Orit Berhani received her BSc at the Hebrew University in a combined chemistry and biology program and her MSc in molecular and structural biochemistry, researching RNA-based cancer therapeutics. After taking an immunology course during her MSc studies, Orit decided to pursue her doctoral studies in this field. For her PhD research under the supervision of Prof. Ofer Mandelboim in the Lautenberg Center for Immunology and Cancer Research at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, she studied Natural Killer (NK) cell regulation and characterization. These are innate effector lymphocytes, crucial in combating tumors and pathogenic infections. During her PhD, Orit discovered new regulatory mechanisms influencing NK cell activity and a new therapeutic aimed at a variety of diseases involving an NK cell receptor. She also revealed a new receptor-ligand interaction with implications for host-pathogen communication and characterized a new subset of NK cells present in patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis.
Orit’s PhD studies were supported by an Excellence Scholarship. She is the first author of several published articles and has several additional projects on their way to publication. She is co-inventor on a patent by Yissum and Prof. Mandelboim, and she has recently been awarded first prize in the student category of the prestigious Kaye Innovation Award.
For her postdoctoral studies, Orit plans to continue her successful work in Prof. Mandelboim’s lab, focusing primarily on translational science. She discovered a unique antibody against a receptor found mainly on NK cells but also aberrantly expressed in certain cancers. She plans to investigate the use of this antibody in the treatment of rare but deadly cancers, including NK, NKT, and T cell lymphomas. Preliminary results have already exemplified the special potential of her antibody for becoming a leading and life-saving immunotherapeutic drug.