Undeterred by Air France’s strike and the need to take a roundabout journey to Israel, long-time Hadassah International Philanthropist Jean-Jacques Roboh, accompanied by his wife, Kareen, and 17-year-old daughter, Jeanne, arrived at the Hadassah Medical Center in October to dedicate a Department of Genetic Research, in memory of his parents, Monique and Jacques Roboh. The new Department provides an innovative avenue to centralize genetic research at Hadassah and to find treatments and cures for genetic diseases.

The Department of Genetic Research is under the umbrella of the Altura Department of Human Genetics at Hadassah, newly headed by Prof. Judith Melki, who immigrated to Israel from France to assume the position. The Department of Human Genetics is composed of three main sections: the Clinical Genetics Unit, which diagnoses and characterizes birth defects, developmental disorders, and genetic diseases manifesting themselves later on in life, and informs family members at risk of having these disorders; the Diagnostic Laboratory, which works to elucidate or confirm the genetic basis of disease; and now the new Department of Genetic Research, performing the research that will be the source of tomorrow’s treatments. The Research Department’s mandate, by generating cellular models of disease, is the discovery of new genes responsible for inherited diseases and the understanding of why mutations of these genes lead to creation of defective cells or tissues. Physicians, genetic counselors, nurses, and technicians are part of the teams that give their time and energy to these missions.

“Everybody knows what the discovery of genes means to patients, their families, and society,” notes Prof. Melki. “The Department of Human Genetics will add not only to the medical applications of gene discoveries, but also be directly involved in this remarkable period of our century where it is possible to go from the bed of patients to the bench, find the mutations of genes responsible for disease, and come back to patients and families with potential therapies.”

Mr. Roboh, a devoted Hadassah International volunteer, has served as Vice President and Member of the Honorary Committee of Hadassah France and Member of the Board of Hadassah United Kingdom, and is now one of the administrators of the newly formed board of Hadassah Belgium.

“I believe,” he relates, “that centralizing genetic research into one department is a far more effective and efficient way of doing research.” More traditionally, each department conducts its own research, with a small segment of it focused on genetics. In this “vertical” approach, the research is targeted to one illness. The “horizontal” approach envisioned for this new Department of Genetic Research, Mr. Roboh explains, will enable researchers to identify genes that might be common to various illnesses, thereby helping a broad spectrum of patients and avoiding duplication of scientific effort. “The ultimate direction of this department,” adds Mr. Roboh, “may be to help all researchers, including those who do not have either the specific background in genetics or the equipment to perform it, by conducting research on their behalf.”

“On the day of the dedication, as the sun streaked into the Abbell Synagogue through Chagall’s stained glass windows,” relates Beatrice Birnbaum, Hadassah International Director of Development for Europe, “the atmosphere was filled with warmth as many of Mr. Roboh’s colleagues and admirers expressed their appreciation.” Among those in attendance were Hadassah America National President and Past Hadassah International President Nancy Falchuk; Hadassah International President Trisha Margulies; Founder of Hadassah International Bernice S. Tannenbaum; Past President of Hadassah America and Hadassah International Marlene Post; Past National Hadassah America President June Walker, as well as many distinguished representatives of our Hadassah International family from around the world and Hadassah physicians whose research Mr. Roboh has supported through the years.

As Prof. Melki comments: “Research is the only source of the treatments of tomorrow. I would like to express my gratitude to Jean-Jacques Roboh and his family for their confidence in our Department. I hope that our daily research will honor the memory of his parents.”