Stem Cells: Promises and Reality

Renowned Israeli stem-cell researcher in Fairfield Aug. 6

By Cindy Mindell

Dr. Yaqub Hanna

A leading Israeli scientist who has pioneered groundbreaking stem-cell reprogamming research will discuss his work on Wednesday, Aug. 6 at Jewish Senior Services in Fairfield.

Together with a team of researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science Department of Molecular Genetics in Rehovot, Israel, Dr. Jacob (Yaqub) Hanna has overcome a major roadblock in the use of human stem cells for medical purposes. Funded by a grant from the Israel Cancer Research Fund, their pioneering breakthrough was recently published in the peer-reviewed international science journal, Nature.

Its not only Hannas work that is note-worthy: the award-winning research scientist is a Palestinian living in Israel, a native of Kafr Rama in the Galilee and the son of two medical doctors.

Hanna earned a BS in medical sciences summa cum laude in 2001, an MS in microbiology and immunology in 2003, and a PhD-MD in immunology summa cum laude in 2007, all from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he was among the top five percent of all Israeli medical-school graduates. After completing his PhD, Hanna decided to abandon clinical medicine and focus on research, and spent four years conducting postdoctoral research in the lab, part of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT.

During his postdoctoral work, Hanna was the first non-American to receive a prestigious Novartis Fellowship from the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation. He joined the Weizmann Institute Department of Molecular Genetics upon his return to Israel in 2011. That year, he received the Clore Prize for distinguished new faculty at the Weizmann Institute and was accepted as a Yigal Alon Program Scholar for junior faculty in Israel. He is also the recipient of the Wolf Foundations Krill Prize for Excellence in Scientific Research and the 2013 Rappaport Prize in Biomedical Research.

Hanna has had to find a way to navigate between his personal and professional identities.

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Stem Cells: Promises and Reality

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