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Hebrew U. researchers show which foods prevent, promote dementia

Foods can determine whether someone will suffer from dementia in later years, according to researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment in Rehovot.

A large-scale international study that included the university recently examined how food affects brain health for people aged 50 and older. The researchers were able to show that diet affects the risk of dementia.

This conclusion, although logical, is not self-evident, said Prof. Aron Troen, an expert in nutritional neuroscience and the prevention of cerebrovascular disease and dementia, and the principal investigator of Hebrew University’s Nutrition and Brain Health Laboratory in Rehovot.

Among the foods proven to prevent dementia are: blueberries (not just the juice), healthful fats (as in olive oil), nuts (in small amounts to avoid excess calories) and fish. Other beneficial foods include: beans and legumes, fruits, low-calorie dairy products like yogurt, chicken and whole-grain cereals.

Among the foods that have been shown to promote dementia are: fried foods, sugary foods, processed foods, red meat, fat, cheese and salt.

The report was published in the journal of the American Association of Retired Persons, the most widely circulated journal in the US.

The study was conducted in collaboration with dozens of countries, including the US, China, Switzerland and Australia. It examined the scientific basis of preserving brain health and preventing dementia in old age.

The team produced a consensus report with convincing evidence that diet affects the risk of dementia.

Read the source article at Jpost

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Prof. Sergiu Hart to receive Israel Prize in economic research, statistics

Prof. Sergiu Hart of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem will be awarded the Israel Prize for economic research and statistics, the Education Ministry announced on Thursday.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett approved the recommendation of the prize committee headed by Prof. Yoav Benjamini.

In its decision, the prize committee called Prof. Hart – a former president of the World Association of Game Theory and member of the Academy of Sciences of Israel, Europe and the United States – one of the world’s leading economists.

“Prof. Hart specializes in the field of game theory and its comprehensive implications in various economic fields. Among other things, it has an important contribution to the understanding of the convergence to market equilibrium, the value of a player in the game, how cartels are created in the markets and the development of objective risk indices,” the committee wrote.

In recent years, it added, Hart’s research has focused on “designing mechanisms such as tenders, which are important in online trade.”

Hart was born in Bucharest, Romania, and immigrated to Israel at the age of 14 along with his family. After serving in the IDF, he received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Tel Aviv University in mathematics with honors before completing his post-Doctoral studies at Stanford University in California.

In 1991, Hart founded the Center for the Study of Rationality at The Hebrew University, whose academic committee he now chairs.

“Under his leadership the center became a unique leader in the world in the study of game theory with its implications in a wide range of fields such as economics, statistics, psychology, law, biology, philosophy and more,” the prize committee wrote in its decision.

The Israel Prize is largely regarded as the state’s highest honor. It is presented annually on Independence Day in a state ceremony in Jerusalem attended by the president, the prime minister, the Knesset speaker and the Supreme Court president.

Read the source article at Jpost

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Guide In Medical of the NGT3 VC Fund Received FDA Approval

Guide In Medical, a medical device startup, which operates as part of the NGT3 Technological Incubator based in Nazareth Israel, has announced receiving FDA market approval for its innovative IRRIS device. The device facilitates performing intubation, an essential and routine medical procedure in which a tube is inserted into the trachea to help open the patient’s airway.

Guide In Medical is currently in a second financing round to raise $2 million. The Company is poised for setting up distribution systems in Europe, having received CE Marking approval in 2017, and now in the U.S. upon receiving FDA approval. Guide In Medical has so far raised NIS 5 million from CTS, the pharmaceutical, medical equipment and veterinary company, which has joined the Company as a strategic partner, as well as from NGT3 and private investors.

The IRRIS was also approved by the Israel Ministry of Health (MOH) and is currently being tested by the intensive care unit of Hadassah Hospital, Mount Scopus. The target audience of the device is physicians in medical centers, paramedics in mobile intensive care units, the army, the police, and other organizations that manage intensive care units.

