Prof. Baruch Minke of the Hebrew University has been awarded the 2010 Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research by the Prince of Asturias Foundation. Biochemists Prof. David Julius of the University of California, San Francisco and Prof. Linda Watkins of the University of Colorado in Boulder were also presented with the award.
According to the jury for the award, the recipients are recognized by the scientific community as world leaders in sensory neurobiology. ''Baruch Minke, David Julius and Linda Watkins have discovered, from complementary approaches, the causes and mechanisms via which pain is produced and perceived, as well as other sensations such as cold, heat and taste. The findings of these scientists open up new and hopeful avenues for the rational design of specific therapies and drugs for the selective treatment of the different types of pain, one of the great medical challenges of all times.''
This candidacy was put forward by Ricardo Miledi, 1999 Prince of Asturias Award Laureate for Technical and Scientific Research, and was supported by Edwin Neher, Eric R. Kandel, Paul Greengard and Richard Axel, Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine in 1991, 2000, 2000 and 2004, respectively; and Roderick MacKinnon and Ada E. Yonath, Nobel Laureates in Chemistry in 2003 and 2009, respectively.
Prof. Baruch Minke (biochemist and geneticist) was born in Tel Aviv, Israel. He received his undergraduate degree in Psychology and Biochemistry from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a Ph.D. in biophysics from the university in 1973. He conducted his postdoctoral training at Purdue University (Indiana, USA) where he studied genetics and electrophysiology of the visual system. Since 1987 he has been a Professor of Medicine at the Hebrew University's department of Medical Neurobiology, and has served as Chair of the Physiology Department and is a member of several executive committees. He is also the Director of the Wilhelm Kühne Minerva Center for Studies of Visual Transduction, of the Max Planck Society, and an advisor to the Israeli Council for Higher Education.
He has taught at the Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, USA) and the University of California, San Diego (San Diego, USA) and has conducted research at the Max Plank Institute for Biological Cybernetics (Germany, 1976-1979); the Experimental Ophthalmology Laboratory at the Cantonal Hospital of Geneva (Switzerland, 1983); the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen University (Germany, 1986) and the Australian National University (Canberra).
Baruch Minke was the first to identify a new type of ion channel, the TRP channel, as a result of his studies on phototransduction and vision in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster). He studied the biophysical and biochemical properties of TRP channels in fruit fly eyes, and identified phospholipase C and the TRP channel as a common signaling pathway in numerous sensory systems, including nociception, thus laying the foundation for the study of the molecules that underlie the role of nociceptors in pain.
TRP channels, fundamental components of biological sensors, are involved in pain perception, the sensation of temperature and mechanical stimuli, photoreception, pheromone perception, taste perception, sour perception, Ca2+ and Mg2 homeostasis, the regulation of smooth muscle tone and arterial tension, lysosomal function, cardiovascular regulation, and the control of cell growth and proliferation.
Baruch Minke is a member of the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) and the Israeli Society of Vision and Eye Research. He is also on the editorial board of prestigious international journals such as Cell Calcium and The European Journal of Physiology/Pflügers Archiv. He has organized four international conferences and received numerous research grants, including 10 grants from the National Institute of Science (USA).
Prince of Asturias Awards
The Prince of Asturias Foundation's statutes establish that the aim of the Awards is to acknowledge and extol “scientific, technical, cultural, social and humanistic work carried out by individuals, institutions, groups of individuals or institutions at international level.” In consonance with this spirit, the Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research “will be bestowed upon the person, institution, group of people or group of institutions whose discoveries or research work represent a significant contribution to Mankind’s progress in the fields of Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Medicine, or Earth and Space Sciences, or to techniques or technologies related to these fields”.
Each Prince of Asturias Award, which date back to 1981, comprises a diploma, a Joan Miró sculpture representing and symbolizing the Awards, an insignia bearing the Foundation’s coat of arms, and a cash prize of 50,000 Euros. The awards will be presented in the autumn in Oviedo in the principality of Asturias in northern Spain at a grand ceremony chaired by heir to the throne of Spain, H.R.H. Felipe de Borbón, Prince of Asturias.