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The Alafi Family

Providing Crucial Support for Infectious Disease Research

A major grant from the Alafi Family Foundation of Berkeley, California has been crucial to the support of Dr. Charles Weissmann's work at Scripps Florida. The Foundation was established in 1999 by Margaret and Moshe Alafi, and their two children Chris and Shireen, all great friends of science, education, and the arts. In her letter to Dr. Weissmann announcing the Foundation's grant, Mrs. Alafi wrote, "You have no idea how delighted we are to be able to make this gift...we have followed your achievements for over a quarter of a century with great interest and admiration."

Dr. Weissmann holds six honorary degrees and a cabinet full of medals and numerous honors including election to medical and scientific academies across Europe and the United States. His first of more than 300 scientific papers was published in 1953; he was one of the founders of Biogen, the first major European biotechnology firm; and has served as a scientific advisor to a number of pharmaceutical firms.

The Alafis' achievements are remarkable in their own right. In the 1950's, Dr. Margaret Alafi founded a progressive grade school and directed it for over 25 years. She later established and served as president of The Center for Psychological Studies, a graduate program for clinical psychologists. Both schools introduced substantial innovative concepts in the fields of education. She met her husband Moshe at the University of California, Berkeley where they both studied.

Mr. Alafi, who grew up in Baghdad, is considered one of the founders of biotechnology. He has founded over 60 companies through his firm Alafi Capital Company, LLC. The Alafis have been seed investors, both in start-up for-profit ventures and in charitable organizations that serve the public and advance knowledge such as Scripps Research. One of their early investments was to help in the founding of Biogen which led to their introduction to Dr. Weissmann in 1978.

Chris Alafi, a managing partner of Alafi Capital Company, LLC, has been participating in the foundation's decisions before he finished his Ph.D., in Biochemistry at Oxford University in Great Britain. Perhaps his most remarkable contributions were in identifying the potentials of new instruments in the medical field.

As for Charles Weissmann, the bulk of his career was centered in Europe, at the University of Zurich and in England at St. Mary's Hospital and University College, London. In the 1980's, Weissmann synthesized interferon in E.coli using a new cloning approach that led the way to large-scale production of human alpha interferon (IFN), today an important therapeutic agent for hepatitis C.

His path-breaking work on prions, infectious protein particles, has been fundamental to research that made it possible to breed cattle to be resistant to mad cow disease. In 2004, he was the first scientist appointed to Scripps Florida's faculty and now chairs the Department of Infectology on the Jupiter campus. Among Professor Weissmann's research interests at Scripps Florida are his continuing work on prion disease and hepatitis C.

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Dr. Margaret Alafi and her son, Chris Alafi, Ph.D., two of the founders of the Alafi Family Foundation.