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April 20: Jefferson Lecture

Ada Yonath, Nobel laureate, to lecture on next-generation antibiotics

There’s persistence, and then there’s Nobel laureate Ada Yonath. She made some 25,000 attempts before finally achieving what many said was impossible.

Yonath, a professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, ultimately crystallized a tiny, complex molecule that serves as the protein manufacturing center in cells — the ribosome. It translates the instructions embedded in the genetic code into the proteins essential for life.

Then she sent X-rays through that crystal to begin uncovering the ribosome’s structure, pinpointing the locations of the hundreds of thousands of atoms that compose it. Decades later, in 2000 and 2001, she and her team published the first map of a three-dimensional ribosome.

Like a giant key, that finding is helping scientists unlock mysteries at the molecular level — including in the field of antibiotics where drugs work to kill off infectious bacteria by targeting their ribosomes. 

Yonath, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009 for her pioneering work, will present the Edward G. Jefferson Life Sciences Lecture at the University of Delaware on Thursday, April 20. Her presentation, “Towards a New Generation of Environmentally Friendly Antibiotics,” will begin at 4 p.m. in 101 Brown Laboratory. A reception will precede the event at 3 p.m. in Brown Lab lobby.

“Prof. Yonath is a luminary in the fields of chemistry and structural biology, and we are deeply honored to host her visit to the University of Delaware,” said Charlie Riordan, vice president for research, scholarship and innovation. “As we look to the future of antibiotic drugs and overcoming the increasing challenge of bacterial resistance to current antibiotics, her presentation is certain to be thought-provoking and inspiring.”

The event is free and open to the public. Register online here.

About Ada Yonath

Yonath is the Martin S. and Helen Kimmel Professor of Structural Biology and the director of the Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly at the Weizmann Institute. She is the first Israeli woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize and the fourth woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

She has received numerous other scientific awards and honors and is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. She was named a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences by Pope Francis in 2014 and has been appointed to many scientific advisory committees, including the Scientific Advisory Board of the United Nations secretary-general.

The Edward G. Jefferson Lecture is named in honor of the late chairman and chief executive officer of DuPont, UD trustee emeritus and UD benefactor. The lecture is endowed by a gift from the Unidel Foundation.

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