Winner of the 2023 Israel Prize in Life Sciences
Prior to my studies, it was believed that the brain, in contrast to most other tissues in the body, cannot be supported by the immune system. This hindered the understanding of the brain and finding cures for its diseases.
I challenged this dogma and demonstrated in a series of publications, starting in 1998, that the brain requires assistance from the immune system for its maintenance, function and repair in health, aging and disease.
Moreover, we demonstrated that aging of the immune system impacts the brain, which led us and others to harness the immune system to fight acute brain injuries, stroke and chronic neurodegenerative diseases.
Based on intellectual property emerging from my research at the Weizmann Institute, the biopharmaceutical company ImmunoBrain Checkpoint is developing a first-of-its-kind immunotherapy treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, now undergoing clinical trials in Israel and Europe.
I expect that my research will lead to further understanding of the role of the immune system in other forms of debilitating central nervous system diseases such as Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington’s, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).
My main motivation is scientific curiosity and the joy of revealing the secrets of nature. This motivation is further enhanced by the medical applications of my research, finding treatments for devastating brain diseases by combining immunology and neuroscience. I realized that I had the ability to change the history of these diseases, and so I did.
I had to overcome every possible professional difficulty, from fighting against an entrenched scientific dogma, to being a female pioneer in a hostile misogynistic environment. This was in addition to the challenges of combining motherhood with an intensive and demanding career.
My students serve in academia and biopharma around the world, allowing me to “seed” my knowledge and approach widely.
My advice to young scientists is to fearlessly pursue the truth even if opponents try to trample them. My concepts, which initially evoked strong antagonism, are now accepted, and I believe that I am on the cusp of a breakthrough in developing treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.