Intubation is a vital and common medical procedure performed under general anesthesia in operating rooms and sometimes also in field conditions.  This is the third most common medical procedure in the U.S., and more than 100 million intubation procedures are performed each year worldwide. The procedure of inserting a tube into the trachea to ventilate the patient requires a high level of skill, maximum precision and speed for quick insertion, as the patient cannot breathe while the procedure is performed. Damage caused by faulty intubation, due to lack of experience of the doctor or paramedic, environmental conditions and/or secretions in the pharynx that obstruct the lungs, and sometimes a different anatomical structure of the patient, may be critical and cost the patient’s life.

The solution is a non-invasive device, which is attached as a patch to the patient’s neck and transmits light of a specific wavelength into the tissues, lighting the inside of the throat. The special light, which blinks clearly, makes it easier for the medical staff to locate the trachea using a video laryngoscope (a device with a video camera) and can more easily guide the insertion of the ventilation tube during intubation.

Ariel Shrem, Co-Founder and CEO, Guide In Medical: “The advantages of the device lie in the simplicity of its operation and the ability to quickly and safely identify the trachea even in complicated situations. This is demonstrated by the results of the clinical trials and the positive feedback we received from physicians who have already tried the device. I believe that in the next few years the product will be used in every ambulance, operating room and battalion aid station. FDA approval is an important step in reaching the global market and in recruiting partners for distribution and of course additional investors as part of our growth plan.”

Zohar Gendler, CEO of NGT3: “Guide In Medical has succeeded in a short time and with maximum efficiency to complete development, conduct three clinical trials, publish two scientific articles, obtain regulatory approvals for marketing in the US, Europe and Canada, and bring on a strategic partner. The company is now turning to its next task of organizing for marketing and going to market.”

Guide In Medical, a medical device startup, was founded in 2015 based on a collaboration between the entrepreneurs, Itai Hayut, director and technological consultant, Ariel Shrem, CEO of the Company, and Dr. Elchanan Fried, head of the Intensive Care Unit at Hadassah Medical Center on Mt. Scopus and medical consultant of the Company.

Guide In Medical has developed an Infrared Red Intubation System (IRRIS) device that facilitates intubation, a vital and common medical procedure in which a tube is inserted into the trachea to ventilate the patient.

The technology was created as part of the Hebrew University’s Biomedical Entrepreneurship Program in collaboration with Hadassah Medical Center. The Company received an exclusive license to develop the technology from Yissum Research Development Company, the technology transfer company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Hadasit Medical Research Services & Development Ltd.,  the company for commercialization of technologies of Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem.

Read the source article at iati.co.il

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Prof. Edwin Seroussi to be awarded Israel Prize for musicology

Prof. Edwin Seroussi of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will be awarded the Israel Prize for his research in culture, arts and musicology, the Education Ministry announced on Tuesday.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett approved the recommendation of the prize committee headed by Prof. Eitan Steinberg.

In its decision, the prize committee hailed Prof. Seroussi’s contribution and achievements in the study of Jewish music in the region of Andalusia (Spain and North Africa) and the Ottoman Empire.

“Prof. Seroussi is a pioneer in the research of popular music and Sephardi music (dubbed Mediterranean music),” the prize committee wrote. “The fruits of his research in the field of musical heritage and Sephardi liturgical poems have provided a framework for study and performance; and as such, Prof. Seroussi has contributed to imparting them to many [people].”

Seroussi was born in Uruguay and immigrated to Israel in 1971 where he completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Musicology at Hebrew University. He received his PhD from the University of California Los Angeles.

He currently serves as professor of musicology and director of the Jewish Music Research Center at the university.

According to the university, his research focuses on the musical cultures of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, interactions between Jewish and Islamic cultures (specifically in art music genres) and popular music in Israel.

Bennett tweeted on Monday that he was “especially happy” for the prize committee’s decision because Seroussi’s expertise is in Jewish music from Andalusia (Spain and North Africa) – “fields that have not yet been sufficiently represented.”

“Today we bring the full Jewish story, [from] both the West and the East!” he tweeted.

Bennett has expressed his support on numerous occasions for empowering Sephardi cultural studies within the general education curriculum and the Jewish narrative.

In 2016, he established a committee and appointed Erez Biton as its head, the first poet of Mizrahi descent to win the Israel Prize in Literature (2015). Biton was tasked with empowering the identity of the Mizrahi Jewish community – including immigrants from Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia and Libya – within the education system.

