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Israeli woman is ‘Europe’s top young researcher'

L’Oreal and UNESCO have named a Weizmann Institute biologist working in the field of probiotics for the award.

Multinational cosmetics firm L’Oreal and UNESCO have named a Weizmann Institute biologist working in the field of probiotics, commonly referred to as beneficial bacteria, “Europe’s top young researcher.” For her work in researching probiotics to treat disease, Dr. Naama Geva-Zatorsky will receive a two-year $40,000 postdoctoral scholarship.
During the past three years, young Israeli women have been able to apply for the program, which began 14 years ago and aims at promoting research among women starting out their scientific careers. There are only 15 annual fellowship winners around the world.

Among the members of the Israeli judges’ panel who selected her to compete with others in Europe are several senior Israeli women scientists, including Israel Science Academy president Prof. Ruth Arnon, Nobel Prize for Chemistry laureate Prof. Ada Yonath, Ben-Gurion University president Prof. Rivka Carmi (who is also a renowned pediatrician and geneticist) and Prof. Ephrat Levy- Lahad, head of the medical genetics department at Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

L’Oreal Israel CEO Nava Ravid said her company regards helping young women scientists as vital to their work. In the last century, 95 percent of all Nobel laureates have been men, she said. “The world needs science, and science needs women, especially now,” she added.

Science and Technology Minister Prof. Daniel Herschkowitz said Geva- Zatorsky is living proof of the scientific power of Israel and the rising force of women in science. He said he hoped this was one in a chain of top prizes that she would receive for her work.

Knesset women’s lobby chairman MK Rachel Adatto, a physician by training, said the winner is an example of the growing number of Israeli women who contribute to science. “I hope that her research will lead to an improved quality of life in Israel and in the world,” Adatto said.

Geva-Zatorsky arrived on Wednesday in Paris to receive her award and discuss her work, which aims at using “good bacteria” to treat diseases from gastroenterological disorders and diabetes to immune disorders and cancer. She noted that the body contains 10 times more bacteria than human cells, adding that “the bacteria that grow in the body from birth have a vital influence on our bodies and our health.”