A Champion of Brain Studies in Israel
When Israeli entrepreneur, businessman and philanthropist Sami Sagol established TAU’s Sagol School of Neuroscience in 2011, it was part of a vision – to advance understanding of the workings of the brain and provide a platform for curing debilitating neurological diseases.
On a personal level, Sagol saw the project as a way of paying tribute to his late parents, both of whom had suffered from neurodegenerative diseases. “My parents’ legacy led me to try to make the world a better and healthier place,” Sagol told a 650-strong audience of neuroscientists, including three Nobel laureates, at the symposium launching the Sagol School. Speaking at the event, at which the guest of honor was then President of Israel Shimon Peres, Sagol said, “I am convinced that the brain is our national resource and therefore brain research is a national mission.”
The Sagol School of Neuroscience is one of many initiatives in the field of brain studies supported by Sagol and his wife, Tova, at numerous Israeli educational institutions and hospitals, including the Joseph Sagol Neuroscience Center at the TAU-affiliated Sheba Medical Center and the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine & Research at Asaf Harofeh Medical Center. At TAU, the Sagol School serves as a unifying framework for brain studies across the campus – in medicine, life sciences, social sciences and psychology, education, the humanities, and more recently, the arts.
“In just four years the Sagol School has become the largest hub for brain research and teaching in Israel, with over 120 research teams led by internationally renowned scientists and clinicians who have published hundreds of scientific papers in international journals, including 74 in 2014 alone,” said Prof. Uri Ashery, Head of the School.
Since its founding, the School expanded from 45 to 328 students, from 58 to 120 faculty members and from 2 to 7 degree programs. Twelve students won prestigious awards, among them the Israel Presidential Scholarship, the Teva National Network of Excellence in Neuroscience grants and the Dan David Prize scholarship. School alumni have secured prestigious post-doctoral positions at top universities around the world, among them MIT, Yale, and UCLA, while three faculty members have won top prizes for their research achievements.
"I am convinced that
the brain is our national resource"
-- Sami Sagol
In the international arena, the School has forged collaborative ties with several prominent North American universities, including McGill and Michigan, and additional ties are being developed with MIT, Harvard and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The School has held and participated in 15 international scientific conferences and workshops.
In addition, the School created an active network of over 20 companies, BrainBoost, which involves joint research projects, student internships, and symposia and workshops aimed at deepening industrial-academic ties.
Born in Turkey, Sami Sagol immigrated to Israel with his family at age 15. Under his leadership, the Keter Group, which was founded by his father, Joseph, became a world leader in the production and marketing of home improvement consumer products. The Group in general, and Sagol personally, have been granted numerous awards for innovation, social responsibility and exceptional achievements, among them Israel’s Industry Prize and Export Award; Tel Aviv University’s Hugo Ramniceanu Prize in Economics; the Lord Ziv Award; the French Legion of Honor Medal; and recently, the Commander of the Order of the Star of Italy.
In addition to his business activities, Sagol and his wife support initiatives in Israel that promote higher education, scientific excellence and coexistence and the bridging of social and economic gaps. Among these are “Mifalot,” a high-impact program that promotes youth development through sport and social education of thousands of children, and “d-Vision,” a project that nurtures excellence and develops the next generation of exceptional entrepreneurs, engineers and designers.
Tova Sagol founded “Nitzan Parents,” regional empowerment and guidance centers for parents with learning disabilities and functional and adaptive challenges. The centers provide early intervention for children and equip parents with tools and knowledge to raise happy and well-rounded children, and to break the cycle of distress and enable them to succeed in school and in life in general.