Dr. Sabine Hazan, Our Start!
Born in Morocco, Dr. Sabine Hazan has always been dedicated to understanding life. She sought a career in medicine and was accepted to medical school based on outstanding research on obesity conducted as an undergraduate. She completed her residency at the University of Miami during the peak of the HIV epidemic, treating extremely ill patients at Jackson Memorial Hospital and in the local jail. There, she was awarded two prizes for her research. After completing her residency, Dr. Hazan became the first woman gastroenterology fellow at the University of Florida. There, she completed a year of research and presented her findings in poster format at the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) National Meeting. It was at that moment that she was approached by the esteemed Dr. Neil Stollman. He told her that the future of medicine lies in the microbiome. For her exceptional work with visceral hyperalgesia she was awarded the Dean’s Research Award. Dr. Stollman is now an expert and leader on fecal transplant and Clostridioidesdifficile (C.diff) and serves on the governing board of the ACG.
Following her fellowship, Dr. Hazan returned to Montreal and opened a practice in upstate New York. Her work there consisted of 10 percent research and 90 percent private gastroenterology patients and brought many patients from across the border in Canada. She was the only female gastroenterologist in an 80-mile radius, and the influx of Canadian patients brought to light for her the problems with socialized medicine in Canada. These patients faced intolerable wait times for a visit with a gastroenterologist in Canada, and so visited Dr. Hazan in New York. After meeting with the Prime Minister of Health, Dr. Hazan helped bring about a dual system in Canada, in which private practices co-exist with socialized medicine. Her years of practice as a solo woman gastroenterologist brought her under the microscope on numerous occasions, facing scrutiny not encountered by her male colleagues.
After the birth of her two children, Dr. Hazan and her husband Dr. Alon Steinberg moved to California. There, she joined her sister, Dr. Lydie Hazan, at Axis Today Clinical Trials as a Sub-Investigator, and began doing clinical trial research in California for the company in Beverly Hills. She also joined a medical group as a private practitioner in Ventura. However, her desire for innovation led her to establish thriving private practices in Malibu, Thousand Oaks, and Ventura. Still desiring to understand life, she started her own clinical trial company 16 years ago, Ventura Clinical Trials, and has been Principal Investigator and Sub Investigator in over 150 clinical trials. Many of these trials were for Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI), enough that through her impressive recruitment she became known as the Queen of C. difficile in the clinical trial community. When her patients with C.diff did not respond to traditional or clinical trial therapies, she resorted to treatment with fecal microbiota transplant.
During her extensive clinical trial experience, Dr. Hazan observed how dramatically the microbiome can impact human health. Over the years, she followed the wise words of Dr. Stollman and explored the path of FMT. She observed that FMT has the power to cure more than C.diff infection, as she saw patients with Crohn’s, psoriasis, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer improve following transplant. Naturally, this dedicated scientist wanted to better understand the mechanism behind what she was seeing in her patients. She conducted extensive research, which led her to Dr. Sydney Finegold, an infectious disease specialist, who was also focused on the microbiome and its relationship to disease, particularly Autism. He told her that the answer lies in the bacteria of the gut, and that sequencing the microbiome to identify those bacteria was the answer. He advised her to acquire a next-generation sequencer and conduct studies using whole-genome shotgun sequencing to examine the mysteries of the microbiome.
As her clinical trial work continued, Dr. Hazan found that Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) was increasingly juxtaposed to her studies. While being a top recruiter for studies, she also treated two Crohn’s patients who developed CDI and required FMT. As the patients experienced symptom relief post-FMT, Dr. Hazan discovered that FMT allowed her to improve their Crohn’s and restore the balance of their microbiome. Wanting to better understand how this was possible, she reached out to Dr. Thomas Borody, a pioneer researcher and father of modern FMT in the 1980s. 1984 Borody established the Centre for Digestive Diseases (CDD) in Sydney, Australia and has overseen its growth into an active clinical research institute with 65 employees. In 1985, Borody pioneered the first effective triple antibiotic therapy for Helicobater pylori, which had a profound impact on curing hundreds of patients of their peptic ulcers. His clinic has completed close to 30,000 FMT treatments, and he has filed over 165 patents. The meeting between Dr. Borody and Dr. Hazan proved to be the beginning of a great collaborative relationship.
While the Woolsey fire ravaged southern California, Dr. Hazan received a call from the family of Dr. Finegold, to inform her that she would receive all his papers and books in hopes to continue his work on Autism. Continuing his legacy, she established a new company, ProgenaBiome™, in January 2019 to investigate the microbiome. ProgenaBiome™ is a state-of-the-art genetic research sequencing laboratory with next-generation whole genome shotgun sequencing capabilities on-site as per Dr. Sydney Finegold’s recommendations. To run this incredible laboratory, Dr. Hazan brought on board Dr. Andreas Papoutsis, a brilliant scientist with extensive experience in assay development and next-generation sequencing. He researched and investigated new technologies for the analysis of BRCA-1, one of the genes associated with breast cancer, CART-19, a therapy for blood cancers, and T-cell receptors. Under his directorship the lab has officially launched with efficient workflow and meticulous processing.
Through her groundbreaking work, Dr. Hazan has earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues, many of whom have joined her in the quest for a healthcare revolution and helped her create the Malibu MIcrobiome Meeting. While she is working to bring medicine to new frontiers, she believes there will always be a place for pharmaceutical clinical trials, naturopaths, nutritionists, and additional work on the microbiome. She believes that the answers will come not through competition, but rather through collaboration by all fields. Just as the post office still exists, decades after the development of e-mail, better understanding of the microbiome does not eliminate the need for other facets of medicine. She also believes in patient choice; that patients should be able to choose quality of life over quantity if they so desire and have the right to try any treatment of their choosing.
Dr. Hazan has been invited to speak all over the world, including at the Microbiome Congress and NIST. She is working with both to ensure that data generated by ProgenaBiome™ is valid, verified, and reproducible, which she believes can only be achieved through ethical research.
Dr. Hazan is a firm believer that disease can only be understood through precision medicine by focusing on the individual and the changes within. Much like each person has unique fingerprints, no two people have the same microbiome. She also believes in the importance of assessing disease by looking at family. Her overall goal is to understand the microbes that allow us to function, from those we are born with to those that will decompose us when we die. She hopes that her quest for individual microbiome understanding leads to an awareness we are simply a diverse collection of microbes, working together to shape the world.