UNESCO, the United Nations Education and Science Organization, has named Weizmann Institute biologist Dr. Naama Geva-Zatorsky as Europe’s top young researcher of the year for her research in using probiotics to treat disease. As one of the 15 worldwide winners of the L’Oreal-Unesco Fellowships for Outstanding Women Scientists, Geva-Zatorsky will receive a $40,000 scholarship award. However, she, as well as other Israeli award-winning scientists, are still inexplicably absent from UNESCO’s own global Science Report.
Geva-Zatorsky has been studying the effects of the interaction of multiple drugs with protein in the cells of the body, an area that scientists have not deeply researched. Previous studies concentrated on protein interaction in cells with a single drug. One aim of the research is to determine more effective ways of using protein interactions with drugs to fight disease.
Among the Israeli judges on the selection panel for the award were Nobel Prize winner Ada Yonath, and Ruth Arnon, director of the Israeli Academy of Sciences. Science Minister Daniel Hershkowitz praised Geva-Zatorsky’s winning the award, saying that it was “further proof of the strength of science in the State of Israel, and the strength of women in science. May this be the first of many international prizes for Dr. Geva-Zatorsky.”
L’Oreal Israel chairperson Nava Ravid said the company “sees the advancement of young women scientists as an important obligation. In a world where, during the previous century, 95% of Nobel Prize winners were men, L’Oreal has an international obligation to lead the struggle for equality for women in science during the current century. The world needs women scientists, and science needs women.”
The award comes after a flap earlier this year reported by the Times of Israel, in which UNESCO neglected to detail Israeli achievements in its latest five-year Science Report, including the Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to Yonath. The report also failed to give Israel a country profile or a separate listing in any of its comprehensive regional descriptions.
Earlier this year, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova promised Israeli government officials and representatives of American Jewish organizations that she would update the online version report with a chapter on Israel’s many achievements in science. However, when last examined, the report had not been updated.