ICE | The Israel Chemist and Chemical Engineer | Issue 8

23 The Israel Chemist and Chemical Engineer Issue 8 · November 2021 · Kislev 5782 Profile polymers, the field of biopolymers for implants and drug delivery had just started, so I decided to study pharmacy to better understand the medical needs. While doing my PhD, I studied pharmacy at the School of Pharmacy as an undergraduate student and completed both in 1984. I moved to Syntex Co., California for postdoctoral training, working on a hydrogel implant for a one-year delivery of the hormone LHRH for treating prostate cancer. After one year, I moved to Langer’s lab at MIT and Folkman’s lab at Children’s Hospital, HarvardMedical School, working on the design and synthesis of biodegradable polymers for tissue engineering and carriers for controlled drug delivery. Q: You have held a variety of positions from University Professor to College President to Head of Forensic Science in the Israel Police and now Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Science and Technology. Can you describe these roles and what attracted you to them? A: After three years of postdoctoral training in the US, I worked for one year at the Biological Institute in Ness Ziona and then moved back to the US to become director of R&D at Nova Pharmaceuticals Co. in Baltimore. After about three years, I was looking for a job in Israel. An academic position was a distinct possibility. I received an offer to join the School of Pharmacy of The Hebrew University at the Hadassah Hospital in Ein Karem, a perfect place to carry out applied medical research. In 1997, I completed a diploma in Business Administration and in 2007 Law studies, both from Hebrew University. Coincidently, I was approached by the police with an offer to head the Division of Identification and Forensic Sciences (MAZAP), in charge of 15 forensic labs and 450 employees. I thought that this would be an interesting opportunity, took a leave of absent from the university, and joined the Israel Police with the rank of Brigadier General. After about five intensive years during which time I learned a tremendous amount about forensic science, management, and public service, I moved back to the university. During my years in the Israel Police I kept my lab active, thanks to my graduate students, Boaz Mizrahi and Shady Farah (both now professors in the Technion). In 2014, I was approached by Uzi Wexler, founder and president of Azrieli College of Engineering, to become president, which I did in parallel to my university duties. This was an opportunity to understand the importance of engineering and its role in translating science into practice. In 2018, I was elected head of the School of Pharmacy with the objective to increase the number of pharmacists in light of the shortage of pharmacists in Israel. The position Chief Scientist came up with no intention on my part. This position is an opportunity to promote applied academic research to achieve important national needs and increase academic involvement in government programs and industry. Q: Which role gave you the greatest satisfaction? A: The position at the Israel Police. The forensic division is responsible for the national forensic activities, serving not only the police but also security and government agencies. The position requires operation of forensic laboratories with a staff of about 200 scientists, most with MSc in addition to 20 PhDs and about 250 field investigators. The labs are equipped with up-to-date instrumentation and technologies in diverse scientific fields: biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, and computer science. Most important for me was the opportunity to meet policemen of different ranks and positions. These policemen work hard and in harmony towards the wellbeing of all of our citizens. Q: Do you enjoy teaching and interacting with students? A: I very much enjoy teaching and interacting with students. I teach in two faculties, the Faculty of Medicine – School of Pharmacy where I teach medicinal and organic chemistry, biopolymers, and pharmaceutics, and the Faculty of Law where I head the MSc Program in Forensic Sciences. I have graduate students in both faculties studying biopolymers, medicinal chemistry, pharmaceutical sciences, and forensic science. Q: What do you consider to be your greatest scientific achievement so far? A: Synthesis and applications of biodegradable polymers, particularly the polymers that are in use in Gliadel, Inspace, and Bioprotect products and in Intragel and Gentagel-LR products that are under development. Q: What do you consider to be your greatest contribution to Israeli society? A: My contribution to professional education, teaching and supervising hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students who today hold positions as pharmacists, industrial R&D staff, and academic positions. Q: Would you recommend a career in academia to young scientists? A: Absolutely – to individuals who see science as part of their life, are willing to spend long hours reading, writing, and researching in a lab. An academic position provides the freedom to perform research in various fields, associate with the international community of scientists, collaborate with industry, and even establish companies and enjoy royalties. Q: What are the main challenges facing Israeli science?