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The Faculty of Biochemistry, along with its sister Faculty of Biology, encompasses Life Sciences research at the Weizmann Institute. A hallmark of modern research in the life sciences is the utilization of multiple and diverse disciplines of science, and their integration into a detailed understanding of the process of life at the levels of molecules, cells, organs, organisms and ecosystems. At the basis of all these levels of organization are the biomolecules, including DNA, RNA, proteins, polysaccharides and small molecules.
The Faculty of Biochemistry focuses on the in-depth investigation of the structure and function of biomolecules at all levels of biological organization, taking both reductionist and systems approaches. Studies are conducted on a variety of organisms, including microorganisms, flies, mice, and humans, and employ a broad spectrum of technologies and methodologies. These include modern cutting-edge fields such as protein design, in vitro evolution, genomics, animal engineering, system biology and bioinformatics, along with the powerful classical fields of biochemistry, enzymology, genetics, molecular biology, cell biology, chemistry, and crystallography. All these are aided by mighty modern technologies including high-resolution mass spectrometry, deep DNA sequencing, atomic force microscopy, single molecule microscopy, sophisticated spectroscopy, flow cytometry and robotics. These multidisciplinary, and integrative approaches have led members of the faculty to ground breaking discoveries, and their application to the benefit of humanity.
The faculty continuously seeks to recruit young exceptional scientists to join the current family of investigators, in our pursuit to decipher the exciting secrets of life, and harnessing them to improve human life.
|Biological Chemistry||Bioinformation & Biological Computing|
|Plant Sciences||Biological Physics|
|Biological Services||Crohn's & Colitis Interest Group|
|Structural Proteomics||Crown Human Genome Center|
|In Vivo Imaging Center|
|Molecular Neurosciences Forum|
|The Kahn Project in Systems Biology|
|Young PI Forum|
The common thread of research in this department is the biochemistry of life. Emphasis is on the investigation of proteins, whether soluble or membrane-bound, and their key biological functions. A variety of biochemical, biophysical, structural, computational and molecular biological methods are being employed. Current research activities involve: (a) Protein science, including protein-protein interactions, protein-ligand interactions, evolution of enzymes, and understanding the composition of large complexes. (b) Control of genome stability, DNA repair and expression of genetic information, DNA-based Biolmolecular computers and cell lineage analysis. (c) Structure and function of membrane proteins including ion channels, pumps, transporters, enzymes, and molecular motors. (d) Mechanisms by which proteins and lipids are transported from their point of synthesis, sorted, and inserted into organelles. (e) Mechanisms of intra- and inter-cellular pathways including cell guidance, pathogenesis, nerve growth and regeneration, cell differentiation and epigenetics, and the circadian rhythm.
The molecular basis of genetics and related biological processes are studied using a variety of approaches ranging from the most reduced and reconstructed systems up to more systemic and computational analyses. Different organisms are employed including virus, yeast, flies, mouse and humans. These tools are used to study: (a) Basic processes in gene expression, such as transcription, translation and protein degradation. (b) Cellular responses to various stimuli, such as cytokines, growth factors and exposure to DNA-damage. (c) Regulation of cell growth, senescence, differentiation and death. (d) Development – a mechanistic view of zygote to embryo transition and development of various organs, such as brain, muscles, bones and pancreas. (e) Genetic and acquired diseases such as cancer and virus infection. (f) Computational and system biology - the function/evolution of genes and their diversification.
The goal of the department of Plant Sciences is to better understand the biology of photosynthetic organisms, including higher plants such as Arabidopsis and crop plants (Wheat, tomato, potato), lower plants such as the moss Physcomitrella, algae, such as Chlamydomonas or diatoms that constitute most of the phytoplankton, and Cyanobacteria. Basic research is conducted at the molecular, cellular, organism and population levels, as well as in theoretical modeling approaches. Major fields of research include: (a) Light harvesting, from biophysical aspects to gene expression regulation. (b) Plant Development and Evolution. (c) Primary and secondary metabolism. (d) Environmental studies on global aspects of carbon fixation and marine biology (e) Sensing and responding to environmental insults from pathogens, weeds and parasites or from abiotic stresses such as drought, heat, nutrient starvation etc. (f) Development of web-based tools for storing and handling complex genomic and biological data.
The Department of Biological Services provides specialized facilities and services in the areas of bioinformatics, molecular biology, protein analysis, cell biology, bacteriology, genomics and immunology. The specific services include DNA sequencing, High-throughput sequencing, Protein sequencing, Mass spectroscopy analysis (including peptide synthesis quality control, protein molecular mass determination, protein identification and identification of post translational modifications, proteomics and small molecules), Bioinformatics consultation, Cell sorting (analytical and preparative), Antibody preparation (polyclonal and monoclonal), Large-scale fermentation, irradiation of cells, animals and other biological materials, Gene expression profiling by DNA array analysis and high-throughput sequencing and maintenance of electronic equipment and computers.
The Structural Proteomics Unit hosts the Israel Structural Proteomics Center (ISPC). It serves as a Center for protein production, biochemical and biophysical studies, and structure determination for scientists both at the Weizmann and at other academic institutions and companies in Israel and abroad. Projects can constitute the determination of protein structures starting from the gene, or any part along this process (such as protein purification for biochemistry). The ISPC also provides training and consultation for students and staff. The ISPC was part of the European Union SPINE2, TeachSG and FESP projects. It is now one of the 6 core partners in the Integrated Structural Biology Infrastructure in Europe (INSTRUCT) project.