Prof. Sarel Fleishman was born in Israel. He completed the Adi Lautman Interdisciplinary Program for Outstanding Students and the Life Sciences Research Track at Tel-Aviv University in 2000. He then earned an MSc summa cum laude in 2002, and a PhD with distinction in 2006, both at Tel-Aviv University. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington, Seattle from 2007 until joining the faculty of the Weizmann Institute in September 2011. Until his promotion, Prof. Fleishman was the incumbent of the Martha S. Sagon Career Development Chair. He serves as the Director of the Dr. Barry Sherman Institute for Medicinal Chemistry.
Working at the interface of molecular biology, biophysics, and biochemistry, Prof. Fleishman studies proteins—the working molecules of living organisms. He and his research team develop computer algorithms that encode the current understanding of how proteins fold, bind, and interact, and then conduct experiments to verify the accuracy of their “designed protein.”
The Fleishman group was responsible for developing the first completely automated methods for optimizing the activities of diverse proteins. Using these methods, they designed a protein that is an exciting candidate to serve as a vaccine against malaria. The designed protein was much more stable and could be produced cheaply while fully retaining its immunologically protective properties. This innovation could decrease the costs and improve the feasibility of applying this important protein. More recently, his lab demonstrated how to substantially improve therapeutic proteins, designing an enzyme that could break down toxic nerve agents—sarin, soman, and Russian VX—by as much as 4,000-fold above the rates of the starting enzyme. To enable widespread implementation, the Fleishman lab developed these methods into web servers that have been adopted by hundreds of labs around the world. Current efforts in the group focus on developing general methods to design antibodies directed toward viruses and other drug targets.
Prof. Fleishman’s honors include the Weizmann Institute’s Scientific Council Award in 2018, the Henri Guttwirth Research Award in 2017, an Alon Fellowship in 2012 from the Israel Council for Higher Education, postdoctoral fellowships from the Human Frontier Science Program from 2006 through 2009, a Rothschild Postdoctoral Fellowship (withdrew, 2006), the GE Healthcare and Science Young Investigator Award in Molecular Biology in 2008, and a Sir Charles Clore Doctoral Fellowship from 2003 to 2006.