The Israel Prize is largely regarded as the state’s highest honor. It is presented annually on Independence Day in a state ceremony in Jerusalem in the presence of the president, the prime minister, the Knesset speaker and the Supreme Court president.

 

Read the source article at Jpost

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Israel Prize in literature to be awarded to David Grossman

Author David Grossman will be awarded the Israel Prize for Hebrew literature and poetry, the Education Ministry announced on Monday.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett approved the recommendation of the prize committee headed by Prof. Avner Holtzman and congratulated Grossman.

“Since the early 1980’s, David Grossman has taken his place at the center of Israeli culture and he is one of the most profound, moving, and influential voices in our literature,” the prize committee wrote in its decision.

In his novels, books, essays, documentary writing, in his extensive creations for children, he presented a series of masterpieces that excel in rich imagination, deep wisdom, human sensitivity, a poignant moral stand and a unique and resonant language,” the prize committee wrote.

The committee added that Grossman is one of the most “famous, admired, and beloved” Israeli writers in the world and that his books have been translated into dozens of languages.

Bennett defended giving the prize to an author who has been outspoken in his opposition to construction in Israeli settlements and has even backed the European labeling of products from over the Green Line. He told The Jerusalem Post that he has faced criticism from the Right for the decision but that he had no regrets.

“There are issues on which I disagree with him, but no dispute will remove from the magic of his books,” Bennett said. “He is an Israeli patriot who gave the dearest of all to Israel (his son, Staff Sgt. Uri Grossman, 20,  was killed in the 2006 Second Lebanon War). He is not an author of the Left and I am not the education minister of the Right. Hezbollah didn’t ask who is Right and Left and secular and religious when boys with different views were killed in the same tank.”

Grossman, born in Jerusalem, has written countless novels and children’s books including To the End of the Land, A Horse Walks into a Bar, The Book of Intimate Grammar and Someone to Run With.

On Sunday evening, the Education Ministry also announced the Israel Prize winners for research in physics and in psychology.

Prof. Shlomo Havlin, of Bar Ilan University, will receive the prize for his research in the field of physics.

“Prof. Havlin is one of the pioneers of a number of fields in statistical physics and its implications for complex systems in different areas,” the prize committee wrote in its decision. “Prof. Havlin deals with the generalization of knowledge in physical fields to the broadest areas, such as social networks, technological networks, economic networks, political systems, physiological systems and DNA function.”

The committee added that of all Israeli scientists, Prof. Havlin is the most cited by scientists around the world.
“He devotes his time and energies to imparting contemporary science to youth and contributes greatly to the creation of scientific ties between Israel and the world,” it wrote.

Prof. Yitzhak Shlesinger, of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was awarded the Israel Prize for his research in psychology.

In its decision, the prize committee wrote that Shlesinger is one of the most important scientists in the field of psycholinguistics, contributing to the study of language processing and language development in children.

“He was a pioneer in the documentation and conceptualization of sign language in Israel. His work in the field of Talmudic argumentation, in connections with general issues in linguistic expression, is a unique contribution. His innovations are deeply entwined in Hebrew culture and language,” the prize committee wrote.

The Israel Prize is largely regarded as the state’s highest honor. It is presented annually on Independence Day in a state ceremony in Jerusalem in the presence of the president, the prime minister, the Knesset speaker and the Supreme Court president.

Read the source article at Jpost

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One drug could treat Alzheimer’s, MS, Crohn’s and more

Could one drug effectively treat incurable inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis as well as neurodegenerative maladies such as Alzheimer’s disease?

Yes, says Prof. David Naor, speaking with ISRAEL21c at the Lautenberg Center for General and Tumor Immunology in Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem.

All these diseases, he explains, are associated with pathological amyloid proteins that could be neutralized by the 5-mer peptide Naor has spent the last 10 years researching and developing with the support of the university’s Yissum technology-transfer company, the Israeli government and Spherium Biomed of Spain.

It will take several million dollars to start clinical trials of Naor’s novel, IP-protected peptide — a synthetic protein snippet that significantly reverses the damaging effects of inflammatory diseases and Alzheimer’s disease in mouse models, and restores the learning capacity of Alzheimer’s mice.

“I believe that within two years we would know for certain if our academic product can translate into a therapeutic drug to combat inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases,” Naor says.

