Board of directors
Prof. Alon Chen
Prof. Alon Chen assumed the position of the 11th president of the Weizmann Institute of Science on Dec. 1, 2019. He was Head of the Department of Neurobiology from 2016-2019. He was also Managing Director and Scientific Member at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany and served as the Head of the Max Planck Society - Weizmann Institute of Science Laboratory for Experimental Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Neurogenetics. He is an adjunct Professor at the Medical School of the Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich.
Born in Israel in 1970, Prof. Chen received a BSc in Biological Studies, with distinction, from Ben-Gurion University in 1995, and a PhD from the Weizmann Institute of Science in 2001 (Direct PhD Program, with distinction). During his PhD studies, Prof. Chen also received an MBA from Ben-Gurion University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, where he started researching stress. In 2005, he joined the faculty of the Weizmann Institute, in the Department of Neurobiology. At the Weizmann Institute, he is the incumbent of the Vera and John Schwartz Professorial Chair in Neurobiology.
Prof. Chen’s research focuses on the neurobiology of stress, particularly the mechanisms by which the brain regulates the response to stressful challenges and how this response is linked to psychiatric disorders. The collective long-term goal of his research is to elucidate the pathways and mechanisms by which stressors are perceived, processed, and transduced into neuroendocrine and behavioral responses under healthy and pathological conditions.
His lab has made significant discoveries in the field, including fundamental aspects of the organism’s stress response and actions that link specific stress-related genes, epigenetic mechanisms, and brain circuits with anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, and the metabolic syndrome. Prof. Chen and his team use both genetic mouse models and human patients to ultimately create the scientific groundwork for therapeutic interventions to treat stress-related behavioral and physiological disorders.
Over the years in his various scientific and administrative leadership roles, Prof. Chen has worked extensively with scientific boards, executive boards, elected officials, alumni, donors, and the community at large, to advance the mission of the institutions in which he is involved. On many occasions, Prof. Chen has presented their visions, missions, and values to internal and external stakeholders. He has also been responsible for approving and overseeing institutional and departmental budgets and for securing external funding support. Prof. Chen is known for his excellent communication and interpersonal skills, strong leadership aptitude, and the ability to identify opportunities and to convert challenges into innovative solutions.
He is the recipient of both the Rothschild and Fulbright fellowships. Upon his joining the Weizmann Institute faculty, he received the Alon Fellowship, the most prestigious Israeli fellowship for returning scientists.
Prof. Chen is married with two children and has a keen interest in science education .
Prof. Irit Sagi
Born in Israel, Prof. Irit Sagi attended university in Washington, DC, receiving a BSc degree in Physical Chemistry from American University (1988), and PhD degree in biophysics/bioinorganics from Georgetown University (1992). She returned to The Weizmann Institute to perform postdoctoral research in the group of Prof. Ada Yonath, laureate of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Prof. Sagi continued her postdoctoral studies at the Max-Planck Institute in Berlin, and joined the faculty of Chemistry at the Weizmann Institute in 1998. Between 2005-2006 she spent a sabbatical as a visiting professor at Harvard University and at Novartis research institute, USA. She became the dean of the Feinberg Graduate School in 2014 and is the incumbent of the Maurizio Pontecorvo Professorial Chair. In December, 2019, she finished her term as dean and assume the position of Vice President for Technology Transfer.
Prof. Irit Sagi is developing and applying unique, multidisciplinary and biophysical approaches to investigate tissue and extracellular remodeling molecular processes. Merging together real-time spectroscopic and molecular imaging approaches, she was the first to reveal the complex dynamic molecular nature of extracellular remodeling enzymes including matrix metalloproteinases and lysyl oxidases (MMPs and LOX), a group of human enzymes linked to, developmental biology, cancer, inflammation, fibrosis and infectious diseases. Insights derived from these studies led her to design a new class of inhibitory antibodies that thwart the negative action of these enzymes. These prototype antibodies are currently being developed for clinical use in inflammatory, and cancer diseases by a start company, Mabtrix ltd. Prof. Sagi continues to develop novel integrated experimental tools tailored to decipher the extracellular matrix molecular remodeling code at near atomic resolution in healthy and diseased tissues. Her unique biophysical approach is used to decipher molecular mechanisms of dysregulated tissue proteolysis/remodeling and to develop a new generation of safe and effective drugs and in vivo molecular modulators. Recently, she demonstrtaed a novel use for proteases in promoting and increasing the rate of embryo implantation in mammals. This discovery led her to establish a new startup company, NanoCell, aiming at developing this technology in Livestock and human. Prof. Sagi is the incumbent of the Maurizio Pontecorvo Professorial Chair. She has more than 200 publications in peer reviewed scientific journals and editor of two books. Prof. Sagi earned the Landau Prize of Mifal Hapais for Biochemistry in 2017 and the Juludan Prize for outstanding research projects in the exact sciences and advanced medicinal technologies in 2013. In 2006, she was named Inventor of the Year by the Weiznmann Institute’s Yeda Ltd. Three years prior, she was awarded the Weizmann Institute Scientific Council Prize for Chemistry, and in 2000, she received the Jakubskind-Cymerman Research Prize. Fron 2009-20014 she has been the president of the Israel Biophysical Society and she is currently the president of the Israel Matrix Biology Society. Prof. Sagi is a member of the International Board of Directors of Future Fund for promoting Israel-Germany relations and she is a member of the UK Israel Science Council.
