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Sephardic Jew Shares 1980 Nobel Prize in the Field of Physiology

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Dr. Baruj Benacerraf, a Venezuelan-born American citizen engaged in research of Harvard University on how genetic makeup determines whether a person successfully combats cancer and other diseases, has become the first Sephardic Jew to win a Nobel Prize.

Benacerraf, another American and a Frenchman won the 1980 Nobel Prize in physiology for their discoveries on “genetically determined structures on the cell surface that regulate immunological reactions, ” it was announced in Stockholm.

George Snell, 76, of the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, and Jean Dausett, 64, of the Immunological Laboratory of St. Louis Hospital of Paris University, and Benacerraf will share the award of $211,000.

Benacerraf, who will be 60 on Oct. 29, has been an American citizen since 1943 and a professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School since 1970.

In a telephone interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency here, Benacerraf said as for as he is aware he is the first Sephardic Jew to receive the Nobel Prize. He has been a member of the Board of Governors of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel for six years and has been in Israel “quite a few times. “Asked for a comment in celebration of the honor, he exclaimed: “Peace for myself and for everyone.”

Born in Caracas, where he has “lots of family,” Benacerraf has been living in the United States since 1940. He lives in Boston with his wife, Annette. Their daughter, Beryl, also is a medical doctor practicing in Boston.

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