Howard Cedar MD, PhD

Recipient of the Canada Gairdner International Award, 2011
"For his pioneering discoveries on DNA methylation and its role in gene expression."

Department of Developmental Biology and Cancer Research, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem

The challenge: How do cells know which genes to use and which to ignore?
The work: Howard Cedar – along with Aharon Razin and Adrian Bird – demonstrated how adding a simple chemical group (a methyl group) to DNA affects how and when genetic information is used.
Why it matters: Understanding how to turn methylation on and off could lead to treatments for cancer and other diseases.


Prof. Howard Cedar was born in New York in 1943. He received his BSc in Mathematics from M.I.T. and went on to do an MD and PhD in microbiology under the tutelage of Dr. James Schwartz at N.Y.U., graduating in 1970. He carried out postdoctoral research with Dr. Eric Kandel at N.Y.U. and then with Dr. Gary Felsenfeld at the N.I.H. in the framework of the Public Health Service. In 1973 he emigrated to Israel where he joined the faculty of the Hebrew University, becoming a full professor in 1981. Prof. Cedar is the recipient of the Hestrin Award for Biochemistry (1979) and the Hebrew University Outstanding Investigator Award (1991). He was elected to EMBO in 1982, received the Israel Prize in 1999 and became a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences in 2003. He received the Wolf Prize in Medicine in 2008 and the Emet Prize in Life Sciences in 2009. Three of his students have independently won the prestigious GE-Science Prize for the best doctoral work in the world.

Key Papers

1981 Naveh-Many, T. and H. Cedar. Active gene sequences are undermethylated. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 78: 4246-4250.

1982 Stein, R., Y. Gruenbaum, Y. Pollack, A. Razin, and H. Cedar. Clonal inheritance of the pattern DNA methylation in mouse cells. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 79: 61-65.

1986 Keshet, I., J. Lieman-Hurwitz, and H. Cedar. DNA methylation affects the formation of active chromatin. Cell 44: 535-543.

1994 Brandeis, M., Frank, D., Keshet, I., Siegfried, Z., Mendelsohn, M., Nemes, A., Temper, V., Razin, A. and Cedar, H. Sp1 elements protect a CpG island from de novo methylation. Nature 371, 435-438.

2007 Schlesinger, Y., Straussman, R., Keshet, I., Farkash, S., Hecht, M., Zimmerman, J., Eden, E., Yakhini, Z., Ben-Shushan, E., Reubinoff, B.E., Bergman, Y., Simon, I. and Cedar, H. Polycomb mediated histone H3(K27) methylation pre-marks