“Once you control the inflammation, you can control the disease, so our target is to reduce as much as possible the inflammatory activity.”

Prof. David Naor at Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem. Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90

Rheumatoid arthritis

Naor began by studying 5-mer’s effectiveness in rheumatoid arthritis, which affects about one percent of the world population. Currently, about $30 billion worth of biologic drugs are sold each year that effectively control, but cannot cure, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Furthermore, these drugs don’t work in one-third of patients.

The results of Naor’s experiments were astounding. When mice with collagen-induced arthritis were treated with 5-mer peptide, the severely inflamed tissues in their joints reverted to nearly normal. No harmful side effects were observed.

Multiple sclerosis and IBD

“Once the rheumatoid arthritis experiment was repeated successfully several times, we looked at a different chronic inflammatory disease – multiple sclerosis, where the inflammation is not in the joints but in the brain,” says Naor.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most widespread disabling neurological condition of young adults around the world, usually striking between the ages of 20 and 50. There is no cure, but the Israeli-developed blockbuster drug Copaxone reduces the frequency of relapses.

Here, too, Naor’s results were noteworthy. Five days after MS-like disease was induced in mice, 5-mer peptide injections caused a significant decrease in accumulation of inflammatory cells in the central nervous system and significant reduction in limb paralysis. The effects were weaker when the disease was more progressed, but theoretically the peptide could be introduced during a remission phase of MS.

Recently, in collaboration with Prof. Haim Ovadia from Hadassah University Medical Center, Naor’s lab achieved another breakthrough by delivering 5-mer peptide via mouth rather than by injections, with the same therapeutic effect.

“That means that we may be able to produce pills for oral delivery rather than to provide the drug by injection,” Naor says.

Spherium Biomed tests of 5-mer peptide in mouse models of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) showed it can reduce the gut inflammation in IBD better than the currently prescribed biological medication, which is effective only in half of IBD patients.

Alzheimer’s disease 

After a quarter-century of failed efforts to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, investment money is dwindling. Yet the number of cases is climbing rapidly along with related costs. About one in nine Americans over 65 has this fatal degenerative neurological disorder affecting 44 million people worldwide.

In collaboration with Prof. Hanna Rosenmann from Hadassah, Naor’s lab studied the effect of mer-5 peptide in mice with induced Alzheimer’s disease.

Cognitively normal mice placed inside a watery maze learned quickly how to swim to a safe platform and were able to find it faster with every subsequent attempt. But the Alzheimer’s mice took longer finding the platform every time, due to memory difficulties.

After treatment with 5-mer peptide, the Alzheimer’s mice regained their ability to learn the location of the platform as quickly as cognitively normal mice.

“We can restore the memory of the animal. This doesn’t mean we’re going to cure Alzheimer’s but it does mean we have to do everything possible to see if our peptide could be successful where so many other potential anti-Alzheimer drugs have failed,” says Naor.

The 5-mer peptide appears to prevent the accumulation of amyloid–beta in the brain. Amyloid–beta clumps are believed to attract harmful inflammatory cells from the immune system, thus enhancing Alzheimer’s disease.

The mechanism of action of the 5-mer peptide was proven on various harmful amyloid proteins, using sophisticated imaging tools in the lab of Prof. Mary Cowman at New York University.

“We can inject 5-mer peptide even after the disease has started, and it will work,” says Naor. “We don’t yet know if there is a point of no return when it would no longer work.”

Spherium Biomed now seeks funding for the next step, human clinical trials.

“Because the peptide was derived from human material, it makes sense that it is going to work in humans at least as well as in mice,” concludes Naor.

Read the source article at ISRAEL21c

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The Argument Against Quantum Computers

Sixteen years ago, on a cold February day at Yale University, a poster caught Gil Kalai’s eye. It advertised a series of lectures by Michel Devoret, a well-known expert on experimental efforts in quantum computing. The talks promised to explore the question “Quantum Computer: Miracle or Mirage?” Kalai expected a vigorous discussion of the pros and cons of quantum computing. Instead, he recalled, “the skeptical direction was a little bit neglected.” He set out to explore that skeptical view himself.

