Letter from Our CEO

September 2021


Dear Friends,

What a difference a year makes. When I extended Rosh Hashana greetings last year, we were still largely quarantined and consequently many of us were spending the high holidays alone, without family, friends, or in synagogue. Despite the rise of the Delta variant, this year definitely seems more hopeful. Gatherings may be smaller, but we are able to be together in ways that were not possible last year. While life is certainly altered from what was "normal," to be resilient it is important to look for the silver lining and be positive in our outlook. I feel blessed that for inspiration I am able to look to Tel Aviv University (TAU) and share the remarkable work and discoveries I learn about with you. I hope you too are inspired by what you read about in my monthly letters.

Recently, Professor Ronit Satchi-Fainaro's lab announced a major innovation in the battle against cancer. She and her team printed an actual, active mini brain tumor that will allow scientists to test treatments for an individual patient's cancer — in the lab, safely and quickly — and see which one works best. This exciting breakthrough for personalized medicine opens doors to developing new drugs and drug targets. Here is a short video that shows the actual printing of the tumor and explains the impact in treating patients.

Predicting the probability of cancer will allow for planning treatments for patients. Professor Tamir Tuller, an expert in computational biology and bioinformatics, and his team have been able to predict both the type of cancer and the patients' probability of survival based on silent mutations in cancer genomes. The researchers looked at over three million mutations from cancer in almost 10,000 patients to predict survival probability 10 years after the initial diagnosis. They discovered that by combining information from silent and non-silent mutations, classification could be improved for 68% of the cancer types, and best survival estimates could be obtained up to nine years after diagnosis.

Professors Uri Ashery and Shai Meiri give new hope to preventing Alzheimer's with a new brain study. For the interdisciplinary study, the researchers developed a new process for reversing the biological hallmarks of Alzheimer's, holding promise for new ways to prevent the disease. Using a novel application of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in which subjects breathe 100% oxygen in a special chamber of increased atmospheric pressure, they are able to treat the root problem that causes cognitive deterioration with age. This is the first non-drug therapy of its kind found to be effective, and according to Professor Ashery they are mapping the way to prevention.

I am proud to share that Tel Aviv University was recently ranked first in Israel and 22nd in the world on the list of Best Universities for Digital Learning 2021, which acknowledges TAU as a leading global champion for digital education. We are proud of how far TAU has come in the digital learning space and know that this skill will ensure our students are able to continue to thrive despite challenging conditions.

If you want to learn more about the work being done at Tel Aviv University including research, student achievements, and educational accomplishments, I invite you to join us and celebrate on October 7th, at American Friends of Tel Aviv University's virtual gala honoring three incredible philanthropists: Dr. Anita Friedman, Maya Kadar Kovolsky, Nadav Kadar, and Israeli actress, activist, and author Noa Tishby. Special guests include Gal Gadot, Mayim Bialik, Bill Maher, Andy Cohen, comedian Judy Gold, and TAU alumni Jake Tapper and Gideon Raff, among others. If you are unable to attend, you can still support TAU by bidding on our silent auction items that feature incredible experiences such as participating in an archeological dig and having a private meeting with a member of the Israel Antiquities Authority, or having a Zoom pitch meeting with Alon Aranya, the producer of popular TV series Tehran and Your Honor. The auction will start in a few weeks. An email with a link to bid will follow shortly.

Wishing you and your families a happy, healthy, and sweet new year. May 5782 be one of wonders, advancements, and increased ability to gather together.

Shana tova,

Jennifer Gross
Chief Executive Officer