Professor Ada Yonath was the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009 (along with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas A. Steitz) for her ground-breaking contributions to determine the ribosomal structure. Professor Yonath holds the Martin S. and Helen Kimmel Chair at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel and is the current director of the Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly at this Institute. Her research has focused for many years on the structure and function of the ribosome, the protein synthesizing machinery in the cell, which is composed of a large number of proteins and nucleic acid assembled into the complex ribosomal structure. Because of its high degree of complexity, solving the structure of the ribosome required the development of new experimental approach, cryo bio-crystallography, which Dr. Yonath pioneered and which later became routine in structural biology. She received the Israel Prize in 2002, the Wolf Prize (Israel's equivalent of the Nobel) in 2007 and the L'Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science in 2008. Professor Yonath is Israel's first female Nobel Laureate and the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in the past 45 years.
Since the ribosome is critical for protein synthesis, many antibiotics are targeted against microbial ribosomes. Professor Yonath has, in her work, also elucidated the modes of action of about twenty different antibiotics targeting the ribosome. These studies have illuminated important mechanisms of drug resistance and synergism, helped explain the structural basis for antibiotic selectivity and revealed the mechanisms underlying their clinical action, thus paving the way for improved structure-based drug design.