Shabtay Dikstein

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Shabtay Dikstein
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Ivan-Robert Dickstein

(1931-04-10) April 10, 1931 (age 92)
Budapest, Hungary
  • M.Sc. in Chemistry
  • Ph.D. in Biochemistry-Pharmacology
Alma materThe Hebrew University
  • Researcher
  • Academic Mentor
  • Medical drug Innovator
  • Tamar Baum
  • Synnöve Isaksson
  • Judit Biro
  • Marton Dickstein (father)
  • Erzsebet Tennen (mother)

Shabtay Dikstein (1931 -) Researcher, Academic Mentor and medical drug Innovator


Early life

Shabtay was born in Budapest on April 10, 1931, as Ivan-Robert Dickstein as the only child of Erzsebet Tennen and Marton Dickstein (He assumed the name Shabtay when he began his life in Israel, as was common with new immigrants in those days). They lived together with his mother’s parents in a house on Rumbach Sebestyen utca 11. His grandfather was a cantor in the synagogue.

He grew up in the Jewish ghetto. The family was poor, but had adequate basic needs. From a very young age he was interested in drug development and his favorite book was by Paul Henry de Kruif: "The Microbe Hunters". Shabtay performed his first “scientific” experiment at age eight, capturing flies, and observing what happens when various materials are applied on their wings.

He attended the elementary school of Rabbi’s Seminarium in Rokk Szilard utca and excelling in physics, chemistry and mathematics at the Jewish Gymnasium high school in Budapest, which was the most prestigious high school in the country.

He earned some money by tutoring the sciences and by helping to build antennas, after completing a one-year technology course in electricity and radio.

His father was a stamp collector and loved mathematics. He taught his son math and they would tend his stamp collection together. (Later in life Shabtay assembled a prize winning stamp collection dedicated to the history of Jerusalem).

War years

In 1940, Hungary joined the Axis powers. There were various legal limitations that made it difficult for Jews to study in Universities, or to employ gentiles. It was customary for Jewish children to be beaten on the streets In 1942 Shabtay’s father was captured and sent to a “work camp” to help the Hungarian (and German) war effort as part of the Labour service in Hungary during World War II. Shabtay instinctively knew that he shall never see him again. His father’s last words to him were: “Study, because only education can take you out of poverty.” The family never saw him again. The assumption is that he died in a camp near Novgorod, in occupied Russia.

The Germans occupied Hungary in March 1944. The Jews had to wear a yellow Star of David and were confined to living within the ghetto. Later that year, the Nazis started deporting hundreds of thousand country-side Jews to the death camps. His maternal grandfather was taken to Auschwitz, never to be seen again. His father had 2 brothers: Jeno and Rezso and a sister. Jeno and his sister were killed by the Nazis.

Near death encounters

  • in the summer of 1944, at age 13, before the ghetto was completely sealed off, he was spotted on a street outside the ghetto by a Nazi who hit him on the head with a steel rod. He collapsed in the street and has no idea how he got back to safety.
  • One day his mother disappeared and he was left living alone in the apartment until during an air raid- when he was in the cellar the house was totally destroyed by a bomb. He was then forced to live on the streets outside the ghetto.
  • Once he was captured by members of the Arrow Cross Party and was marched to the Danube to the execution spot where thousands of Jews were shot and dumped into the river (Shoes_on_the_Danube_Bank#History). A friend from the Zionist movement who was dressed as an SS officer and spoke perfect German, told them he had use for the young boy and pulled him out of the line, thus saving his life.
  • He found refuge at the Swiss Glass House (Budapest) and received a false Swiss certificate. He stayed there for a few weeks with many other children until it was dismantled by the Hungarian Nazis. They were taken to the infamous “Teglagyar” (brick factory) from which the trains left to Auschwitz. He was pulled out from the line, by Raoul Wallenberg, based on a false Swiss Certificate and was sent away
  • When the Red Army liberated the ghetto a Jewish-Russian officer gave him a bar of chocolate. He devoured it quickly as he barely had anything to eat during the previous 10 days. He was violently sick and a doctor had to treat his stomach to save his life

After the war

Shabtay continued to live at his grandparents’ half-destroyed home. In the spring of 1945 he reunited with his mother who was taken on a death march toward Germany and managed to escape near Vienna. In September 1945 the Jewish Gymnasium was reopened and Shabtay was able to return to his studies. By the end of that school year he completed all the studies for the time lost during the war.