Today, Kalai, a mathematician at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, is one of the most prominent of a loose group of mathematiciansphysicists and computer scientists arguing that quantum computing, for all its theoretical promise, is something of a mirage. Some argue that there exist good theoretical reasons why the innards of a quantum computer — the “qubits” — will never be able to consistently perform the complex choreography asked of them. Others say that the machines will never work in practice, or that if they are built, their advantages won’t be great enough to make up for the expense.

Kalai has approached the issue from the perspective of a mathematician and computer scientist. He has analyzed the issue by looking at computational complexity and, critically, the issue of noise. All physical systems are noisy, he argues, and qubits kept in highly sensitive “superpositions” will inevitably be corrupted by any interaction with the outside world. Getting the noise down isn’t just a matter of engineering, he says. Doing so would violate certain fundamental theorems of computation.

Kalai knows that his is a minority view. Companies like IBM, Intel and Microsoft have invested heavily in quantum computing; venture capitalists are funding quantum computing startups (such as Quantum Circuits, a firm set up by Devoret and two of his Yale colleagues). Other nations — most notably China — are pouring billions of dollars into the sector.

Quanta Magazine recently spoke with Kalai about quantum computing, noise and the possibility that a decade of work will be proven wrong within a matter of weeks. A condensed and edited version of that conversation follows.

 When did you first have doubts about quantum computers?

At first, I was quite enthusiastic, like everybody else. But at a lecture in 2002 by Michel Devoret called “Quantum Computer: Miracle or Mirage,” I had a feeling that the skeptical direction was a little bit neglected. Unlike the title, the talk was very much the usual rhetoric about how wonderful quantum computing is. The side of the mirage was not well-presented.

And so you began to research the mirage.

Only in 2005 did I decide to work on it myself. I saw a scientific opportunity and some possible connection with my earlier work from 1999 with Itai Benjamini and Oded Schramm on concepts called noise sensitivity and noise stability.

What do you mean by “noise”?

By noise I mean the errors in a process, and sensitivity to noise is a measure of how likely the noise — the errors — will affect the outcome of this process. Quantum computing is like any similar process in nature — noisy, with random fluctuations and errors. When a quantum computer executes an action, in every computer cycle there is some probability that a qubit will get corrupted.

 

And so this corruption is the key problem?

We need what’s known as quantum error correction. But this will require 100 or even 500 “physical” qubits to represent a single “logical” qubit of very high quality. And then to build and use such quantum error-correcting codes, the amount of noise has to go below a certain level, or threshold.

To determine the required threshold mathematically, we must effectively model the noise. I thought it would be an interesting challenge.

What exactly did you do?

I tried to understand what happens if the errors due to noise are correlated — or connected. There is a Hebrew proverb that says that trouble comes in clusters. In English you would say: When it rains, it pours. In other words, interacting systems will have a tendency for errors to be correlated. There will be a probability that errors will affect many qubits all at once.

So over the past decade or so, I’ve been studying what kind of correlations emerge from complicated quantum computations and what kind of correlations will cause a quantum computer to fail.

In my earlier work on noise we used a mathematical approach called Fourier analysis, which says that it’s possible to break down complex waveforms into simpler components. We found that if the frequencies of these broken-up waves are low, the process is stable, and if they are high, the process is prone to error.

David Vaaknin for Quanta Magazine

That previous work brought me to my more recent paper that I wrote in 2014 with a Hebrew University computer scientist, Guy Kindler. Our calculations suggest that the noise in a quantum computer will kill all the high-frequency waves in the Fourier decomposition. If you think about the computational process as a Beethoven symphony, the noise will allow us to hear only the basses, but not the cellos, violas and violins.

These results also give good reasons to think that noise levels cannot be sufficiently reduced; they will still be much higher than what is needed to demonstrate quantum supremacy and quantum error correction.

Why can’t we push the noise level below this threshold?

Many researchers believe that we can go beyond the threshold, and that constructing a quantum computer is merely an engineering challenge of lowering it. However, our first result shows that the noise level cannot be reduced, because doing so will contradict an insight from the theory of computing about the power of primitive computational devices. Noisy quantum computers in the small and intermediate scale deliver primitive computational power. They are too primitive to reach “quantum supremacy” — and if quantum supremacy is not possible, then creating quantum error-correcting codes, which is harder, is also impossible.

What do your critics say to that?

