Awards and Prizes

Aminoff Prize 2011: biological minerals inspire for the future

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[Lia Addadi] Lia Addadi
[Stephen Weiner] Stephen Weiner

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded The Gregori Aminoff Prize in crystallography 2011 to Lia Addadi and 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.'

Biomineralization refers to the processes by which organisms form minerals. Addadi and 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 have shown lead 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 Prize will be awarded at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ Annual Meeting on March 31, 2011. Prize amount: SEK 100 000, to be shared equally between the two Laureates.

Lia Addadi became Dean of the Feinberg Graduate School in 2008 and is also a Dorothy and Patrick E. Gorman Professor.
 More information: www.weizmann.ac.il/sb/faculty_pages/Addadi/

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.
 More information is available at www.weizmann.ac.il/sb/faculty_pages/Weiner/

The Gregori Aminoff Prize, awarded for the first time in 1979, is intended to reward documented individual contributions 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.

Erik Huss