Archive for the ‘Nobel Prizes’ Category

Israel ranked 17th-most competitive economy

May 21, 2010

No. 1 for resilience, research expenditure.

Israel’s economy is No. 1 in the world for resilience to economic cycles and No. 17 for competitiveness, according to the latest rankings of the World Competitiveness Yearbook.

“Israel’s ranking in the top place in terms of the economy’s resilience to crises is a direct result of the actions taken by the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Israel, who withstood the pressure and didn’t stream money to failing organizations and financial institutions as was the case in the US and Europe,” Uriel Lynn, president of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, said Thursday.

Israel’s No. 17 ranking for competitiveness, out of 58 countries, placed it after Germany and before China. Last year it was No. 24.

The rankings were compiled by the Swiss Institute for Management Development (IMD).

“IMD is a politically independent body, and its rankings are not less important than the ones published by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development,” Lynn said.

IMD analyzes results of its survey according to four categories: economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency and infrastructure. The countries are then ranked within those categories for quality of research and development, liquidity of capital markets, domestic penetration of high-speed Internet broadband and other parameters.

Israel was ranked No. 1 for its expenditure in research and development as a percentage of gross domestic product, as it was last year, and in the innovative capacity of firms to generate new products, processes and services.

In the business-efficiency category, Israel scored very high in availability of skilled labor, finance skills, entrepreneurship of managers and venture capital.
On the negative side, Israel slipped to No. 54 in workforce participation category, down from No. 51 last year.

In the category for how many days it takes to start up a business, Israel fell to No. 51 from No. 46.

Israel was No. 48, up from No. 51, in government debt-to-GDP.

In the yearbook’s report, a number of challenges for the Israeli economy were identified, including reducing the size of the public sector and its expenditure; reducing bureaucracy and burden on the business sector; investment in infrastructure in the periphery, including education and support of small- and medium-sized enterprises; boosting workforce participation; and decreasing foreign debt.

The global financial crisis pushed the US out of the top spot in this year’s ranking, for the first time in 17 years. It was No. 3 behind Singapore and Hong Kong.

“The US has weathered the risks of the financial and economic crisis thanks to the sheer size of its economy, a strong leadership in business and an unmatched supremacy in technology,” the report said.

“Singapore and Hong Kong have displayed great resilience through the crisis – despite suffering high levels of volatility in their economic performance – and they are now taking full advantage of strong expansion in the surrounding Asian region.” Five of the top 10 economies in the rankings are from the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia (No. 5), Taiwan (No. 8) and Malaysia (No. 10).

European countries fared poorly, mainly due to high levels of government debt, a weakening infrastructure and continued inefficiencies in labor markets. Germany (No. 16) led the larger “traditional” economies such as the UK (No. 22), France (No. 24) and Italy (No. 40).

“Despite a significant budget deficit and growing debt, Germany’s performance is driven by strong trade (second-largest exporter of manufactured goods), excellent infrastructure and a sound financial reputation,” the report said.

The IMD added a debt-stress test that identified which countries have the highest debt levels relative to GDP and will need the most years to pay off those obligations and revert to a level of 60 percent of their respective GDP.

According to the debt-stress test, the largest “old” industrialized nations, including Japan and the UK, will suffer a “debt curse,” in the worst case lasting until 2084. Currently, budget deficits are soaring as a result of the global economic crisis, and it is estimated that the average debt of the G-20 nations, for example, will climb from 76% of their combined GDP in 2007 to 106% in 2010.

Israel with a current debt-to-GDP ratio of about 80%, won’t be able to reduce its ratio to 60% until 2019, the report said.

“Although the ‘great recession’ is over, the consequences of the crisis will continue to be felt for quite some time,” the report said.

Countries such as Greece, Portugal and Spain have a credibility problem not only because they have a debt crisis, but also because they lack the means to adequately repay.

“It is unfortunately to be expected that these three nations, which all have significant budget deficits, growing debt and weak trade performance, will suffer from further recession this year,” the report said. “This crisis will test the credibility of the euro. The only good news is that a weak euro can boost exports.”

Prof. Ada Yonath of the Weizmann Institute of Science, 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

March 5, 2010

Prof. Ada Yonath of the Weizmann Institute of Science has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

The Weizmann Institute of Science congratulates Prof. Ada Yonath on receiving the 2009 Nobel Prize in chemistry and is proud of her scientific achievements. We are delighted that the Nobel Prize committee has recognized the significance of Prof. Ada Yonath’s scientific research and awarded her this important prize.

Prof. Yonath’s research is driven by curiosity and ambition to better understand the world and our place within it. This research aims high: to understand one of the most complicated “machines” of the biological system.

In the late 1970s, Prof. Yonath decided, when she was a young student at the Weizmann Institute, to take on the challenge of answering one of the key questions concerning the activities of live cells: to decipher the structure and mechanism of action of ribosomes – the cell’s protein factories. This was the beginning of a long scientific journey that has lasted decades, and which required courage and devotion from the start. The journey began in a modest laboratory with a modest budget, and with the years, increased to tens of researchers under the guidance of Prof. Yonath.

This basic research, which began in the attempt to understand one of the principles of nature, eventually led to the understanding of how a number of antibiotics function, something that is likely to aid in the development of more advanced and effective antibiotics. This discovery will hopefully also help in the struggle against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a problem recognized as one of the most central medical challenges of the 21st century.

Prof. Yonath can be considered a model of scientific vision, courage in choosing a significant scientific question, and devotion in realizing the goal to its end – which will hopefully broaden knowledge for the benefit of humanity.

The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, is one of the world’s top-ranking multidisciplinary research institutions. Noted for its wide-ranging exploration of the natural and exact sciences, the Institute is home to 2,600 scientists, students, technicians and supporting staff. Institute research efforts include the search for new ways of fighting disease and hunger, examining leading questions in mathematics and computer science, probing the physics of matter and the universe, creating novel materials and developing new strategies for protecting the environment.

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Beyond the Basics

“People called me a dreamer,” says Prof. Ada Yonath of the Structural Biology Department, recalling her decision to undertake research on ribosomes – the cell’s protein factories. Solving the ribosome’s structure would give scientists unprecedented insight into how the genetic code is translated into proteins; by the late 1970s, however, top scientific teams around the world had already tried and failed to get these complex structures of protein and RNA to take on a crystalline form that could be studied. Dreamer or not, it was hard work that brought results: Yonath and colleagues made a staggering 25,000 attempts before they succeeded in creating the first ribosome crystals, in 1980.

And their work was just beginning. Over the next 20 years, Yonath and her colleagues would continue to improve their technique. In 2000, teams at Weizmann and the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg, Germany – both headed by Yonath – solved, for the first time, the complete spatial structure of both subunits of a bacterial ribosome. Science magazine counted this achievement among the ten most important scientific developments of that year. The next year, Yonath’s teams revealed exactly how certain antibiotics are able to eliminate pathogenic bacteria by binding to their ribosomes, preventing them from producing crucial proteins.

Yonath’s studies, which have stimulated intensive research worldwide, have now gone beyond the basic structure. She has revealed in detail how the genetic information is decoded, how the ribosome’s inherent flexibility contributes to antibiotic selectivity and the secrets of cross-resistance to various antibiotic families. Her findings are crucial for developing advanced antibiotics.

Prof. Ada Yonath’s research is supported by the Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly. Prof. Yonath is the Martin S. and Helen Kimmel Professor of Structural Biology.

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