Escape to israel

From 1945 Shabtay was a member of the Zionist movement Maccabi Hatzair and helped in Aliyah Bet. He was given a nom de guerre: Dőce (pronounced Dotze) after the embroidery thread Dollfus-Mieg et Compagnie (DMC) which was long and thin as he was.

Towards the end of 1948 it was no longer safe for him to remain in Hungary. Moreover, there clearly was no chance for science which was free of politics and therefore a scientific future for him under the Communist regime. He completed his matriculation exams externally and prepared his escape.

In the beginning of 1949, together with two other boys and a girl from the Zionist movement, they took a train to a village on the Hungarian side of the Czech border. He left the house without saying goodbye to his mother with only a few documents. At the border a paid guide took them to his home and at night they crossed the Czech border on foot and fled to Kassa. From Kassa they took a train to Pozsony (Bratislava). At the train station they were captured by the Czechoslovakian police and were jailed in Pozsony for about two weeks.

After denying that he was an American spy he was sent to a solitary confinement for about 10 days. Someone from the Zionist movement managed to bribe the judge and inform Shabaty that he should confess to all accusations. The judge sentenced him for life imprisonment but suspended it on the condition that he never returns to Czechoslovakia. This was the case with the two other boys. They were taken to a bridge on the Austrian border and were told to cross. On the Austrian side of the bridge someone from the Zionist Movement was waiting to transfer them to a refugee camp. The girl unfortunately had a different judge and remained in jail for more than 10 years. They stayed in an Austrian refugee camp several days where he was finally able to write his mother, the first news she had of his whereabouts. In April, 1949 they took the train to Bari, Italy, which was the point of departure for many Jews bound for the newly-formed State of Israel.

Israel - beginning of an academic life

Shabtay was taken to Kibbutz Avuka (which no longer exists) in the Bet She’an valley but left after six months of agricultural work to Jerusalem to study Natural Materials Chemistry. Through the Association of the Hungarian Jews he met a chemist, who arranged for him a job as a technician in the Weizmann Institute of Science, under Prof. Ephraim Katzir (who later became the President of Israel). In 1950 was accepted to the Hebrew University and began his academic career. That same year he met Marika (Tamar) that attended the same Jewish Gymnasium in Budapest, but they never met. She was a little over 16. They fell in love and married the following year. Marrying at such a young age was not unusual for people who were without family in Israel. They barely managed on Marika’s meager salary working as a salesgirl in a leather goods shop As a student, Shabtay’s army service was postponed. During the summer of 1951-1952 he had to enlist for the first officers’ course for academic students, which was very difficult physically and mentally. He participated as an officer in the preparations of the 1956 Sinai Campaign and again, in the immediate aftermath of the Six Day War in 1967. In 1955 he received my M.Sc. in Chemistry. Soon after, he started to work in the Department of Pharmacology of the Medical School of the Hebrew University. In 1956 he started his Ph.D. thesis: “The Metabolism of Xanthines", under the guidance of Professor Felix Bergman. During the last year of his Ph.D in 1959, he started working at the Israel Institute for Biological Research in lieu of the army service. These were three very fulfilling and successful years. During that time Dr. Dikstein came up with a novel solution of sterilizing a flu vaccine that the institute was producing. Until them most of the vaccines became non sterile during the harvesting and had to be discarded.

