Michael de Picciotto

Celebrating a life to advance life-saving research

People behind the science

Date: March 26, 2017
Weizmann Magazine Vol. 11

Created as a key component of the Moross Integrated Cancer Center (MICC), the de Picciotto- Lesser Cancer Cell Observatory in Memory of Wolfgang and Ruth Lesser, established by Michael de Picciotto, offers scientists in-depth analysis of cancer cells using advanced imaging technologies, which enables viewing live cells in action and at high optical resolutions.

Access to these stateof- the-art light microscopy techniques and instruments will allow Weizmann Institute scientists to investigate and analyze cancerous and normal cells in varying experimental modalities and at different scales from single molecules to the whole, functional organism.

“The in-depth analysis offered by the de Picciotto- Lesser Observatory will revolutionize our capacity to image life processes in unprecedented depth, enabling us to monitor specific molecular and cellular changes occurring in the cancer cells, which enable them to invade tissues and organs and grow in a deregulated fashion. Understanding the cellular and molecular hallmarks of cancer cells and gaining insight into the complexity and heterogeneity of cancer can open novel diagnostic and therapeutic avenues,” says Prof. Benjamin Geiger, head of the Observatory and a member of the Department of Molecular Cell Biology.

Michael de Picciotto grew up in Brussels and splits his time between London and Switzerland, where he lives with his wife and two daughters. He made his gift for the establishment of the Observatory in memory of his maternal grandparents, who were born and raised in Germany. In 1933, barely 20 years old, they fled Nazi Germany to Amsterdam; their own parents followed after the Kristallnacht in November 1938, when Michael's mother was born. They survived deportation to Bergen Belsen and lived in Amsterdam until moving to Jerusalem in the 1980s. “My grandfather, a successful businessman, was a very generous and charitable person with whom I had an extremely close bond. He was also a great supporter of Israel.” Wolfgang Lesser passed away in Jerusalem, in 1995, from pancreatic cancer.

“My contribution to the Cancer Cell Observatory allows me to honor my beloved grandparents, and express my attachment to my roots and my fascination with science,” says Michael de Picciotto, whose father is an engineer—as were his two uncles— and who also has a PhD in organic chemistry from Geneva University.

“Science is the dominant field of excellence in Israel, and the Weizmann Institute is one of its most successful ‘engines’. Globally, and in particular over the past 100 years, science has greatly benefited from many important Jewish scientists and represents an impressive contribution by our ‘nation’ to mankind,” he continues. “I am eager to follow and observe the future results of the research done within the Observatory and am grateful to be able to associate my grandparents’ memory and that of my family with this exciting new area at the Weizmann Institute.”