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The hunger for knowledge

At the age of 43, Dr. Anat Cohen-Deig is president and co-CEO of CompuGen Ltd., which deals with merging advanced computational technologies with biology and medicine, with the aim of building accurate models of biological processes at the molecular level

At the age of 43, Dr. Anat Cohen-Deig is president and co-CEO of CompuGen Ltd., which deals with merging advanced computational technologies with biology and medicine, with the aim of building accurate models of biological processes at the molecular level. These models are central tools in research and development processes aimed at developing drugs and advanced diagnostic systems (see box).

Dr. Cohen-Deig is the president and joint CEO of the company together with Martin Gerstel, one of the company's owners and founders, who is also a member of the board of directors of the Weizmann Institute of Science. As part of her work, she is responsible for determining the company's business policy and strategy, research and development, as well as the array of patents, fundraising, and of course the day-to-day management.

Dr. Cohen-Deig's attraction to management began back when she was studying for a bachelor's degree in biology at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev. During her studies, she worked at the "Bromine Compounds" company, where she began by helping the secretaries of the various departments, and later supported the writing of technical material in a new field that the company entered - the development of biocides (materials for water treatment). Upon completion of her first degree, she was offered by "Brom Compounds" to continue studying on their behalf for a master's degree in chemistry or business administration, and to continue working for the company. Dr. Cohen-Deig: "Of course it was fascinating to me, but everyone there had a doctorate, and I thought to myself that if I had to go back there, then as equals, that is, after the doctorate. Then I enrolled in graduate studies in biology at the Weizmann Institute of Science. While traveling in Italy with a friend, after finishing the first degree, we were both informed that we were accepted to study at the institute. We didn't want to think about another option."

"My scientific thinking basically comes from the institute," she says, "here I learned to look at the big picture but also to pay attention to details - I learned to 'do science.' Beyond the work I did myself, I was exposed to what others were doing. It was unusually enriching, all the discussions in the corridors, the meetings with students from other faculties, the internal seminars, and also the opportunity to meet important researchers from around the world in international seminars. On top of that, being surrounded by people, with high motivation, endless curiosity, and hunger to learn, in a place where there is a huge infrastructure of knowledge in all the fields that interest you, all this makes this place a very fertile ground for young scientists. To this day I am in contact with people who studied with me here. Most of them developed in academia and industry and reached very significant achievements in Israel and in the world. It is a great privilege for me to be a part of this place."

"I arrived at the institute in 1989, and started, as is customary, in a series of 'rotations' (working in different laboratories, for a short time, for the purpose of gaining experience and finding a suitable laboratory to carry out research work). I chose three completely different labs, to learn as much as possible, and to check what I would like to focus on. I worked in the laboratories of Prof. Michael Eisenbach, Prof. Israel Pecht, and Prof. Mati Friedkin. After that I chose to continue in Prof. Pecht's laboratory, in the Department of Immunology, and under his guidance I completed a qualified degree in the field of immune signaling. In Israel's laboratory I was exposed to the thorough and methodical work that is required in research and I learned a lot from my laboratory colleagues as well."

Anat completed her doctoral thesis, on the movement mechanisms of sperm cells, under the guidance of Prof. Michael Eisenbach. "Beyond Michael's support and guidance in the scientific thinking process, and a fascinating doctoral thesis, it can be said that Michael threw me into the deep waters of writing scientific articles. From him I learned what scientific writing is."

"Towards the completion of my doctorate, I knew that I would not be able to immediately go abroad to conduct post-doctoral research, because of my husband's work, so I looked for a job in industry. Pretty quickly I found a job as a research and development worker at the company 'Organics', which develops and sells diagnostic systems for infectious diseases. In this decision, I realized that I would continue my path in the industry and not return to the academy. It also strengthened my tendency to engage in the business and management field of science, as I experienced while working at 'Brom Compounds'. At Organics, I worked under the R&D manager, Rosette Becker, who was my first mentor in the industry. A year later I was appointed project manager. After developing a new technology, in collaboration with another scientist, I moved from 'Organics' to the company 'Mindsense', which was developing a system for diagnosing mental illnesses. There I managed the research and development group."

In 2002, Dr. Cohen-Deig moved to "Compugen" as part of a group that was engaged in the development of new research directions for the company. You could say she really grew with the company. "CompuGen" then focused on computational medicine, and Cohen-Deig was tasked with developing the field of molecular diagnostics. During the work, which included the development and evaluation of new technologies within collaborations, she worked, among others, with Prof. Yaron Cohen from the Weizmann Institute of Science. After that, she moved to the field of drug discovery as a project manager, and at the same time managed several projects carried out by groups of workers with different and diverse abilities - from algorithmists to biologists.

"During this period, I greatly improved my management skills," she says. "My management does not come only from a place of managerial authority, but more from a place of harnessing and motivating talented people for a project that challenges them personally. In my experience, this approach contributes directly to the success of the project."

Later she managed the development of diagnostic products. A year later she was appointed the company's VP, and in 2009 she was appointed joint CEO. "I grew from within the company while moving between different positions. I started from working in the laboratory, and today, as a director, I see the big picture and am responsible for driving it forward. There is a lot of responsibility in this and also a lot of satisfaction."

Recently, under the management of Martin Gerstel and Anat Cohen-Daig, "Compugen" signed a cooperation agreement with the "Pfizer" company, according to which "Compugen" will predict and discover peptides that have the potential to be used as medicines for "Pfizer". "We are interested in operating in an on-demand discovery model," says Dr. Cohen-Deig, "and this transaction is proof of the feasibility of this business model, as well as our drug discovery systems."

Dr. Anat Cohen-Deig lives in Rehovot, near the Weizmann Institute of Science. She is married and the mother of two daughters: Noa (16) and Gili (12).


Compugen was founded in 1993 in Tel Aviv. It employs 37 employees (60% of them in the field of R&D). The company is traded on the Tel Aviv and New York stock exchanges (symbol CGEN). The company develops computational technologies for the discovery of new molecules for the field of pharma and diagnostics. The molecules that the company's researchers designate to be used as drugs are evaluated and validated in laboratory and animal experiments, and later are developed and commercialized within the framework of various types of collaboration agreements. Compugen's collaborations include, among others: Bayer Schering Pharma, Merck & Co., Merck, Serono, Hoffman La-Roche and "Teva".

One response

  1. Well done Anat!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I'm proud of you!!!!!!!!!!
    Hope everything goes well for you!

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