of the hematology department at the Sackler School of Medicine and as the head of the Cancer Biology Research Center of Tel Aviv University. In 1993, Rafi founded and managed the Department of Hematology, Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation in Children at the Sheba Medical Center. At the same time as leading the clinical system, he established and developed in 1987 a cancer genetics laboratory. In 1999, in Sheba he founded the Marion Valley Elie Wiesel residence for supportive medicine and a hospice for children with cancer. In 2003 he founded the Sheba Center for Cancer Research and has been managing it ever since. In 2016 he founded and since then also manages the Wahl Institute for Personalized Translational Medicine.

Prof. Ravavi is a rare combination of an active physician with broad and in-depth knowledge and exceptional clinical abilities, with a researcher with unique scientific achievements in basic research at the highest level. When one thinks of a model figure of a "doctor-researcher" in Israel, the first name that comes to mind is that of Gidi Ravavi. Ravavi is undoubtedly the most senior and respected pediatric hematologist and oncologist in Israel, and internationally renowned. He established at the Sheba Medical Center an advanced system for hematology, oncology and bone marrow transplants in children, where medicine is carried out at an exceptional clinical and scientific level based on a laboratory that enables diagnosis and adjustment of treatment using advanced and up-to-date molecular and genetic characterization. The combination of excellence in basic and translational research with leadership and clinical innovation enabled Sarivi and his team to achieve groundbreaking achievements such as the pioneering achievement of recovering a child with Panconi anemia with the help of embryo "selection" by applying advanced genetic engineering methods and using the umbilical cord cells of the baby born for transplantation. Ravavi and his team were pioneers in the clinical use of genomic testing and the adjustment of informed and personally directed treatment in children's tumors. An important recent example of combining medicine with innovative technology was given when the advanced laboratory system at the Cancer Research Center headed by Ravavi allowed the Sheba Medical Center to successfully perform over a hundred T-CAR treatments, which combine cellular and genetic therapy, in leukemia and lymphoma patients who could not be saved without this groundbreaking treatment .

The treatment of the sick children and their families, in the spirit of Prof. Ravavi, is based on a close, empathetic and direct relationship with the sick children and their families. At the same time as the impressive achievements in the healing of sick children, which do not fall short of those of the largest and leading centers in the world, Ravavi established the Marion Valley Elie Wiesel Residence for supportive care and a hospice for children with cancer. This is the first daycare center of its kind in the world, where the children whose illness is progressive and cannot be cured are in an embracing environment that does not resemble a hospital atmosphere, where their family members are with them and are assisted by a multidisciplinary team that supports and accompanies them throughout the duration of their illness.

His activity as a dedicated physician like no other did not hinder Prof. Ravavi, and perhaps even helped him, to develop a wonderful and extraordinary scientific career in its achievements and scope. His impressive scientific achievements during his PhD studies at the Weizmann Institute of Science under the guidance of Prof. David Gavol and the extensive knowledge he acquired during this period led him to establish and lead a quality research system. Upon his arrival at the Sheba Medical Center, he established a laboratory to study the genetic basis of malignancies, and began to engage in both basic research and the development and use of molecular tools to diagnose and guide the treatment of malignant diseases in children. He later founded the Sheba Center for Cancer Research, which he manages. This center includes the genomics unit, which was initially based on the analysis of DNA chips, and in recent years on advanced technologies for determining DNA and RNA sequences and protein analysis, together with a bioinformatics array for the analysis of genomics and proteomics findings. Three years ago, he founded and has since managed the Wahl Center for Personalized Translational Medicine, which uses advanced genomic and proteomic capabilities to diagnose genes and proteins responsible for a variety of diseases with a genetic background, to tailor informed treatment to cancer patients, to provide genetic counseling to patients and families, and to develop genetic and cellular therapy for cancer and genetic diseases. 3500 genomic analyzes were performed in the center's bioinformatics unit managed by Ravavi, in a large part of which the genetic defect responsible for the disease was identified, and several new genes responsible for immunodeficiency diseases, an increased tendency to malignancy, metabolic diseases and neurological syndromes were found. In the laboratories of the Wahl Institute, which include "clean rooms", advanced immunotherapy treatments for cancer are carried out at Sheba: TIL and CAR-T, artificial skin is developed which is used to treat burns, and genetic therapy is given for genetic diseases such as hemophilia.

For the past decade, Ravei has been leading the "Medical Computing and Bioinformatics" program shared with Bar Ilan University and the Sheba Cancer Research Center, where doctors and researchers are trained for the medical era in which genomics and bioinformatics are a central part of medicine. For the past year, Ravavi has been at the head of a revolutionary program in Sheba of a "genome-based hospital" that distributes the use of genomics and bioinformatics to all departments and clinics of the medical institution, and enables the use of these innovative tools in daily medical practice. Ravei has mentored a large number of graduate students in biology and medicine, and many doctors have specialized under his guidance in hematology, oncology and stem cell transplants in children. His students lead basic and biomedical research laboratories and manage many clinical departments in Israel and around the world.

I have three groundbreaking scientific contributions: (1) the first demonstration of the migration of mobile genetic elements in a mammalian genome and the identification of the role of these mobile sequences in the activation of cancer-causing genes. (2) First proof of the transfer of tumor cells between different individuals as a "contagious disease" in the mechanism of transplanting tumor cells from a foreign genetic source. (3) opening the way to decipher extensive changes in the human and murine transcriptome sequences by RNA editing and RNA methylation, and studying the effect of RNA modifications on cellular processes, fetal development and cancer. The field of RNA modification research known as the study of the epitranscriptome, of which Rakevi is considered to be the founder, became in a short time a central field in basic and medical research, many laboratories are engaged in it and many scientific conferences are dedicated to it. The findings of his work were published in more than 470 articles in leading journals, including many articles in the most important newspapers such as atureN, scienceS, Cell and the New England Journal of Medicine. His research has earned him many prestigious awards and research grants, including the Kennedy Prize, the Ohlo Prize for Leukemia Research, the Elkels Prize for Outstanding Scientist in Medicine, the Haim Sheba Prize for Outstanding Physician, the Prize for Vision in Medicine, the Beutler Prize for Excellence in Genomic Medicine Research, and the A.M.T. Prize. For 2013. His research group was selected for two centers of excellence (-COREI): the Center for Researching Gene Regulation in Complex Human Diseases and the Center for Researching the Role of Chromatin and RNA Modification and Non-coding RNA in Gene Control in Development and Disease. Ravavi is one of the few Israeli researchers who won the prestigious Advanced ERC grant. He is a member of the Israeli National Academy of Sciences, and a member of the European Academy of Oncology. He was recently elected to the Israeli Academy of Research Medicine established in 2019.

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