Prof. Daniel Zajfman
Born in Belgium in 1959, Daniel Zajfman moved to Israel in 1979. He received a B.Sc. in 1983 and a Ph.D. in 1989 from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, in atomic physics. After working as a consultant for Elscint in Haifa, Prof. Zajfman spent two years at the Argonne National Laboratory, near Chicago, as a postdoctoral fellow. He returned to Israel in 1991 and joined the staff of the Weizmann Institute's Department of Particle Physics as a senior scientist. He was appointed associate professor in 1997 and full professor in 2003. Since March 2001, he has been an external member of the Max Planck Institute of Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany, and in 2005, he was appointed Director in that institute. In November 2006, Prof. Zajfman was elected the tenth President of the Weizmann Institute by Institute’s Board of Governors. He assumed this position on December 1, becoming, at 47, the youngest president the Institute ever had.
Prof. Zajfman's research interests focus on atomic and molecular physics, with a strong emphasis on molecular breakup via electron or photon interactions. These issues are most relevant not only to the field of molecular dynamics, but also to the understanding of laboratory and astrophysical plasmas. In essence, Prof. Zajfman wishes to determine how, under harsh conditions, molecules are formed in galaxy's diffuse and dense interstellar clouds. Prof. Zajfman’s experiments involve the use of storage rings, advanced devices in which molecular ions move through a circular vacuum at speeds of approximately 10,000 kilometers per second. The “hot” ions that are produced are then cooled to interstellar temperatures by retaining them in the storage ring. In recent years, Prof. Zajfman developed an improved version of the so-called “ion trap” for the study of molecular reactions, thus enabling him to create a tabletop version of the huge and very expensive storage rings. This, coupled with a new technique he developed for long-term ion storage, enables him to reproduce, in the laboratory, some of the conditions (e.g. low temperature and a low-density environment) existing in interstellar space.
Prof. Zajfman also seeks to understand the astrophysical conditions found in star-forming regions or supernova remnants. Stars are born when an interstellar cloud, made up of atoms and molecules, collapses on itself. Prof. Zajfman and his colleagues work to solve the riddle of star formation by recreating interstellar conditions in a laboratory environment. For years, scientists believed that molecular collisions occurring as interstellar clouds collapse cause energy to be released in the form of radiation, which cools the system down. Prof. Zajfman was among those scientists who proved that an important component of this radiating “coolant” was ordinary water.In other studies, Prof. Zajfman has developed new techniques for the direct, three-dimensional imaging of molecular breakup events, providing new insight into these basic chemical processes. In addition to his research, Prof. Zajfman has invested much time and effort in community outreach, to the public in general and youth in particular. One of his goals is to broaden interest in and knowledge of the advances taking place on the scientific front. He has also taught various undergraduate and graduate physics courses, both at the Technion and at the Weizmann Institute
Aya Jakobovits, Ph.D.
Aya Jakobovits has over 25 years track record in starting and growing biotech companies, which developed novel technologies and therapeutic products and brought over $14 billion to its shareholders. She founded Adicet Bio, Inc. in 2014 and served as its President and CEO until March 2018. She served as a Venture Partner at OrbiMed from 2011-2016. Previously, from 2010-2013, Dr. Jakobovits served as the President and Founding CEO of Kite Pharma, Inc., acquired in 2017 by Gilead for $11.9 billion. Before joining Kite Pharma, she served as Executive Vice President, Head of Research and Development at Agensys, Inc., an affiliate of Astellas Pharma Inc. Before Agensys acquisition by Astellas in 2007 for over $500 million, Dr. Jakobovits served as Agensys’ Senior Vice President, Technology and Corporate Development and Chief Scientific Officer and led its R&D, clinical and corporate development operations. Prior to Agensys, she served as the Director, Discovery Research and Principal Scientist at Abgenix, Inc., which was spun out of Cell Genesys, Inc. and based on the XenoMouse® technology developed under her leadership. Abgenix was acquired by Amgen Inc. for $2.2 billion.
