Department of Molecular Genetics

Dr. Jacob (Yaqub) Hanna, MD PhD

Department of Molecular Genetics

Born in Rama, a village in the Galilee region of Israel, Dr. Jacob (Yaqub) Hanna earned his BSc in medical science (2001), MSc in microbiology and immunology (2003), PhD in microbiology and 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. He joined the Weizmann Institute in 2011.

Dr. Hanna is pioneering techniques in induced pluripotency 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. Dr. 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. Dr. Hanna has uncovered novel pathways regulating the reprogramming process, and was the first to show ability to boost it up to 100% efficiency. He was also the first to derive pristine “naïve” human pluripotent cells equivalent to those derived from mice, and can generate “humanized” mouse models that have human derived tissues. In addition to demonstrating the power of cell reprogramming, his work offers the promise of powerful new research models for infertility, degenerative diseases, such as type 1 diabetes and cancer.

During his postdoctoral work, Dr. Hanna was the first non-American graduate to receive a prestigious Novartis Fellowship from the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation, a Genzyme-Whitehead Fellowship, and was one of 35 people under the age of 35 recognized as Young Innovators of 2010 by MIT’s Technology Review magazine. In 2010, he was awarded the Sir Charles Clore Prize by the Weizmann Institute. As an Independent Investigator, he received a European Research Council Early Career Development Award (2011), Rappaport Prize in biomedical research (2013), Krill Prize by the Wolf Foundation for outstanding research achievements (2013), and the Kimmel prize research award (2013). In 2014 he was elected as a member of the Israel Young Academy and was featured among “40 under 40” innovative scientists by the prestigious journal Cell.