I am a full professor of Gene & Cell Therapy at the
Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I’m a senior active physician at the Hadassah Hebrew University Hospital Liver Unit. Over the last 12 years, I have directed the Gene and Cell Therapy Institute at the Hadassah Hebrew University Hospital that I have established. This entailed the collection of funding for the building of the institute during the seed stage and recruiting and funding all of the research activities from grant money, collaborations with the industry and fundraising.Today, we are 10 research groups, with 90 investigators.
In addition to the research groups, I have established a GMP level production facility with four clear rooms engaged in the production of biological materials (including viral vectors, devices, therapeutic cells, e.g., mesenchymal stem cells and human embryonic stem cells) administered to humans in phase I/II studies. Jan 2015 – Dec 2016 I was also the associate editor of Hepatology – the leading journal in liver diseases.
Major achievements in the recent academic career: My achievements are concentrated in the field of translational medicine and include: 1. Development of hepatitis B and C viruses monoclonal antibodies that progressed into phase II clinical studies, and the development of the Trimera HBV and HCV mouse models to assess the anti-viral effects of these antibodies. 2. Understanding the molecular and cellular factors that play a role in the biological axis of liver inflammation à regeneration à cancer (hepatocellular cancer). 3. Development of novel gene therapy platforms, e.g., the usage of ultrafast infrared femtosecond laser for dermal, muscle and retinal naked DNA transfection.
Current research interest relevant to this program: Our group investigated the role of inflammatory factors contributing to liver regeneration upon infection. While investigating these factors along the years, we have learned that the IL6-gp130 pathway is pivotal for the regeneration of liver parenchyma. This understanding further engaged us in studies aimed at translating the knowledge generated to determine the role of IL6-gp130 in the regeneration and anti-apoptosis in other tissues. Our current data show that this pathway is involved in the protection and regeneration of the kidney, heart, bone marrow stem cells and the salivary gland. In the recent years, we have also been investigating the significance of microRNAs in the regulation of physiological and pathological human conditions by studying mouse models. These have revealed some astonishing results. One is the role of miR 122 in controlling lipid metabolism, influencing anemia development and encountering anti-tumor properties.
Translational research: Our researchers at the institute and I, in particular, are believers in translational investigation. During recent years, I have been involved in a number of programs and these include: 1. Development of a novel therapy for pancreatic cancer based on siRNA targeting K-Ras (I established a company around this technology called Silenseed); 2. Development of FIV as a novel lentiviral vector for gene therapy. 3. Identification of new therapeutic targets for liver cancer. 4. Development of novel imaging technologies for the identification of liver pathology, tools that were further used in our program on liver inflammation à regeneration à cancer (hepatocellular cancer).