Critics point out that my work with Kindler deals with a restricted form of quantum computing and argue that our model for noise is not physical, but a mathematical simplification of an actual physical situation. I’m quite certain that what we have demonstrated for our simplified model is a real and general phenomenon.

My critics also point to two things that they find strange in my analysis: The first is my attempt to draw conclusions about engineering of physical devices from considerations about computation. The second is drawing conclusions about small-scale quantum systems from insights of the theory of computation that are usually applied to large systems. I agree that these are unusual and perhaps even strange lines of analysis.

And finally, they argue that these engineering difficulties are not fundamental barriers, and that with sufficient hard work and resources, the noise can be driven down to as close to zero as needed. But I think that the effort required to obtain a low enough error level for any implementation of universal quantum circuits increases exponentially with the number of qubits, and thus, quantum computers are not possible.

How can you be certain?

I am pretty certain, while a little nervous to be proven wrong. Our results state that noise will corrupt the computation, and that the noisy outcomes will be very easy to simulate on a classical computer. This prediction can already be tested; you don’t even need 50 qubits for that, I believe that 10 to 20 qubits will suffice. For quantum computers of the kind Google and IBM are building, when you run, as they plan to do, certain computational processes, they expect robust outcomes that are increasingly hard to simulate on a classical computer. Well, I expect very different outcomes. So I don’t need to be certain, I can simply wait and see.

Read the source article at quantamagazine.org

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3 Israeli universities in top 50 of Times Higher Education Asia Rankings

Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology all ranked in the top 50 in the 2018 Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings released this week.

Tel Aviv University ranked 25th in Asia, down three spots from last years, making it the highest-rated Israeli institution in the Asia rankings, while the Hebrew University of Jerusalem ranked 27th and the Technion came in 41st.

Also in the rankings, the University of Haifa ranked 100th while Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba was No. 104.

These are the sixth annual Asia University Rankings published by the Times Higher Education weekly magazine, which this year ranked the top 350 institutions in Asia based on the same criteria as the World University Rankings – but with modifications to better reflect the characteristics of Asia’s universities.

The rankings judge schools based on 13 performance indicators across all areas including teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

The National University of Singapore was ranked No. 1 for the third year in a row, while five of the top 10 universities were from China or its special administrative region of Hong Kong.

“The results show that more than two decades of focused investment in excellence [by China] is paying off,” Phil Baty, editorial director of global rankings at Times Higher Education, said.

Tsinghua University and Peking University – two leading Chinese institutions that have collaborations with Tel Aviv University – ranked second and third, respectively.

Tel Aviv University and Tsinghua University in Beijing established the XIN Research Center, a $300 million joint center for innovative scientific research and education in nano-technology and nano-medicine.

Tel Aviv University has also signed an agreement with Peking University to establish a center in the areas of food security and food safety.

Overall, China has 63 universities in the rankings, many of which made significant progress in this year’s rankings.

Read the source article at Jpost

News

Merck opens Jerusalem innovation lab

The laboratory is part of Merck’s commitment to Israel, collaboration with the Hebrew University, and development efforts in nanotechnologies and materials.

Merck Group, the German pharmaceutical and life sciences company, today inaugurated a technology innovation laboratory at its subsidiary Qlight Nanotech in Jerusalem, hosted on the Hebrew University’s Edmund J. Safra Campus. The laboratory is part of Merck’s commitment to Israel, collaboration with the Hebrew University, and development efforts in nanotechnologies and materials.

Qlight Nanotech was established through Yissum, the technology transfer company of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, partnering Prof. Uri Banin of The Hebrew University and Merck, and supported by the Israel Innovation Authority. It was fully acquired by Merck in mid-2015 to support Merck’s development in liquid crystal display materials and its growing presence in OLED materials.

“We are very happy to be present in Israel one of the world’s most advanced technology hotspots,” said Dr. Kai Beckmann, CEO of Performance Materials & member of Merck’s Executive Board.

Qlight, recognized in 2014 as “Nanotechnology Company of the Year” by the Chief Scientist of Israel, focuses its Research and Development on cadmium-free quantum materials for use in display applications. Quantum materials are nanosized particles which enable displays with a substantially extended colour gamut. Qlight’s work is tightly integrated into global projects, working closely with Merck teams in Germany and Japan.

