At 43, Dr. Anat Cohen-Dayag is president and CEO of Compugen Ltd., a leading drug and diagnostic product candidate-discovery company.
Cohen-Dayag is responsible for the company’s strategic management and business policies, research and development, and financing activities. She works closely with the chairman of the board, Martin Gerstel, one of the company’s founders and owners, who is also a member of the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Board of Governors.
Cohen-Dayag became interested in business management while an undergraduate studying biology at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. During her studies she worked at ICL Industrial Products as a technical writer for one of their new projects – the development of biocides for water treatment.
When Cohen-Dayag completed her bachelor’s degree, ICL Industrial Products offered to sponsor her master’s degree studies in chemistry or business management. Cohen-Dayag: “Of course this offer appealed to me; but everyone there had a Ph.D., and I thought that I wanted to work for them as an equal. So I first applied for doctoral studies in biology at the Weizmann Institute of Science, and had the privilege of being accepted. To be surrounded by highly motivated people with endless curiosity makes the Institute the most fertile ground for young scientists.”
Cohen-Dayag came to the Institute in 1989 and, under the guidance of Prof. Israel Pecht, completed her master’s degree in the field of immune cell signaling. She went on, under the supervision of Prof. Michael Eisenbach, to conduct her Ph.D. research on the mechanisms of sperm cell movement toward the egg during fertilization.
“Since circumstances would not allow me to immediately conduct postdoctoral studies abroad, nearing the end of my Ph.D. I decided to turn to industry. I found work fairly quickly as an R&D scientist in Orgenics – a company that develops diagnostic products for infectious diseases. From that moment, I knew that I would not return to academia.”
In 2002, Cohen-Dayag moved to Compugen. Recently, under Gerstel and Cohen-Dayag’s management, Compugen signed a “discovery on demand” collaboration agreement with Pfizer, which will allow Pfizer to develop and commercialize Compugen’s predictive discovery of therapeutic peptide product candidates for three drug targets of interest to Pfizer.
Cohen-Dayag lives in Rehovot close to the Weizmann Institute. She is married with two children: Noa (16) and Gili (12).
Compugen Ltd. was established in 1993 in Tel Aviv and employs 37 workers (65% in R&D). The company is traded on Nasdaq (CGEN) and on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Its business is focused on developing and using predictive computer-based discovery platforms to identify therapeutic drug candidates and diagnostic biomarker candidates. It then uses experimental biological processes to validate product candidates. Once validated, the products are developed under collaborative agreements with various companies, among them: Bayer Schering Pharma, Merck & Co., Merck Serono, Hoffman La-Roche and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.