Prof. Micha Ilan
Curator of sponges, the Steinhardt Museum
Professor at the School of Zoology, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Micha Ilan is Curator of sponges at the Steinhardt Museum and a Professor at the School of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, where he holds the Israel Cohen Chair of Environmental Zoology. He received MSc in Terrestrial ecology and PhD on Sponge Marine Ecology from Tel Aviv University in 1990. Following a postdoctoral research on Molecular Biology of marine invertebrates in University of California Santa Barbara, he joined TAU School of Zoology in 1991. His research interests engulf Marine Invertebrates Biology and Biotechnology, focusing on sponges and theirs associated biota.
Sponges – the oldest animals, are sessile, frequently non-cryptic organisms, have developed numerous natural products (metabolites) for various functions. Ilan’s group studies marine-derived natural products in two disciplines. In Marine Biotechnology and Microbiology, it studies how sponges (and their associated microbiota) produce such metabolites. While, in Chemical Ecology, it examines how sponges utilize these compounds. Subsequently, the potential of exploiting these metabolites for human benefit, mostly as lead compounds for development of pharmaceutical drugs, is assessed. In recent years much attention has been given to the study of mesophotic sponge communities (using remotley operated vehicles -ROVs). Other studies are in the field of material Science, investigates how organisms deposit various minerals and organic skeleton; what is the ecological/physiological function of these materials, and how can we use these for generating biomimetic products.
These studies were published in over 100 papers in leading scientific journals. They are multidisciplinary, in fields such as ecology, organic chemistry, microbiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, and geochemistry, and relate to different levels of organization, from community and population level through the physiological and cellular, to the molecular and chemical levels.