December 23, 2021— The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) and The University of Illinois (U of I) System awarded $200,000 to four new interdisciplinary research teams to drive innovations and advance collaboration between the universities.  It is the second round of a seed-grant program that began in 2019.

This joint research initiative was created to accelerate economic development through innovative technologies, talent, and resources at the two participating universities. Funding for the program comes from Hebrew University`s International Office and Israel’s Authority for R&D, and from the University of Illinois System’s Office of the Vice President for Economic Development and Innovation.

The funded projects will focus on medical and agricultural breakthroughs that: prevent and cure infectious diseases while reducing antibiotic resistance; prevent chronic tissue injuries and improve cell therapy; modify bitter tastes in food while maintaining the healthy bitter compounds, and boost photosynthetic efficiency to increase crop yields.

“After a successful first year of this program, I am thrilled to award funding for four new projects,” said Jay Walsh, the U of I System’s vice president for economic development and innovation. “Last year’s awards led to important and innovative outcomes. We fully expect, given the strength of these funded proposals, that we will see similar impact from these four new projects.”

Awardees met the following criteria: they include personnel from HU and from one of the three U of I System universities and their research projects focus on agriculture, artificial intelligence, or data science or medicine—all key areas at HU and U of I.

“I am delighted to see a second successful round of applications,” shared Oron Shagrir, Hebrew University’s Vice President for International Affairs. “This attests to the great potential of scientific collaboration between the University of Illinois System and Hebrew University. We look forward to growing a community of scientists who are dedicated to collaboratively applying innovative technologies to groundbreaking research,” he added.  Hebrew University is also a founding academic partner of the Discovery Partners Institute—a U of I System initiative to train people for high-demand tech jobs, conduct applied R&D, and grow Chicago’s tech ecosystem.

The four awardees are:

  • Fighting ESKAPE pathogens using random antimicrobial peptide mixture in preclinical models of human infectious diseases. Co-principal investigators: Zvi Hayouka, Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Hebrew University, and Gee W. Lau, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
  • Reconstituting the microenvironment of chronic tissue injury to improve cell therapy. Co-principal investigators: Amnon Buxboim, Institute of Life Sciences, Hebrew University, and Jae-Won Shin, College of Medicine, University of Illinois Chicago.
  • Bitterness suppression for improving personalized nutrition. Co-principal investigators: Masha Niv, Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Hebrew University, and  M. Yanina Pepino de Gruev, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
  • Tolerance Of photosynthesis to heat (TOP) project: Elucidating the regulatory network for photosynthesis protein stability and abundance. Co-principal investigators: Michal Breker-Dekel, Institute of Life Sciences, Hebrew University, and Steven Burgess, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.