“Qlight Nanotech is an excellent illustration of the synergistic potential of academia and industry to scale and promote new technological advances,” said Dr. Yaron Daniely, CEO and President of Yissum, Hebrew University’s Technology Transfer Company. “Hebrew University is a world leader in innovative material science research. We are excited to play an instrumental role in bringing more technological breakthroughs to commercialization.”

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – www.globes-online.com – on February 6, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

Read the source article at globes.co.il

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Bill Nye Says Israel Leading on Medical Marijuana

Bill Nye’s new Netflix show explores Israel’s advances in medical marijuana, which are much more advanced than the United States.

People are getting high in the Holy Land for a good cause.

In a recent episode of “Bill Nye Saves the World” in which Nye explore medical marijuana, he sends a correspondent to Israel for a segment called “How is Israel healing the world with marijuana.”

The episode highlights the progress Israel has made in medical marijuana research, noting that there are significantly fewer regulatory hurdles than in the United States.

The company Tikun Olam operates the largest cannabis farm in Israel, and it’s licensed by the Israeli government. Tikkun Olam CEO Aharon Lutzky explains that the cooperation between the Israeli government and private industry fosters success in finding ways cannabis can help patients struggling with conditions such as cancer, Crohn’s and colitis, PTSD, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

Nye notes that the situation is very different in the U.S. because the Drug Enforcement Agency doesn’t believe cannabis has medical value, and therefore classifies it as a Schedule 1 drug, making it illegal to grow it for the purpose of medical studies.

“It is literally easier to study meth,” Nye claimed.

Israeli organic chemist Raphael Mechoulam was the first to isolate marijuana’s THC compound for scientific study more than 50 years ago. In 1996, Israel began its national medical marijuana program, the first one in the world.

 

Read the source article at The Forward

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Can Israeli scientists save Darwin’s finches?

The Galápagos Islands are known for their unique animal species – giant tortoises, iguanas and sea lions – but none are more legendary than the group of birds known as Darwin’s finches.

Early discoveries from these tiny songbirds, which measure no bigger than a sparrow, are credited for having helped Charles Darwin develop his theory of evolution by natural selection. Now, 11 of the 13 finch species found in the Galápagos are in danger of extinction due to a parasitic fly’s fatal impact on the populations.

A research team from the Hebrew University’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment is embarking next week on an expedition to the islands to help save the iconic birds that have become the Galápagos’ symbol.

Internationally acclaimed entomologist Prof. Boaz Yuval will be joined by colleagues Prof. Edouard Jurkevitch and Micki Ben-Yosef for the three-week mission, part of a four-year project funded by the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation together with the University of Minnesota.

Prof. Boaz Yuval on a previous trip to the Galapagos in 2015. Photo courtesy of Boaz Yuval
Prof. Boaz Yuval on a previous trip to the Galapagos in 2015. Photo courtesy of Boaz Yuval

The team will also collaborate with George Heimpel, an entomologist at the University of Minnesota. The Galápagos’ invasive fly problem was first noticed in the 1980s and 1990s by a group of Austrian and Australian researchers who were curious as to why fledglings in the nests of finches were dying, explained Yuval, who is known for his groundbreaking work on fruit flies and mosquitoes.

Further inspection revealed that the larvae of the Philornis downsi fly, accidentally introduced to the island from the mainland in the 1960s, attach themselves to the bird hatchlings and feed on their blood, ultimately killing them.

The mortality rate in finch hatchlings is close to 100 percent. “What’s really worrying is that there are locations in the islands where some species of finches, over the last couple of years, have experienced close to 100% parasitism in the nests,” Yuval tells ISRAEL21c. “In these locations, recruitment to the adult population is zero.”

Although the parasite hasn’t affected all species equally, without the introduction of a viable solution Yuval predicts the finches may be extinct within 10 years. One particular species, the mangrove finch, is already down to about 80 individuals.

The good news is that there’s a consortium of international researchers and funding agencies helping to find solutions.

“In the case of the mangrove finch, the San Diego Zoo and local Ecuadorian researchers are actually collecting eggs every year, incubating the eggs in a lab, hand-rearing the chicks, acclimatizing them, and releasing them back,” explains Yuval.

Thanks to this method, practiced over the last four years, the mangrove finch population has grown by about 14% every year.

