Porträt Irit Sagi

Irit Sagi

Irit Sagi

Irit Sagi received a BSc in Physical Chemistry from American University (1988) and a PhD degree in biophysics/bioinorganics from Georgetown University (1992), both in Washington DC. 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. In 2005-2006, she spent a sabbatical as a visiting professor at Harvard University and Novartis Research Institutes for BioMedical Research in Boston. She served as Dean of the Feinberg Graduate School at the Weizmann Institute from 2014-2019, when she assumed the position of Vice President for Innovation and Technology Transfer and Chair of the Board of Directors of Yeda, the Institute’s commercialization arm. She is the incumbent of the Maurizio Pontecorvo Professorial Chair.

Prof. Sagi develops and applies unique, multidisciplinary, and biophysical approaches to investigate the molecular processes of tissue and extracellular remodeling. Merging 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). These are 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 enzymes’ negative action. These prototype antibodies and biological inhibitors are currently being developed for clinical use for human inflammatory and cancer diseases.

Prof. Sagi continues to focus her research efforts on novel integrated experimental tools tailored to decipher the extracellular matrix molecular remodeling code and molecular landscapes in healthy and diseased tissues. Specifically, she is using her biological inhibitors as molecular probes together with various omics to unravel new cellular and molecular pathways at the single-cell as well as at tissue levels. Recently, she demonstrated a novel use for proteases in promoting and increasing the rate of embryo implantation in mammals. This discovery led to her establishment of a company, NanoCell, which is developing this technology in livestock and humans.

Prof. Sagi has had more than 150 publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals and is the editor of two books. She received the Israel Chemical Society ADAMA prize in 2021, the Landau Prize of Mifal Hapais for Biochemistry in 2017, and the Juludan Prize for outstanding research projects in exact sciences and advanced medicinal technologies, in 2013. In 2006, she was named ‘Inventor of the Year’ by Yeda. In 2003, she was awarded the Weizmann Institute Scientific Council Prize for Chemistry, and in 2000 she received the Jakubskind-Cymerman Research Prize.

From 2009-2014 she served as 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 a member of the UK Israel Science Council. She received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Patras in Greece in 2022.