Prof. Zvi Livneh

Dean, Faculty of Biochemistry Director, Swiss Society Institute for Cancer Prevention Research Weizmann Institute

Prof. Zvi Livneh earned his BSc in chemistry from Tel Aviv University in 1971, and his PhD from the Weizmann Institute in 1980. He completed postdoctoral studies in the Department of Biochemistry at Stanford University’s School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California. In 1984, he joined the staff of the Weizmann Institute’s Department of Biochemistry, which he headed from 1993 to 1997.  He headed the Weizmann Institute’s Department of Biological Chemistry, now the Department of Biomolecular Sciences, from 2002 to 2007 and has served as Dean of the Faculty of Biochemistry since 2010. He is the incumbent of the Maxwell Ellis Professorial Chair in Biomedical Research.

Prof. Livneh’s research focuses on the mechanisms by which our cells repair the DNA from the more than 50,000 daily “attacks” on genetic material in our bodies, caused by sunlight, tobacco smoke, metabolic byproducts, and other environmental agents. The DNA repair system, based on enzymes, is essential for protecting genes from incorporating disease-causing mutations, particularly cancerous ones. Indeed, mutations in the DNA repair system are implicated in many hereditary cancers. Prof. Livneh discovered an enzyme called error-prone DNA polymerase, the culprit in a rare type of skin cancer. He also discovered, together with Dr. Tamar Paz-Elizur, that in humans, a weak DNA repair score, determined by measuring the activity of a panel of three DNA repair enzymes called OGG1, MPG and APE1, is a strong risk factor for lung cancer. He and his colleagues are further developing this panel of DNA repair biomarkers to assist physicians in the risk assessment and early detection of lung cancer.

Prof. Livneh is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Sergio Lombroso Award in Cancer Research (2013/2014), the Israel Sarov Memorial Prize, awarded by the Israel Society for Microbiology (2002), ), the Weizmann Institute’s Morris Levinson Prize (1995), and a Yigal Alon Scholarship (1986-1989).

He likes reading, the performing arts, hiking, and delivering popular scientific lectures in an effort to narrow the gap between the frontiers of science and the public.