Prof. Avigdor Scherz

Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences Weizmann Institute of Science

Description: schertz1Prof. Avigdor Scherz earned his BSc, MSc and PhD (attained in 1981) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in physics, chemistry, and biophysics, respectively. He did postdoctoral research at the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana and at the University of Washington in Seattle. In 1983, he joined the Weizmann Institute, currently as a member of the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences. He served as Director of the National Avron-Even Ari Minerva Center for Research in Photosynthesis. Prof. Scherz holds the Yadelle and Robert N. Sklare Professorial Chair in Biochemistry.

In collaboration with Prof. Yoram Salomon of the Institute’s Department of Biological Regulation, Prof. Scherz has designed a new approach to cancer therapy, termed Vascular Targeted Photodynamic Therapy (VTP), in which illumination of tumors after the infusion of novel compounds derived from chlorophylls, the molecules that drive photosynthesis, causes cell death and tumor collapse. This method has recently completed phase III clinical trials for treatment of localized prostate cancer with several hundred patients in both the treatment and control arms. High efficacy with minimal morbidity has been observed and final results are expected by January 2016. In collaboration with researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), he found that this therapy provided systemic antitumor immunity.  Four new clinical studies are currently under way to explore VTP’s efficacy in urinary, breast, esophageal and more advanced prostate cancers.  

In the last 5 years the lab of Prof. Scherz has also been developing novel approaches for the treatment of keratoconus and degenerative myopia, which impair vision and may result in blindness. In the field of photosynthesis, Prof. Scherz’s group has recently resolved structural elements that enable different organisms to perform photosynthesis in extreme conditions; the group has developed a new thermo-tolerant species for increased biomass and hydrogen production.  

Prof. Scherz is the recipient of the Somech  Zacks Prize in spectroscopy (1989), the 2011-2012 Sergio Lombroso Award in Cancer Research, the 2003-2004 CapCure awards (both together with Prof. Yoram Salomon), and a Susan Komen Award in 2008. Prof. Scherz is also the co-holder of 15 patents that provided the groundwork for technology transfer and establishment of new start-up companies.

He is married to Dr. Zahava Scherz of the Institute’s Department of Science Teaching. The couple has two children and five grandchildren.