She serves on the Board of Directors of Adicet Bio, Dyve Biosciences Inc., UCLA Technology Development Corporation, and Yeda Research and Development Co. Ltd.
Dr. Jakobovits received her B.Sc. cum laude from the Hebrew university of Jerusalem, her M.Sc. in Chemistry and Ph.D. in Life Sciences from the Weizmann Institute of Sciences, Israel, and was a postdoctoral fellow at UCSF and Genentech. Dr. Jakobovits is an author of over 50 scientific publications and inventor of over 120 issued patents.
Mr. Israel Makov
Mr Israel Makov is Chairman of Sun Pharma - the world’s 5th largest specialty generic pharma company, the Chairman of BioLight – an emerging global ophthalmic company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of products for ophthalmic conditions and Chairman of Micromedic Technologies Ltd. - a cluster of companies engaged in cancer diagnostics.
Mr Makov is the former Chairman of Given Imaging - the developer and world’s leading provider of capsule endoscopy and Netafim - the pioneer and global leader in smart irrigation solutions.
Mr. Makov is the former President & CEO of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. He led the company’s global expansion and under his leadership Teva became the undisputed global leader in the generic pharmaceutical industry and a global leader in the treatment of Multiple sclerosis.
Mr Makov is a member of the Executive Board & Management Committee of the Weizmann Institute of Science, President of the Friends of Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel, Director at Yeda Research and Development Company Ltd. and on the Board of Governors of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Mr. Makov is also Chairman of the Friends of Gesher Theatre.
Prof. Zvi Artstein
Born in Tel Aviv, Zvi Artstein received his Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1974. After working as an assistant professor at Brown University for two years, he joined the staff of the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1975. He has held a number of senior posts at the Institute: he served as Head of the Mathematics Department from 1986 to 1988, Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science from 1989 to 1997, Chair of the Council of Professors in 1998 and Vice President for Technology Transfer from 1999 to 2002. In 2005, he was once again appointed Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science. He is the incumbent of the Hettie H. Heineman Professorial Chair of Mathematics.
An expert on the mathematics of decisions, control and optimization, Prof. Artstein deals with mathematical problems that arise when a natural or man-made phenomenon is subjected to manipulation. He examines various models for decisions made under conditions of uncertainty, stability and stabilization. Though rooted in abstract mathematics, these studies are applicable to diverse physical, industrial and economic systems.
Mr. David Assia
David Assia is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor, being one of the pioneers of the vibrant Israeli high tech software industry. David founded multiple global companies and listed them on either NASDAQ or TASE (Tel-Aviv Stock Exchange).
David is the Chairman of iAngels, a leading crowd funding platform and is also the Chairman of Biocatch, the Cognitive Authentication Biometrics Company. David is actively involved as a lead angel and a director in multiple high tech companies. David runs his family's, privately held, investment company, Nadyr Investments Ltd.
David is highly involved in educational institutions such as the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Israel Education Fund and Yeda Research and Development, the technology transfer office of the Weizmann Institute.
David is also on the boards of RR Media (RRSAT), a media services company, The First International Bank of Israel and the Israel Association of Electronics and Software.
In 1980, David co-founded Mashov Computers, the leading micro-computer software company in Israel, being one of the first high tech companies to be listed 3 years later on TASE.
In 1986, he co-founded Magic Software, where he served as either Chairman or CEO until 2007. Magic Software is a global international software company with world class innovative development and integration platforms. Magic Software was the first Israeli Software Company to be listed on NASDAQ (MGIC).
David was a major investor, either directly or through one of the above companies , in Aladdin Knowledge System, eventually merged into Safenet (Gemalto), Babylon.com, Walla Communications, Paradigm Geophysical, AOD Software and many others.
Since 2007, David has been involved in multiple start-ups as either an angel investor, chairman or mentor, such as in eToro, the world's leading social investment network.
