Letter from Our CEO

February 2021

Dear Friends,

Exactly a year ago I started writing to you after visiting Tel Aviv University (TAU) with my colleagues from the 26 "Friends of Tel Aviv University" organizations around the world. This annual professionals trip brings the group together to see first-hand the innovative research and to hear directly from those doing the work. I distinctly remember being excited to share what I saw with you, and I have endeavored to bring TAU to you monthly, through my letters. Unfortunately, it was not an option to be on campus this year, so the group met via Zoom for a few hours earlier this week. While it was different from being there and meeting those doing the cutting edge work, it was exciting to virtually tour various labs and hear from the researchers.

We took a virtual tour of Dr. Lior Mayo's lab and learned about the work being done to better understand the reasons for autoimmunity and inflammation that are the underlying causes for many neurological diseases. Professor Mayo and his team are working to harness the body's own immune system to help develop new treatments for multiple sclerosis, strokes, brain tumors, degenerative disorders, metabolic diseases, and cancer.

Please look at this incredible video which shows the progress being made in TAU's Center for Combating Pandemics. The Center is representative of what makes up TAU's DNA — being a leader and changing the world. This multidisciplinary center draws on TAU's deep-rooted connections with hospitals, government, and academic institutions in Israel and around the world to be better prepared for and able to cope with future epidemics.

As we approach the one-year anniversary of living with Covid-19, TAU's mission remains the same. The University has always been committed to providing access to quality education to those in the periphery and to Arab students. Recently The Blavatnik School of Computer Science announced that the number of Arab students studying electrical engineering and computer science had doubled in the past five years and the number of female Arab students had tripled. In 2020, there were 152 Arab students compared to 101 in 2016. This positive trend reflects TAU's commitment to equality and inclusivity, something critical to Israel’s ability to thrive and of which we can all be proud.

February is Cancer Awareness Month, and it seemed particularly timely to share recent news about a new study from Dr. Ben David's lab that reveals the "Achilles heel" of cancer cells. According to the team's research, this discovery of changes in the chromosomal composition of the cancer cell could lead to the development of drugs that could potentially eliminate the cancer. TAU is a center of excellence in cancer research, and I encourage you to view updates on some of the research in our Webinar Library under "Health and Medicine."

Finally, it is with great pride that I share with you that American Friends of Tel Aviv University (AFTAU) has received the Charity Navigator four-star rating for the eighth year in a row. The acknowledgement recognizes AFTAU's commitment to industry best practices from the world's largest and most utilized independent nonprofit evaluator. To give you some context, only 6% of the over 9,000 charitable organizations that are rated have received an eight-year four-star rating. We take our responsibility of being stewards of our donors' philanthropic capital very seriously, so this recognition is especially meaningful to us.

Whether I'm seeing researchers in person or over Zoom or I'm reading about their important work, I remain steadfast in my goal of sharing new developments and innovation with you. I hope these monthly letters are a source of hope and inspiration.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,

Jennifer Gross
Chief Executive Officer