Ron Arad Lecture with Professor Karl Skorecki and wife of kidnapped Technion student
Submitted to: Education 
Posted: November 21 2006


21 October 2006 ( - Jewish genome expert, Professor Karl Skorecki of the Technion, who made the landmark discovery indicating that the majority of kohanim were descended from a single common male ancestor, gave the prestigious Ron Arad Lecture in London on Monday evening. Following the lecture, Karnit Goldwasser, wife of kidnapped Israeli soldier and Technion student, Ehud Goldwasser, spoke to guests on her unrelenting efforts to secure the release of her husband.

300 guests filled the Royal College of Physicians to hear from Professor Skorecki, Director of Nephrology and Molecular Medicine at the Technion who has made headlines around the world with his groundbreaking stem cell and genetic research. His lecture included the science behind his discovery earlier this year that some 3.5 million, or 40 per cent, of Ashkenazi Jews are descended from four “founding mothers” who lived in Europe 1,000 years ago. Professor Skorecki also spoke about the heath implications, and the major ethical and social ramifications of his stem cell research.

Referring to the health implications of his research, Professor Skorecki commented: “At the moment, there are many treatments for diseases such as multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis and breast cancer which work well but the standard of medicine at this time is a trial and error approach. The goal is to use the principles of DNA barcodes to predict in advance, what therapies would be most beneficial to the individual patient and have the fewest side effects. Thus in the future, we will use DNA to personalise the treatment for different diseases.”

Speaking about the power of DNA, he commented: “We dig into contemporary DNA and try to uncover our past through secrets hidden in the DNA sequence. But there are many important societal and ethical ramifications which we have to keep in mind when conducting this research. I view Jewish identity as something which is metaphysical based on tradition, law, culture and custom and not based on physical considerations including DNA – thus the aim of human genetic research is to understand and master our DNA heritage and not allow DNA to become the master of our social destiny.”

In an emotional speech to guests after the Lecture, Karnit Goldwasser spoke of her recent international visits to secure, at the first instance, a sign of life from her husband, who was taken on July 12th by Hezbollah. She said: “When we heard that Udi was not dead but had been kidnapped, we realized we had the power to change his destiny. After four weeks of fighting, the war may have ended in Israel but it hasn’t ended for us. We came here today to ask everyone to raise their voices, to send emails and messages to the Secretary General of the UN, the President of the European Commission and the President of the Red Cross and tell them it is immoral to keep our captured soldiers from their homes.

“If I could tell Udi, Eldad Regev and Gilad Shalit and something, I would tell them that we cannot and we will not lose hope.”

Lois Peltz, Co-Chair of the British Technion Society, commented: “We are very pleased that this year’s Ron Arad Lecture was given by the world’s leading Jewish genome expert. His discoveries have given us an incredible insight into our genealogical heritage. Professor Skorecki’s expertise has also recently developed a novel way of using stem cells to advance cancer research and to test anti-cancer therapies. He is an inspirational speaker and an excellent example of Israel’s position at the forefront of scientific research.”

At this time, our thoughts are with the family and friends of Ron Arad, Ehud Goldwasser and Israel’s other ‘missing in action’ soldiers. Events such as the Ron Arad Lecture are instrumental in keeping the memories of Israel’s missing soldiers alive. We applaud the strength and dignity shown by Karnit this evening, indeed, since the capture of her husband, and the Technion family will do everything we can to help bring Ehud home.”

On Monday afternoon, Professor Skorecki gave a masterclass at the London Jewish Cultural Centre to 100 students from schools across London about his incredible genetic discoveries.

For further information, please contact:

Nikki Ginsberg, The PR Office: 020 7383 3623

The Ron Arad Lecture

The Ron Arad Lecture series was established 5 years ago by the British Technion Society to keep alive the memory of Technion student and captured Israeli soldier, Ron Arad. Previous speakers have been Baroness Professor Susan Greenfield, Professor Peretz Lavie, Professor Lord Robert Winston and Nobel Laureate Professor Aaron Ciechanover.

Professor Karl Skorecki – biography

The only child of Holocaust survivors, Professor Skorecki was born and raised in Toronto. He received his medical degree from the University of Toronto in 1977 and conducted his post-graduate clinical and research training at the Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General Hospitals. In 1984, he established a research program in the areas of kidney disease, molecular biology and human genetics at the University of Toronto Division of Nephrology. He was subsequently appointed professor and director of the Division of Nephrology in the Departments of Medicine, Pediatrics, and Clinical Biochemistry at the University of Toronto, and research scientist and director of the Nephrology Division at the Hospital for Sick Children, also in Toronto.

After a sabbatical at the Weizmann Institute in 1991, Professor Skorecki and his family decided to make aliyah to Israel and he joined the Technion faculty in 1995. In addition to conducting research in molecular biology and human genetics at the Technion, Prof. Skorecki has served as a clinical nephrologist at Rambam Medical Center, and as director of the Nephrology Department and of the Rappaport Research Institute in Haifa.

Professor Skorecki’s innovative work has helped attract numerous graduate students and research fellows, and funding from major international agencies. He has published his research results in numerous professional publications, and has delivered lectures at international scientific meetings and conferences throughout the world. In addition, Prof. Skorecki has received several prizes for his research and biomedical innovations.

Professor Skorecki and his wife, Linda, have five children and four grandchildren, all of whom live in Israel.


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