Sela, Michael

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SELA, MICHAEL (1924– ), Israeli biochemist and immunologist. Born in Poland, Sela was taken to Bucharest as a child and immigrated (1941) to Palestine. He graduated in chemistry from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (M.Sc. 1947, Ph.D. 1954). He became active in the *Aliyah movement from Italy and helped many Jewish displaced persons reach Ereẓ Israel. He then spent two years (1948–50) as commercial secretary to the Israel Legation in Prague.

Sela began his scientific career as a biophysicist under Ephraim *Katzir in Reḥovot, and developed a special interest in immunology. He headed the new unit in that science established in 1963, when he was made professor, and in the ensuing years did extensive research and teaching in the subject. He wrote many papers for scientific journals, edited several books, and lectured widely in Israel and at international forums. His work in elucidating the chemical basis of antigenicity won him the Rothschild Prize (1968). Nine years earlier he received the Israel Prize in natural sciences for work on synthetic polypeptides as protein models. In 1966 he undertook a survey of immunological research in Russia and Hungary for the WHO and between 1975 and 1979 served as council chairman of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (embo).

Among the posts he held at the Weizmann Institute of Science are dean of biology (1970–75), vice president (1970–71),and president (1975–85). In 1976, Sela was elected a foreign member of the U.S. Academy of Sciences, president of the International Union of Immunological Societies, and a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (in the Vatican). He received several additional prizes, including the Baillet-Latour Prize in Belgium and the Wolf Prize in Israel. His name is linked with the drug against multiple sclerosis which he created at the Weizmann Institute and which was developed by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries under the name Copaxone. He is an institute professor and deputy chairman of the Board of Governors of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

[Julian Louis Meltzer]