Special: “Harnessing Extracellular Matrix (ECM) Remodeling Mechanisms to Promote Normal Tissue Homeostasis Offers Novel Therapeutic Strategies”, Prof. Dr. Irit Sagi, Weizmann Institute of Science Rehovot, Israel

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Irit Sagi, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel

Host: Dr. Christian Tidona, BioMed X


Native endogenous extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling is a ubiquitous process critical to tissue homeostasis and normal physiology. Therefore, harnessing ECM remodeling mechanisms to promote tissue homeostasis (e.g. via proteolysis) outlines an attractive proposition in medicine. Recently we demonstrated that ECM proteolytic mechanisms of the endometrium induced by topical administration significantly improves the rate of embryo implantation regardless of genetic background. As impaired embryo and tissue implantation is considered to be challenging in translational medicine our results may encourage the use of ECM remodeling mechanisms to overcome implantation failure and tissue regeneration regardless of genetic background.

About Irit

Born in Israel, Prof. Irit Sagi attended university in Washington, DC, receiving a BSc degree from American University (1988), and PhD degrees in biophysics/bioinorganics from Georgetown University (1993). That same year, she returned to Israel to perform postdoctoral research in the group of Prof. Ada Yonath, laureate of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry at the Weizmann Institute of Science. Sagi continued her postdoctoral studies at the Max-Planck Institute in Berlin, returning to join the faculty of Chemistry, Department of Structural Biology of the Weizmann Institute in 1998. Between 2005-2006 she spent a sabbatical as a visiting professor at Harvard University and at Novartis research institute. Prof. Sagi is the incumbent of the Maurizio Pontecorvo Professorial Chair. She has more than 120 publications in peer reviewed scientific journals and books. Prof. Sagi received the Weizmann Institute Scientific Council Prize for Chemistry in 2003. In 2006 she won the “Inventor of the year award” from YEDA Ltd. Between 2009-2014, Prof. Sagi has been the president of the Israel Biophysical Society. In 2012-2014 she has been serving as the scientific coordinator of the Institute Pasteur-Weizmann council. Prof. Sagi is the recipient of the 2013 Juludan Prize award for outstanding research projects in the exact sciences and advanced medicinal technologies and the recipient of the prestigious Landau Prize in Biochemistry for 2018. Prof. Sagi established the new “Wizo-Weizmann Institute Education Center” for the promotion of women and young scientists. In 2014 till present Prof. Sagi was appointed as the Dean of the Feinberg Graduate School in the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 2018 she was appointed as ta Member of the board of directors of the German-Israel Future Forum Foundation.

Prof. Irit Sagi is developing and applying unique, multidisciplinary and biophysical approaches to investigate tissue and extracellular remodeling molecular processes. Merging together real-time spectroscopic and molecular imaging approaches, she was the first to reveal the complex dynamic molecular nature of extracellular remodeling enzymes including matrix metalloproteinases and lysyl oxidases (MMPs and LOX), a group of human enzymes linked to, developmental biology, cancer, inflammation, fibrosis and infectious 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 by a start company, MabTrix ltd. Prof. Sagi continues to develop novel integrated experimental tools tailored to decipher the extracellular matrix molecular remodeling code at near atomic resolution in healthy and diseased tissues. Her unique biophysical approach is used to decipher molecular mechanisms of dysregulated tissue proteolysis/remodeling and to develop a new generation of safe and effective drugs and in vivo molecular modulators. Recently, she demonstrtaed a novel use for proteases in promoting and increasing the rate of embryo implantation in mammals. This discovery led her to establish a new startup company, NanoCell, aiming at developing this technology in Livestock and human.