Mr. Yoav Waizer
Yoav has more than 20 years of entrepreneurial experience working with private and publicly traded technology companies. As a partner and CFO at leading Israeli VC funds that include recently Medica Venture Partners and previously, Cedar Fund and Star Ventures, he has worked with start-up companies from their very early stages all the way to successful exits. His hands-on experience includes all aspects of finance and operations including tax planning and reporting, cash management, reporting to limited partnerships under US GAAP rules, investor relations, and has expertise in strategy, financial and legal due diligence, general and financial management, team-building, monitoring portfolio companies, raising capital and M&A.
Yoav holds a B.Sc. in Statistics and Accounting and an MBA with a specialization in Information Systems, both from Tel Aviv University.
Avishay Gal-Yam Ph.D.
Department of Particle Physics and Astrophysics
Born in Jerusalem, in 1970, Dr. Gal-Yam earned his BSc in physics and mathematics in 1996 and his PhD in physics and astronomy in 2003 at Tel Aviv University. He received NASA’s prestigious Hubble postdoctoral fellowship and spent four years conducting research at the California Institute of Technology. He joined the Weizmann Institute of Science in 2007.
Dr. Avishay Gal-Yam is a cosmic detective who attempts to identify the stars responsible for spectacular stellar explosions called supernovae. Solving these mysteries can provide vital clues for both the origins of the elements that make up the periodic table – including those necessary for life itself – and for cosmological questions about the origin and fate of the universe. For example, Dr. Gal Yam and his team of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows recently announced the discovery of two new types of supernova explosions. One very faint type – that occurs when helium detonates – appears to produce significantly more calcium (vital for life as we know it) and titanium than were thought possible, and probably contributes a significant portion of these critical elements in the cosmos. The second new type of mega explosions is called pair-production supernovae. These are 10 to 100 times more powerful than any previously known type and may be the first supernova explosions to have occurred after the "big bang."
In 2011, Dr. Gal-Yam, received the Krill Prize for Excellence in Scientific Research, and in 2010, the Israeli Physical Society (IPS) Prize for a Young Physicist, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research ARCHES prize, and Weizmann’s Levinson Physics Prize. His previous honors and awards include a Colton Fellowship (2000), European Union fellowships (1999 and 2007), the Italian Città di Cefalù prize (2006), and the 2008 Peter and Patricia Gruber Award. He has published more than 100 papers in prominent scientific journals, including Nature, Science, and The Astrophysical Journal.
Dr. Gal-Yam is married and has three children. He enjoys sports, and he and his family like to travel and hike together.
Prof. David Mirelman
Born in Argentina in 1938, David Mirelman emigrated with his family to Israel in 1949. He received his Ph.D. from the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1968, and then spent two years as a Research Associate at Tufts University Medical School in Boston. In 1970, Prof. Mirelman returned to Israel, where he joined the staff of the Weizmann Institute's Department of Biophysics (now Biological Chemistry). He was appointed Associate Professor with tenure in 1976, and Full Professor in 1985. Sabbaticals include periods at the University of California at Berkeley, Harvard University, and as a Fogarty Scholar-in-Residence at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. In 1987, Prof. Mirelman was appointed Chairman of the Board of YEDA Research and Development Company, Ltd., which commercializes the inventions of Weizmann Institute scientists. In 1993, when the post of Vice-President for Technology Transfer was established, he was nominated to be in charge of all aspects of technology transfer of Institute research, in addition to serving as Chairman of Yeda. At the end of 1998, he completed his term of office in both these posts, returned to his laboratory full-time, and at the same time was appointed to serve as Dean of the Institute’s Faculty of Biochemistry, a post he held until January, 2004. He also headed the Weizmann Institute’s Y. Leon Benoziyo Institute for Molecular Medicine until January, 2004.
Prof. Mirelman's research interests lie in the field of molecular biology, within which he is especially interested in the interactions between microbial pathogens and mucosal cells in the human intestinal tract. His studies of the molecular biology of the amoeba parasite (Entamoeba histolytica) are directed towards understanding the molecular mechanisms of virulence, differentiating between pathogenic and non-pathogenic forms, and investigating the host response and effects of the associated microbial flora. Prof. Mirelman has also developed a novel delivery system for a potent anti-amoebic drug, and is currently attempting to develop a vaccine using a genetically modified and non-virulent amoeba. In recent years, he has also become interested in the mode of action of allicin, the biologically active molecule of garlic, and its application against a number of human diseases, including cancer. Prof. Mirelman has published over 180 scientific publications in international journals, and is the recipient of a number of research prizes. He is the incumbent of the Besen-Brender Professorial Chair of Microbiology and Parasitology.
