Prof. Haim Garty

A life intertwined with the Weizmann Institute

People behind the science

December 29, 2014
Source: 
Weizmann Direct Vol. 2 Issue 1

Prof. Haim Garty, the Vice-President of the Weizmann Institute of Science, passed away on November 29.

“Haim was a thinking man who could find the best solution to any problem quickly. For Haim, there were no complicated problems - there were only solutions,” said President Prof. Daniel Zajfman at the memorial service held on campus.

The Institute is establishing a Center for Translational Science in memory of Prof. Haim Garty, with a major infusion of funds from Yeda Research and Development Ltd., the Institute’s technology transfer company, and the Institute itself. The Institute is inviting donors and friends to contribute to the endowment for the Center.

Prof. Garty’s life was intimately connected with the Weizmann Institute for more than 40 years. Born in Bulgaria in 1948, he came with his family to Israel in 1950, settling in Rehovot. He liked to say that he grew up in the “backyard of the Weizmann Institute.” He did his bachelor’s studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and came back to Rehovot where he received his MSc in 1976 and his PhD in 1980 from the Weizmann Institute.

After spending two years as a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University in New York, he returned to the Institute in 1982 to join what was then the Department of Membrane Research. He was appointed Associate Professor in 1988 and Professor in 1997. He was the incumbent of the Hella and Derrick Kleeman Chair of Biochemistry.

His research made a significant contribution to the understanding of the natural processes that regulate the absorption of sodium salts in the body. He demonstrated the central role of sodium channels and sodium-potassium pumps in controlling blood pressure - studies that significantly advanced the understanding of factors that contribute to high blood pressure.

From 1997 and until 2002, he headed the Department of Biological Chemistry. “Haim was deeply appreciated and respected by his colleagues in every role he took,” recalled Prof. Zvi Livneh, Dean of the Faculty of Biochemistry. Prof. Garty then went on to serve as Vice President for Technology Transfer from 2002 to 2006, at which point he assumed the position of Institute Vice-President. Altogether, he spent 18 years in leadership positions - all while carrying out his demanding research agenda.

His wife, Nira, said at his memorial service: “I sensed that you were slipping away from me but I drew strength from your ability to continue doing what was fulfilling to you - your work. You conducted meetings from your hospital bed and even the doctors didn’t dare disturb you. You made an effort to participate in all meetings despite your weakness. You took care of your students even when you had no strength. Everyone loved and appreciated your opinions. They knew that you could be counted on. You helped everyone. But I couldn’t help you.”

Having served in these roles, says Prof. Zajfman, “Haim was a rare individual who held both ends of the ‘rope’ of scientific research: the curiosity-driven end of academic pursuits, and the market-driven end, allowing him to develop a keen sense of the long and difficult process involved in traversing from curiosity to discovery to commercialization.” 

Prof. Steven Karlish, who worked closely with Prof. Garty throughout the years, recalled how his scientific talks “always ended up with a question”, a sign of both his humility and his inherent curiosity and ability to spur curiosity among his students and peers.

“Haim was an extraordinary human being and a dedicated, focused individual who possessed a clear vision of the goals of the Weizmann Institute of Science and a refined sense of what was needed to support its scientists,” said Prof. Zajfman. “He worked passionately and tirelessly to positively influence the life of the Institute, in the service of one unique goal: ensuring that scientists receive the funding and resources to execute their research at the highest level.”

 

Prof. Michal Neeman, former Dean of the Faculty of Biology, has replaced Prof. Garty as Institute Vice-President.

Prof. Garty left behind his wife Nira and sons Guy, Erez, and Yuval.