Academy and industry

In 1961 Dr. Dikstein was invited to do a post-doc at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Back in Israel, the following year, with a family of four (plus supporting his mother and her husband), and having been refused to be allowed to accept external work while in the academia, he went to work full time at a pharmaceutical company called Zori Ltd. in Tel-Aviv. In 1963 Prof. Sulman, head of the Department of Pharmacology in the School of Pharmacy, accepted Shabtay back to the Hebrew University. In 1965 he became Senior Lecturer. Marika found a job as a lab technician in the Cancer Department Laboratory in Hadassah. In addition to doing research at the School of Pharmacology, he was able to do consulting work for various pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies. He then decided to study Medicine, in order to extend his knowledge and completed the full curriculum but skipped the clinical parts as he was not planning on becoming an MD. How to avoid eating a crow In 1964 he met Doctor David Maurice from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology who was doing Sabbatical research in Israel, trying to keep an excised rabbit cornea alive. One morning Shabtay told him that “a good pharmacologist should be able to solve it in a year”. In 1965 Dr. Dikstein received an offer to come work for a year at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology with the salary of a reader at the institute under the condition that “either he solves the problem of the survival of the cornea, or he will have to eat a crow! After eight months of frustrating, failed experiments he isolated the compound that allows the preservation of the cornea for at least 24 hours. That became a product that Alcon sells under the name “BSS Plus”. To this day, in every cataract operation BSS+ is used, and all corneal Eye banks are based on it. In 1967 the family returned to Jerusalem. In 1970 he received the position of Associate Professor. Dr. Maurice David left for Stanford University and invited Shabtay to come every summer to Stanford to continue their joint research which he did until 1976. In 1970 he established a company, Resdevco Ltd. to manage income from consultations to international drug and cosmetic companies, as well as income as an expert witness in court. In the seventies and early eighties Prof. Dikstein also acted as the de-facto toxicologist for the Hadassah Medical Center, developed innovative treatments and saved numerous lives in this position. (e.g. S. Dikstein and U. Teitelman: Treatment of massive poisoning by methidathion. Clin. Toxicol. 8,277-282, 1975) In 1982 he patented an ointment based on activated Vitamin D (Calcitriol) to treat psoriasis. It is still being sold worldwide under the trade name Silkis. In 1978 Shabtay was appointed the Head of the Cell-Pharmacology Unit at the Hebrew University’s School of Pharmacy. In 1980, at the age of 49, he became a Full Professor at the Hebrew University. He retired in 1996, although he continued to guide student theses. He still was the Head of the independent Cell Pharmacology Unit and had plenty of research funds to concentrate on research. In 1989 He was invited as a visiting Professor in Oxford by Prof. A. Bron who was the head of the Ophthalmology Research Laboratory and head of the Dept. of Ophthalmology. Together with him and other colleagues they developed the Meibometer-- an instrument which non-invasively measures quantitatively the secretion of the meibomian gland into the human eye. The instrument became commercial, but it is used only in scientific research

Ongoing research and innovation

Prof. Dikstein is continuing to invent and develop new medical devices and drugs and engage in business in his company, Resdevco Ltd. His products are based on his innovative platform of Gene Expression Modification where protein production in the cell is restored to normal and healthy levels (without Gene Modification) thus treating the condition or disease. His eye drops are the only ones in the world that have received the indication of treating Conjunctivochalasis and treating ophthalmological symptoms of Sjögren syndrome His other other products of skin gel for Atopic Dermatitis and nose spray have unique indications as well. Prof. Dikstein is currently working on new, improved eye drops, an anti-photo aging product, and a series of products to treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease. He is also involved in research and development to slow the ageing process and treat Osteoarthritis


Dorit Born 1957 Rafael Born 1961


Tamar Baum 1951, Jerusalem Synnöve Isaksson [fi] - 1990, Helsinki


Hebrew University of Jerusalem

  • 1955-1957 Assistant, Dept. Pharmacology, Medical School
  • 1960-1961 Instructor, Dept. Pharmacology, Medical School

1961-1965 Research Fellow, Dept. Applied Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy

  • 1965 -1970 Senior Lecturer, Dept. Applied Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy
  • 1970-1980 Associate Professor, Applied Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy
  • 1980-1998 Full Professor, Applied Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy
  • 1978-1998 Head, Cell Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy

1998- Professor Emeritus, School of Pharmacy Israel Institute for Biological Research:

  • 1957-1960 Fellow researcher

Health Resorts Authority

  • 1973-1982 Chairman of the Scientific Committee


  • 1967 Visiting Senior Lecturer, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London
  • 1979 Visiting Reader, Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, University of Oxford
  • 1989-1990 Visiting Professor, University of Oxford,

Industrial Activity

  • 1981 - Consultant major pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies

7 patent groups

  • 1998- Founder, CEO and major stockholder in Resdevco Ltd.-a company devoted to developing non-systemic medications, utilizing the “Gene Expression Modification” method to develop novel drug treatments

