Prof. Rotem Sorek
Our lab combines computational genomics and modern AI methods with microbiology, genetics and biochemistry, to decipher the secrets of wars at the microscopic level. Specifically, we study how phages attack bacteria, and how bacteria defend themselves against such attacks. We are interested in deciphering the molecular mechanisms providing bacteria with protection against phages, collectively known as the "immune system" of bacteria.
In the past, studies of bacterial immune systems revealed revolutionary tools such as CRISPR-Cas and restriction enzymes. Our lab discovered that beyond restriction and CRISPR systems, bacteria encode many dozens of new defense systems whose mechanisms are not yet understood. We investigate the bacterial immune systems with the aim to understand how they work, and how to harness them as tools for the benefit of mankind.
In addition, our studies found that important components of the human innate immune system have originated from bacterial defense systems that protect from phages, explaining how the human immune system evolved and solving puzzles in human immunology. We also discovered that phages can use small-molecule communication in order to coordinate their infection dynamics - showing for the first time that viruses can communicate.