Ben-Gurion University of the Negev presented Oxford University's Prof. Raymond Dwek with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his 22 years of service to the University on Monday. Prof. Dwek served as scientific advisor to BGU Presidents Avishay Braverman and Rivka Carmi and was instrumental in the establishment of the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev at BGU.
The ceremony was held during the opening plenary of BGU's 48th Board of Governors Meeting on the Marcus Family Campus in Beer-Sheva.
Above left to right: Chairman of the Board of Governors Alex Goren, Prof. Raymond Dwek, BGU President Prof. Rivka Carmi.
“It gives me immense pleasure to have this public opportunity to say thank you for the decades of stalwart support and wise counsel that Raymond has given to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. A man of his stature in the academic world who was constantly courted by Israeli universities and institutes could have chosen anyone to partner– and he chose BGU," declared President Carmi.
“I cannot begin to tell you the very many ways that we have benefitted from his choice. A man whose calendar makes me dizzy – and I do my fair share of travelling – he has never been too busy to respond to a request or answer a call. From his office, his home, his lab, from airport lounges and all points in between he has always rallied to our call. He has represented our cause on campuses world-wide, promoted our interests and supported our efforts to politicians, academics and decision makers whenever he could," she said.
Prof. Dwek was fulsome in his praise of BGU and President Carmi.
“As special advisor to successive presidents I have had unique insights into how BGU functions and the enormous workload of the president. When I first visited BGU in 1996, there was an embryonic campus. Some of the scientists were working in huts and many facilities expected in a modern University were sorely lacking. The people I met, students, faculty and citizens of Beersheba, however, were an inspiration. I saw the huge potential in populating the desert and helping to build a community. I felt that this was one of the few places in Israel where it was still possible to be a Zionist and also to fulfil Ben-Gurion's dream of developing the Negev," he told the packed auditorium.
Dwek praised Carmi's dedication to justice and her understanding.
“To build a successful institution requires many talents and Prof. Rivka Carmi was absolutely the right person to succeed Avishay in developing BGU," he declared, “I say this as someone who has served under 14 different Vice-Chancellors in Oxford University, during my 54 years there and, as one who has appointed several of them."
“Prof. Carmi has impeccable academic credentials and understands how to build a University," he continued, “She has populated BGU with many talented teachers and researchers as she has ensured that expansion has occurred without dilution of academic standards. In BGU I see an institution which is fostering scholarship.
“One cannot be president of such a large institution without making many difficult, and sometimes unpopular, decisions. I am proud to have been advisor to President Rivka Carmi whose guiding principle is justice and whose mind is always focused on what is best for BGU as a whole. Prof. Carmi has also worked tirelessly to raise the profile of BGU worldwide and to ensure that BGU has financial stability in years to come," Prof. Dwek said.
“BGU is on an incredible journey. We can all be proud to be part of it. Indeed, it is a privilege not given to all. Let us all make the most of it and let the energy which is BGU reflect that all of us are making a difference to help to build BGU," he concluded.
Prof. Raymond Dwek, CBE, FRS, FRCP, FRSB, FRSC is the head of Glycobiology Institute at the University of Oxford. He was awarded a CBE in the Diplomatic Services and Overseas New Year 2013 Honours list in recognition of his services to British-Israeli scientific collaboration. He has also been awarded the Romanian Order of Merit.
Research in glycobiology has made major contributions to understanding concepts in protein folding, immunology and virology, laying the foundations for applying glycobiology to the development of novel strategies for antiviral therapeutics and vaccines.
Viruses are a major public health concern associated with considerable morbidity and mortality worldwide. Over two billion people, of which 350 million are chronically infected, have been or are infected with Hepatitis B virus (HBV); 200 million people are infected with Hepatitis C virus (HCV), and over 40 million are infected with HIV. Each of these viruses is dependent on their properly folded coat glycoproteins for their infectivity.
Iminosugar drugs that disrupt the folding of these glycoproteins are being investigated as antiviral therapeutics in the Oxford Antiviral Drug Discovery Unit. One such compound, the glucose analogue N-butyl-deoxynojirimycin (NB-DNJ), was pioneered by the Oxford Glycobiology Institute and has world-wide approval for use in treatment of glycolipid storage disorders.
NB-DNJ is also effective against HCV, HBV, and HIV in laboratory experiments, however human trials showed that improvements are needed to overcome side-effects. Current work focuses on producing the second generation of iminosugar antivirals with greater specificity for the cellular targets. In addition, the Oxford Antiviral Drug Discovery Unit are building on this work to understand how viruses such as dengue and HCV are produced by the cell.Knowledge of glycobiology is also being exploited in the design of a novel, antibody-based HIV vaccine. Methods to break "tolerance" to the sugars covering the virus are being explored. The basis for this is a rare neutralizing antibody, obtained from a patient that recognizes clusters of sugars on the "immunologically silent" face of HIV.