Aaron Ciechanover | PAS Academician

Commemoration of Prof. Michael Sela

Michael was a giant in immunology, but not only. He was born in Poland in February of 1924 and immigrated in 1941 to what was then British Palestine, which in 1947 became the Independent State of Israel. He started to study Life Sciences in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1946 he received his Master's Degree. He then stopped his scientific career and moved to Italy to help bring Jewish Holocaust refugees from Europe to Israel. He then continued to work in the Israeli Embassy in Prague, Czechoslovakia and helped procure weapons for the newly-born Israeli Army that helped it enormously to win the War of Independence. In 1950 he joined the Weitzman Institute of Science, of which he later became the President, and established there a brilliant career working mostly on synthetic antigens.

This work led him to identify an antigen involved in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis against which he and his colleagues, Dvora Teitelbaum and Ruth Arnon, developed a very successful drug, Copaxone.

Michael received numerous prizes for his work, including the Israel Prize, the most prestigious Israeli accolade, the Wolf Prize and the Otto Warburg Medal. He was a member of numerous learned bodies, including the Israeli National Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and, of course, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

His life covered much more than science. He was a lover of culture, in particular of classical music and the Opera, and donated generally, as a philanthropist, along with his wife Sarah, to the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra and the Israeli Opera. Many of his trainees are scattered all over the world in academia and industry. Some made breakthrough achievements of their own, like Zelig Eshhar, who developed the CAR T treatment. What a luminous career! May his memory be blessed.