Mr. Martin Gerstel
Martin Gerstel was born in 1941 in Norwalk, Connecticut. He received a BS degree from Yale University in 1964 and an MBA from Stanford University in 1968.Directly after graduation from Stanford, Mr. Gerstel participated in the founding of ALZA Corporation in Palo Alto, California, a pharmaceutical company based on developing new technologies for controlled drug delivery. Initially vice president and treasurer, he subsequently held a number of management positions leading to his appointment as President and Chief Operating Officer (1982 to 1987), and Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (1987 to 1993). During his tenure, ALZA Exchange listed company with a multi-billion dollar market valuation.Since retiring as CEO of ALZA in 1993, Mr. Gerstel has focused on board and consulting activities with a number of educational, civic and research organizations including, in the United States, the Foundation for the National Medals of Science and Technology, the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Stanford University and, in Israel, the Weizmann Institute of Science, Beit Amir, the Shalem Center, and in Jerusalem Foundation. In the private sector in Israel, he is Chairman of Compugen (a bioinformatics company), Founder/Vice Chairman of Itamar Medical (a medical device company), and a director of Teva Pharmaceuticals (a pharmaceutical company) and Yeda Ltd. (Technology Licensing company for the Weizmann Institute). In addition, Mr. Gerstel is a frequent lecturer and seminar leader in various areas of corporate management and strategy, negotiations and finance.
Mr. Shimshon Harel
Mr. Shimshon Harel Chair, Executive Board Shimshon Harel has served on the Board of the Weizmann Institute of Science since 1999, as a member of the International and the Executive Boards. He was elected Chair of the Executive Board in November 2017, and currently serves as a member of the Management, Nominating, and Honors committees, and as a member of the Board of the Davidson Institute of Science Education. Shimshon was elected Chairman of the Israeli Friends Association of the Weizmann Institute in January 2006, and has been active within the framework of the Association and its management for over two decades. Shimshon is the CEO of America Israel Investments Ltd., a company specializing in real estate investments in Israel and abroad. He also serves as a member of the board of directors of several commercial companies: Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bashan Radiators Ltd., Studio C Ltd, and Mango Ltd. He has been a Director of Jerusalem Economy Ltd. since December 2015. Shimshon is involved in various social causes. He is a member of the Friends Association of Ilan, the Chairman of the Haifa Sami Ofer Stadium, member of the Board of Directors of Haifa Economic Corporation, member of the Board of Governors of the University of Haifa, and is the Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka in Israel. Shimshon holds a Bachelor’s degree in economics, and a Master’s degree in business administration. He and his wife Orna reside in Haifa.
Yodfat Harel Buchris
Yodfat is a managing director at Blumberg Capital, based in Tel Aviv. Yodfat is an experienced investor and board member with a track record in management, business development, marketing and strategic planning in North America, Europe and Asia.
Prior to joining Blumberg Capital, Yodfat ran her own investing and consulting business. Previously, she was managing director of Tamares Capital Ltd, a large international private investment fund with holdings in technology, media, manufacturing and real estate. Earlier, Yodfat served as corporate director and head of the medical and venture capital groups at Orbotech LTD, a world leader in automated inspection for printed circuit boards and panel displays.
She also previously served as managing director at Harel-Hertz Investment House Ltd. managing investment and business development for Japanese and Israeli corporations and as chief advisor to ITX-Corporation, a leading Japanese electronics conglomerate listed on NASDAQ Japan.
Yodfat serves on the board of directors of Israel Discount Bank and serves as an industry representative on the National Labor Court.
Yodfat earned her executive MBA from Bradford University School of Management in Great Britain and her B.A. in communications and political science from Bar-Ilan University. She has also completed advanced programs in director studies, mediation, advertising and marketing.
Christian Tidona Ph.D.
Christian Tidona is a biotech entrepreneur, business angel, and founder of the BioMed X Institute in Heidelberg, Germany. He studied molecular biology and received his doctoral degree from the University of Heidelberg.
Throughout his entire professional life, his focus was always to seed innovation at the interface between academia and industry. Christian is co-founder of the Health Axis Europe alliance between the European health innovation clusters in Leuven, Maastricht, Copenhagen, and Heidelberg. He is chairman of the Weizmann Young European Network (WYEN) and a member of the International Board of the Weizmann Institute of Science.
Christian is married and father of two children.