Prof. Jacob (Yaqub) Hanna, MD PhD
Born in Rama, an Arab village in the Galilee region of Israel, Prof. Jacob (Yaqub) Hanna earned his BSc in medical science (2001), PhD in immunology (2007), and MD in clinical medicine summa cum laude (2007) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He conducted postdoctoral research at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT. He joined the department of Molecular Genetics at the Weizmann Institute in 2011.
Prof. Hanna is pioneering techniques in induced pluripotency, artificial embryo models and reprogramming of adult cells. Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells have regenerative properties almost identical to those of embryonic stem cells, but can be created from adult cells without using an egg or fetal material. Prof. Hanna was the lead researcher in a study that showed how further-modified iPS cells could be used to treat sickle-cell anemia in mice, the first proof of concept of the therapeutic application of iPS cells. Prof. Hanna has uncovered novel pathways regulating the reprogramming process and was the first to derive pristine “naïve” human pluripotent cells equivalent to those derived from mice and can generate “cross-species humanized chimeric” mouse models that have human derived tissues. He was the first to expand prolonged periods of advanced and normal mammalian embryo development in an “artificial uterus” environment outside the maternal womb. In addition to demonstrating the power of cell reprogramming, his work offers the promise of powerful new research models for cancer, degenerative diseases (such as type 1 diabetes), and infertility, as he pioneered generation of human progenitor cells of sperm and eggs from iPS cells in the petri dish.
During his postdoctoral work, Prof. Hanna received a prestigious Novartis Fellowship from the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation. In 2010, he was awarded the Sir Charles Clore Prize for Outstanding Appointment in the Weizmann Institute. He received an EMBO young investigator award (2012), a Rappaport Prize in biomedical research (2013), a Krill Prize by the Wolf Foundation (2013), and the Helen and Martin Kimmel Award for Innovative Investigation (2014). In 2014, he was featured among “40 under 40” innovative scientists by the prestigious journal Cell. He sits on the editorial boards of several leading stem cell journals and was elected as a member of EMBO in 2018.