Prof. Michael Fainzilber

Department of Biological Chemistry, Chair of the Feinberg Graduate School Postdoctoral Fellowship Program | Weizmann Institute of Science

Prof. Michael (Mike) Fainzilber was born in Tanzania, where an early exposure to the wildlife of the Serengeti Plains and the Indian Ocean instilled in him a lifelong fascination with the biological sciences. In 1972, his family made aliyah to Israel and settled in Haifa. He received his BSc, MSc and PhD degrees from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, before carrying out postdoctoral research on nerve growth factors at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. He joined the faculty of the Weizmann Institute’s Department of Biological Chemistry in 1997, where he is currently the incumbent of the Chaya Professorial Chair in Molecular Neuroscience.

Prof. Fainzilber’s research focuses on molecules and mechanisms involved in nerve growth and regeneration. In particular, he explores how nerve extensions, called axons, inform their cell bodies that they have been injured. In particular, his group has discovered a new mechanism by which nerve axons convey information on injury to their cell bodies and is studying the impact of this mechanism on nerve repair and its significance for basic mechanisms of size control in neurons. In this context, Prof. Fainzilber and his team are working to characterize protein signals and gene networks activated in the early stages of neuronal responses to injury. The hope is that a better understanding of this process might potentially lead to new therapies for nerve regeneration in patients suffering from brain or spinal cord injuries.

His awards and honors include the 2004 Hestrin Prize of the Israel Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the 2011 Schellenberg Prize of the International Foundation for Research in Paraplegia. Prof. Fainzilber currently serves on the International Affairs Committee of the Society for Neuroscience, and has served in the past on the Steering Committee of the Adelson Medical Research Foundation Program on Neural Repair and Rehabilitation, as well as on the Inter-Senate Committee for Protection of Academic Freedom.

Prof. Fainzilber is married to Ada, a plant molecular biologist, and they have two children, Tal and Matan. His hobbies include wine tasting and he coordinates WISWINE, a small tasting group of some faculty members that meets once a month. He also loves snorkeling and SCUBA diving, and aikido.