"The immune system fascinated me, even in high school," says Dr. Martin Becker, Feinberg Graduate School Ph.D., '73, now president and CEO of XTL, a company developing therapeutics for viral and autoimmune diseases, and cancer. "The technology that we purchased from Yeda, the Institute's commercial arm, is allowing us to create antibodies which can then be used as drugs." XTL brings its first hepatitis B drug to the clinic in 1998.
Why Weizmann? "I wanted to be in Israel. I am a Zionist. And the Institute is thought of as one of the best immunology study centers in the world." Armed with a Ph.D., then on to Helsinki and San Francisco for post-doctoral research, he returned to Israel in 1976 to run the Clinical Immunology Research Institute, this while teaching at Tel Aviv University's medical school. Then to Syntex (now Roche Bioscience) in Palo Alto; in his last two years he served as VP, Technology, Corporate Business Development.
"We always intended to come back," he says of the family's 1994 return. "We like it here." The "we" is wife Rosette, also a Feinberg graduate and VP of research and development at Orgenics, and their three children. The eldest is Eitan, a recent Feinberg School grad, now working at Compugen, a biotechnology company. Do they talk science over the breakfast table? "Occasionally but not on a regular basis."
For those hoping to pursue a biotech career in Israel, this advice: "Be creative. Let your thoughts run free, even if at first they seem illogical. Mix different scientific areas and activities; this is where you find the interesting things. Don't be afraid to dream."