Born in Rama, a village in the Galilee region of Israel, Prof. Jacob (Yaqub) Hanna earned his BSc in medical science (2001), PhD in microbiology and immunology (2007), and MD in clinical medicine summa cum laude (2007) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He conducted postdoctoral research at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. He joined the Weizmann Institute in 2011.
Prof. Hanna is pioneering techniques in induced pluripotency and reprogramming of adult cells. Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells have regenerative properties almost identical to those of embryonic stem cells, but can be created from adult cells without using an egg or fetal material. Prof. Hanna was the lead researcher in a study that showed how further-modified iPS cells could be used to treat sickle-cell anemia in mice, the first proof of concept of the therapeutic application of iPS cells. Prof. Hanna has uncovered novel pathways regulating the reprogramming process, and was the first to boost it up to 100% efficiency. He was also the first to derive pristine “naïve” human pluripotent cells equivalent to those derived from mice, and can generate “humanized” mouse models that have human derived tissues. In addition to demonstrating the power of cell reprogramming, his work offers the promise of powerful new research models for infertility, degenerative diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, and cancer.
During his postdoctoral work, Prof. Hanna received a prestigious Novartis Fellowship from the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation. In 2010, he was awarded the Sir Charles Clore Prize for Outstanding Appointment as a Senior Scientist in the Weizmann Institute. He received a European Research Council Early and Consolidator Career Development Awards (2011, 2016), an EMBO young investigator (EMBO-YIP) award (2012), a Rappaport Prize in biomedical research (2013), a Krill Prize for Scientific Excellence by the Wolf Foundation (2013), and the Helen and Martin Kimmel Award for Innovative Investigation (2014). In 2014, he was elected as a member of the Israel Young Academy and was featured among “40 under 40” innovative scientists by the prestigious journal Cell. He sits on the editorial boards of several leading stem cell journals and was elected as a member of EMBO in 2017