Prize for Young Israeli Bio-Medical Researcher:
Dr. Ido Amit
Sequencing of the human genome was completed over a decade ago, arousing expectations for accurate prediction of diseases and of their causes. The following key question remains open, however: why is it that when the entire sequence of the genome is laid out before us, it is still so hard to predict and treat the emergence of intricate diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer, of course. Research conducted by Dr. Ido Amit of the Weizmann Institute of Science deals with the discovery of the underlying principles of the functioning and the regulation of the human genome and the manner in which these impact health and disease, with an emphasis on the formation of blood cells and the activity of the immune system.
Amit’s research answers some fundamental questions in biology which will be translated into innovate treatments later down the line in the field of autoimmune diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. Dr. Amit is known in the science community as a leader in the important field of immune genomics, aimed at detecting and engineering genome sequences that are essential to the functioning of the blood circulatory system (the mature blood cells) and to the functioning of the immune system. He further developed innovative models which facilitate research in the field of gene regulation and immune responses.
New methods for mapping a “genetic control program”, developed by Dr. Amit, open new avenues for measuring and understanding biological processes and in the future it’s supposed to assist in the understanding of interruptions in the control switches which are manifested as diseases. The activity of the control system has a direct impact on many diseases, and its understanding may lead to the development of new medications. Unraveling the principles of action of the switches will enable to predict an individual’s chances of becoming ill, or his chances of having unique traits, sensitivities to drugs, etc.
In the future, when the gene control regulation and their functioning will be figured out, control over mutations will be achieved (changes in the genetic code), which cause diseases in the genes themselves. Furthermore, far-reaching applications in the field of medical diagnosis will be attained, and of course, personalized medicine – precise drug treatment tailored to each patient according to his/ her genetic structure and disease.
Dr. Amit’s groundbreaking studies in the field of single-cell genomics in blood cell formation and the immune system have immediate implications on the treatment of many diseases, with a potential of defining indicators, target cells and new signaling pathways whose normal functioning is impaired by various hematologic disorders. Dr. Amit’s researches offer new approaches to immunotherapy (activation of the immune system), which are medications of the future for the eradication of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.