Itai Yanai

Itai Yanai

Associate Professor at Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

Location:
Technion City, Haifa, Haifa, Israel
HQ Phone:
+972 4-829-3767

General Information

Experience

Director  - New York University

Associate Professor  - Technion

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Bioinformatics  - Boston University

Education

PhD  - Bioinformatics , Boston University

undergraduate degrees  - Computer Engineering and the Philosophy of Science , Boston University

Affiliations

Fellow  - Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study at Harvard University

Clinical Advisory Board Member  - OPGEN INC

Recent News  

Itai Yanai
Itai Yanai has been named the inaugural director of the newly created Institute for Computational Medicine at New York University's Langone Medical Center. He'll step into the role officially on May 1. Yanai will also be a professor in NYU School of Medicine's department of biochemistry and molecular pharmacology.Yanai joins NYU Langone from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology where he was a faculty member in the biology department. His research focuses on gene regulation and combines experimental approaches in embryology, molecular biology, and computational biology. He has a PhD in bioinformatics from Boston University.

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Itai Yanai, PhD
New York Genome Center Itai Yanai, PhD - New York Genome Itai Yanai, PhD New York Genome Center Biography: Dr. Itai Yanai joined the faculty at New York University's School of Medicine in May 2016 as a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology. He serves as the inaugural Director of the Institute for Computational Medicine (ICM), whose goal is to harness computational approaches for fundamental and medically-relevant discoveries. Through the development of novel tools, the nurturing of young investigators, and translational applications, ICM aims to create a culture that promotes scientific advancements. Dr. Yanai's research focuses on the interface of gene expression, development, and evolution. Using his training as an experimental embryologist, a molecular biologist, and a computational biologist, his interest is exploring how developmental pathways evolve at the molecular level. Members of his lab carry out intricate embryological experiments at the level of individual cells and apply computational approaches to explore the resulting data. As a model system, they use the best understood animal, the nematode C. elegans. His lab developed the popular CEL-Seq method for single-cell RNA-Seq and they have used it to study stages, germ-layers, and body-plans in animal embryos. More recently, his lab is applying single-cell RNA-Seq to the study of tumorigenesis and bacterial infection. Dr. Yanai received his undergraduate degrees in Computer Engineering and the Philosophy of Science and his PhD in Bioinformatics from Boston University in 1997 and 2002, respectively. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Molecular Genetics in 2004 at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and a postdoctoral fellowship in Developmental Genetics at Harvard University in 2008. He served as adjunct Assistant Professor of Bioinformatics at Boston University from 2004-2008. At the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, he served as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology from 2008-2013 and Associate Professor from 2014-2016. He was a Radcliffe Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, and a visiting professor, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT from 2014-2015. In addition to his research goals, Dr. Yanai firmly believes that the communication of knowledge is a major component of science and is involved in mentoring students, giving presentations, participating in outreach programs and in the dissemination of science to a popular audience. Towards this end, Dr. Yanai has also recently co-authored a popular science book, entitled "The Society of Genes," along with Dr. Martin Lercher from Heinrich-Heine University in Du¨sseldorf. To read more about Itai Yanai's research, please visit: Google Scholar - Itai Yanai Itai Yanai, PhD

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Using a method called CEL-Seq that can spy on the activity of every gene within a cell at once, Technion Associate Professor Itai Yanai and his colleagues now provide compelling evidence that the layer called the endoderm evolved first, followed by the ectoderm layer and finally the mesoderm layer.
Yanai has other big plans for CEL-Seq. "We applied this unbelievably powerful tool to figuring out the evolution of the germ layers, a 19th century problem, but it will also be useful in things like cutting-edge cancer research," he said. Yanai and his colleagues used CEL-Seq to show that genes turned on in the endoderm of a worm embryo are the first to turn on in development, followed by genes turning on in the ectoderm and then mesoderm. They also detected that endoderm genes are older than genes mostly found in the ectoderm and mesoderm. In their paper published in the December 10 advance online edition of Nature, the researchers argue that the endoderm layer dates back to ancient single-celled organisms that banded together to form the first multicellular animals. Endoderm cells kept up their ancestral feeding function in the new animals, which freed up the other cells to evolve into new layers in the animal. Understanding how evolution has altered cells in the past can also "reveal to us what is easily changeable and what is not changeable in a cell," Yanai added. "If a cell goes into a disease state, for instance, we might know more about what we could do to reverse this state and what might be more difficult to reprogram in the cell." CEL-Seq was invented at Technion in 2012 by the Yanai lab. Yanai said that one way to envision the method's power is to consider a single human cell and the 20,000 genes it contains as a room with 20,000 light switches. "Each room can have a different mood, because we can turn on or turn off those switches in many different ways. This is why cells with the same genes can have many, many different types of behavior," he explained. "With this method, we can take a given cell and know the position of every switch - whether it's on or off - and from this infer what functions are going on." Currently a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study at Harvard University, Yanai is using the method to study the development of tumors in zebrafish. "For the last ten years I've been working on development and evolution, all seen through the eyes of gene expression," he said, "and I've realized that cancer is actually a natural extension of this work since here you also have cells developing and evolving." Yanai's team has not finished unleashing CEL-Seq on other big questions in biology, either. One of their ongoing studies uses the method to look at all the genes in ten vastly different animal species and compare how they are regulated throughout the development of the embryo. "We want to see what makes an animal an animal, what is universal across all of them," Yanai said.

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