Mohammad Herzallah

Speaker: Mohammad Herzallah, Founding Director, Palestinian Neuroscience Initiative, Al-Quds University, Palestine

Mohammad is a neuroscientist, physician, and entrepreneur; the founding director of the Palestinian Neuroscience Initiative at Al-Quds University, Palestine; a research scientist at Rutgers University, USA.  He obtained an M.D. from Al-Quds, and a Ph.D. in behavioral and neural sciences from Rutgers.  Mohammad explores biomarkers for the diagnosis of mental ill-health to digitize and democratize mental health. He received the Young Arab Neuroscientist Award, the TED Fellowship, the Aspen Global Leadership Network Fellowship; made the 500 Most Powerful Arabs in the World; selected for the Lancet Commission for Global Mental Health; and was featured by Forbes, Science, Nature, and TED.

Abstract: “BUILDING BRAINS IN PALESTINE: Investing in Neuroscience Research Infrastructure”

Palestine has few resources and almost non-existent ‘borders’. In a global context, the mention of Palestine usually resonates with struggle, occupation, politics, war, and human suffering. This is further compounded by an epidemic of mental health problems that puts Palestine on the top of the list of West Asian countries with the highest prevalence of clinical depression and anxiety. Despite the multi-faceted disaster these facts represent, this situation can be turned into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help the entire world,
starting with and from Palestine.

There is no shortage of bright young people in Palestine. In fact, Palestine can only rely on investing in its human capital, 65% of which is younger than 24 years of age. Due to the large numbers of patients who suffer from mental health problems in Palestine, the Palestinian population offers a very rare opportunity to understand these disorders in Palestine by Palestinians. Mental health represents the leading cause of disability and death worldwide. Understanding mental health problems in Palestine by Palestinians
can put Palestine on the map of mental health and brain science as the nation that produces global solutions for the entire world. Thus, solving locally-relevant but internationally-applicable problems. The Palestinian Neuroscience Initiative is designed to do just that.

Since its inception in 2009 at Al-Quds University, the Palestinian Neuroscience Initiative aimed to establish viable infrastructure and create a powerhouse for neuroscience research in Palestine, train the next generation of Palestinian researchers, and help patients and their families receive the best possible quality of healthcare. Over the past twelve years, the Palestinian Neuroscience Initiative trained more than 250 young Palestinian students and researchers; sent 50 researchers for advanced research training in Europe and the U.S., helped secure Ph.D. and clinical specialties in the U.S. and Europe for 17 researchers; helped more than 10,000 Palestinian patients with psychiatric and neurological disorders; engaged the collaboration of 40 Palestinian neurologists and psychiatrists in Hebron, Ramallah, Jenin, Jericho, Tulkarm, Bethlehem, and East Jerusalem; hosted 20 neuroscience colloquium talks and five international conferences at Al-Quds University, whose speakers included several distinguished American and European neuroscientists, including Nobel Laureates; secured more than $2 millions of funding for research in Palestine; published 30 research papers in international journals; and filed two patents for inventions.

Currently, six research units operate under the umbrella of the Palestinian Neuroscience Initiative, including: (1) the cognitive psychopathology unit, (2) the behavioral neurogenetics unit, (3) the developmental neuroscience unit, (4) the molecular neuroscience unit, (5) neurophysiology unit, and (6) the computational neuroscience unit. There are 58 active researchers at the Palestinian Neuroscience Initiative, including, 15 faculty members, 2 post-Ph.D. researchers, 5 Ph.D. researchers, 4 post-M.Sc. researchers, 4 M.Sc. students, 5 post-M.D. researchers, 3 post-B.Sc. researchers, and 20 medical students.

The Palestinian Neuroscience Initiative has ongoing partnerships with scientists at Rutgers, Harvard, NYU, Rockefeller, Northwell Health System, CUNY, and the National Institutes of Health in the U.S.A., and EPFL, SISSA, NTNU, Oxford, forschungszentrum Jülich, and TU-Berlin in Europe. Those who believed in the mission of the Palestinian Neuroscience Initiative and sponsored research and capacity building are, in chronological order: Mr. Saad Mouasher, Mrs. Daryl Kulok, Dr. Samih Darwazah (Hikma Pharmaceuticals LLC.), the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Mr. Fadi Ghandour, Dr. Tawfik Ramadan, Mr. Ghiath Sukhtian
(GMS Holdings), and Mr. Tarek Aggad (APIC).

The Palestinian Neuroscience Initiative has been recently featured in prestigious media outlets including Nature, Science Magazine, Forbes, TED, and the Verge.