Born in Israel, Prof. Irit Sagi completed her undergraduate and graduate studies in Washington, D.C., earning a BSc from American University in 1988, and a PhD in biophysics/ bioinorganics from Georgetown University in 1993. After her studies, she returned to Israel, where she did postdoctoral research at the Weizmann Institute of Science in the group of Prof. Ada Yonath, laureate of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. She continued her postdoctoral work at the Max-Planck Institute in Hamburg, Germany, and joined the faculty of the Weizmann Institute in 1998. She became the dean of the Feinberg Graduate School in 2014 and is the incumbent of the Maurizio Pontecorvo Professorial Chair.
Merging real-time spectroscopic and molecular imaging techniques, Prof. Sagi was the first to reveal the complex molecular nature of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), a group of human enzymes linked to cancer and autoimmune diseases. Insights derived from these studies led her to design a new class of inhibitory antibodies that thwart the negative action of these enzymes. These prototype antibodies are currently being developed for clinical use in inflammatory and cancer diseases. Aiming to highlight the latest advances in MMP research from a multidisciplinary perspective, Prof. Sagi coedited a book on the subject called Matrix Metalloproteinase Biology in 2015.
Prof. Sagi continues to develop novel experimental tools to decrypt the extracellular matrix molecular remodeling code at nearatomic resolution in healthy and diseased tissues. Her unique biophysical approach is used to decipher molecular mechanisms of dysregulated break-down of proteins in tissues and to develop a new generation of safe and effective drugs.
The recipient of numerous awards over the past two decades, Prof. Sagi earned the the Landau Prize of Mifal Hapais for Biochemistry in 2017 and the Juludan Prize for outstanding research projects in the exact sciences and advanced medicinal technologies in 2013. In 2006, she was named Inventor of the Year by the Weizmann Institute’s Yeda Research and Development Company Ltd. Three years prior, she was awarded the Weizmann Institute Scientific Council Prize for Chemistry, and in 2000, she received the Jakubskind-Cymerman Research Prize. Since 2009, she has been the president of the Israel Biophysical Society. She has more than 75 publications in peer reviewed scientific journals and books.