Pharmaceutical products developed

  • BSS PluS – Sterile irrigation solution used in cataract surgery, and preserving the integrity of the corneal endothelium
  • Silkis / Vectical - A cream for treating psoriasis, manufactured by Galderma
  • Lacrycon / Conheal / Hylan® / Eyecon® – Unit-dose eye drops for the treatment of Dry eye syndrome, Sjögren syndrome Dry Eye and Conjuctivochalasis
  • Xyliderm - Non-Newtonian moisturizing gel treating dry skin, Atopic dermatitis, psoriatic skin and allergic reactions of the skin
  • Cilixyl - Broad spectrum moisturizing and soothing nasal spray treating chronic Dry Nose Syndrome & other Mucociliary Dysfunction

Dikstein has worked as an advisor in developing several drugs and measurement tools that have been on the market in Israel for many years, such as Tinokal, Algolysin Forte and Bufacyl manufactured by the Zori pharmaceutical company; drugs produced by Rekah Pharmaceutical company and several drugs that he developed together with Rafa Pharmaceuticals. He participated in the development of Acetylcysteine for Mead-Johnson. From among the measuring tools he invented the Meibometer, a device that measures the lipid content of tears, which is manufactured in Germany.

Major contributions

Ophthalmic treatment

Development of BSS+ solution (1972) (PMID 4259586) + endothelium survival studies Development of Meibometer (1993) + quantifying Meibomian gland secretion studies Proof that isotonic glycerol prevents corneal epithelial damage caused by preservatives. (Szemėszet, 141, 305, 2004) Development of Conheal unit dose eye drops proven to cure conjunctivochalasis (PMID 26172053) and to eliminate corneal damage by Sjogren’s disease ( Development of eye drops which increase the tear break up time (TBUT) to treat evaporative dry eye disease.

Skin treatment

Development of “Silkis” (in U.S.A. “Vectical”) a topical treatment against psoriasis Development of “Xyliderm” a topical treatment against atopic dermatitis Best scientific article of the year-Cosmetics and Toiletry Award (1996) Levarometry-a method to measure skin slackness hence wrinkling (articles, chapters) Acid mantle (articles, reviews, chapters in books} Guinea pig model: to evaluate the efficacy of treatment of dry skin Rabbit ear model: to evaluate quantitatively anti-inflammatory treatments Intracellular activity of polyol moisturizers

Published works

More than 150 research papers Chief Editor: Fundamentals of Cell Pharmacology, 1973 Drugs and Ocular Tissues, 1977 (the first modern textbook on that subject)

Honours, decorations, awards and distinctions

National and international nominations

1973-1984 Vice President and Head of Scientific Committee of Health Resorts Authority, (Israeli Government Appointment) to develop the Dead Sea medical tourism 1981- Expert in Pharmacology and Toxicology, French Ministry of Health 1987-1990 International Committee to develop medical tourism in Sicily, Sciacca

National and international functions

1974-1976 Vice President, International Society for Eye Research (Founding Member) 1979-1981 Secretary, International Committee for Standardization of Measurements of the International Society of Bioengineering and Skin 1989-1993 Chairman, Israel Society for Eye and Vision Research 1996-1999 Secretary, International Society of Dacryology 1999-2002 President, International Society of Dacryology


  • 1948 National competition for Hungarian high school students (OKTV) - First prize in Biology
  • 1960 Magnes Prize
  • 1965 Honorary Member, Pharmacological Society of Argentine Medical Association
  • 1967, 1969 European Molecular Biology Organization Travel Grant
  • 1973-1974 Research to Prevent Blindness Fellowship, Stanford University
  • 1989-1990 Guest Professor, The Royal Society (U.K.) in Oxford
  • 1996 Kaye innovation awards (First Prize)
  • 1996 The Best Science Article of the Year Cosmetics & Toiletries (USA) Award
  • 2005 Dr. Papolczy Ferenc Award (with colleagues) from the Hungarian Ophthalmological Society
  • 2011 Dedication of a tablet at Ein Bokek to honor my achievements to develop the treatment of skin diseases at the Dead Sea
  • 2012 Dedication of a tablet on the “Innovation Way” in Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Administration Building, recognizing the drugs developed and marketed abroad
  • 2017 Honorary Member of the Hungarian Society of Ophthalmology


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