The Aminoff Prize 2011

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded The Gregori Aminoff Prize in crystallography 2011 to Professor Lia Addadi and Professor Stephen Weiner, both at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel,

“for their crystallographic studies of biomineralization processes, which have led to an understanding of mechanisms of mineral formation.” 

Biological minerals inspires for the future

Biomineralization refers to the processes by which organisms form minerals. Lia Addadi and Stephen Weiner have been the leading researchers in this field since 1980, particularly in the area that concerns the calcification of organisms. This process reflects the biologically formed calcium-containing minerals and is a very important feature of marine life forms. They have challenged the most fundamental problems in biomineralization: nucleation, crystal-protein interaction, crystal growth and stability of different types of biomineralization polymorphs.

Weiner and Addadi induced biological mineralization by forming nucleation domains of metabolic products. These nucleation domains are carbohydrate-bound sulphates at the nucleation site, which is composed of structured arrays of protein derived carboxylic acid groups achieving a cooperative activity with the nucleation domain. Addadi and Weiner successively identified the biologically controlled texture of biominerals that occurs along specific crystallographic planes on the protein crystals, which in all aspects control their formation, orientation, size, shape and assembly, and give rise to the complex shapes of many beautiful marine organisms. This also has implications for our understanding of the development of the various functions of biominerals.

An important aspect of crystallization of calcium carbonate is the occurrence of amorphous precursors that Addadi and Weiner could show leads to different polymorphs: calcite, aragonite, vaterite and less stable disordered forms that are important for growth of exoskeleton shell structures.

Biomineralization research is of great importance not only for understanding processes in biology, geology and medicine but also as a source of inspiration for material science through the exciting field of biomimetics.

The Laureates

Lia Addadi, Israeli citizen. Born in Padova, Italy in 1950. Ph.D. in Structural chemistry at The Weizmann Institute in 1979. Post doctoral studies at Harvard University, returned to The Weizmann Institute in 1982, where she was appointed Full Professor in 1993. After several leading positions at the Institute, she became Dean of the Feinberg Graduate School in 2008 and is also a Dorothy and Patrick E. Gorman Professor.

Stephen Weiner, Israeli citizen. Born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1948. Ph.D in 1976 at the California Institute of Technology. Today, Steve Weiner has a Walter and Dr Trude Borchardt Professorial Chair in Structural Biology, and is the Director of the Kimmel Center for Archaeological Sciences, at The Weizmann Institute of Science.

The Prize is awarded at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ Annual meeting on 31 March 2011.
Prize amount: SEK 100 000 to be shared equally between the two Laureates.
The Aminoff Prize is intended to reward a documented, individual contribution in the field of crystallography, including areas concerned with the dynamics of the formation and determination of crystal structures. The prize may be awarded either to an individual Swedish or foreign researcher, or to a joint research group of no more than three persons. The Aminoff Prize was awarded for the first time in 1979.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, founded in 1739, is an independent organization whose overall objective is to promote the sciences and strengthen their influence in society. The Academy takes special responsibility for the natural sciences and mathematics, but endeavours to promote the exchange of ideas between various disciplines.

More information

Lia Addadi, Weizmann Institute of Science
Stephen Weiner, Weizmann Institute of Science