Another promising approach is based on providing nesting materials that are saturated with insecticide, killing off the parasites and allowing fledglings to survive. However, it has yet to become a widespread solution due to the insecticide’s potential to affect many birds and the reluctance of Galápagos park authorities.

Medium ground finches. Photo courtesy of Boaz Yuval
Medium ground finches. Photo courtesy of Boaz Yuval

The Israeli group is exploring a different method, which aims to target the microbes inside of the flies in order to interrupt their blood-feeding success.

“Humans have an enormous microbiome in which a community of microbes living in our gut contributes to our well-being, immune system, combating diseases, and even affecting mood and mate choice,” explains Yuval. “We are not unique in that. Insects also have gut microbes which are very important in their nutrition and in their immune response, especially blood-feeding insects.”

In addition to providing essential dietary supplements, which the flies don’t get in their blood meal, Yuval believes the bacteria also play an important role in communication between adult insects, including finding food and mates.

“We can manipulate the behavior of the adults by attracting them to traps which are based on volatiles that are produced by their microbes. We have some preliminary data that is very promising and that’s going to be our second major focus during this expedition,” says Yuval.

They will also try to help the local Ecuadorian team figure out a way to successfully grow the invasive fly in a lab setting, for use in sterile insect release – a form of pest control where overwhelming numbers of sterilized insects are released into the wild.

A successful attempt at saving the Galápagos’ iconic finches could save more than just the bird species. Without the finch, the terrestrial ecosystems are in danger of becoming destabilized. “One can never predict what form this will take,” says Yuval.

“The problem with extinction is that it’s forever; you can’t go back from that.”

Read the source article at ISRAEL21c

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Pollution’s impact on weather, crops worse than once thought

Even the tiniest of particles from human emissions can fuel powerful storms and influence weather and crops much more than previously thought, according to new research published January 26 in the journal Science.

The study focuses on the power of manmade aerosol emissions to grow rain clouds and intensify storms. These particles come from urban and industrial air pollution, wildfires and other sources.

While scientists have known that these particles play an important role in shaping weather and climate, the new study shows that even the smallest aerosol particles can have an outsize effect, creating more severe thunderstorms, which in turn may lead to soil erosion, runoff and damaged crops.

These tiny pollutants – less than one-thousandth of the width of a human hair – were long considered too small to have much impact on raindrop formation.

However, according to lead author Jiwen Fan of the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, “We showed that the presence of these particles is one reason why some storms become so strong and produce so much rain. In a warm and humid area where atmospheric conditions are otherwise very clean, the intrusion of very small particles can make quite an impact.”

This study was conducted in the Amazon, a largely pristine area that provided scientists the rare opportunity to study the impact of pollution from nearby Manaus, a city of 2 million people, and to pinpoint the effects of human pollution on the weather environment.

Second-author Professor Daniel Rosenfeld of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Earth Sciences studied the role of ultrafine particles on thunderstorms. While larger particles were known to enhance thunderstorms, scientists had not observed – until now – that even smaller particles, like those produced by vehicles and industry, could have the same effect.

Storm clouds over the Amazon. Photo by Daniel Rosenfeld/Hebrew University

The study also revealed that the ultrafine particles could invigorate rain clouds and increase rainfall in a much more powerful way than their larger counterparts.

“This groundbreaking research strongly suggests that mankind has likely altered the rainfall and weather in densely populated tropical and summer monsoon areas such as India, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and even southeastern USA,” said Rosenfeld.

Significantly, this heavier downpour often leads to soil erosion and crop damage, affecting the lives and livelihoods of those living in the affected areas.

Through detailed computer simulations, the scientists showed how the smaller particles have a powerful impact on rain clouds. While small in size, these particles are large in number and serve as a platform upon which small water droplets congregate and excess water vapor condenses.

This enhanced condensation releases more heat, which in turn causes updrafts to become more powerful. The updrafts cause more warm air to be pulled into the clouds, which ultimately produces more ice and snow pellets, lightning, and heavier rain in the regions.

The study, in which scientists from Israel, United States, China, Germany and Brazil participated, was funded by a grant from the BACCHUS European Commission.

Read the source article at ISRAEL21c

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The pomegranate potential

Pomegranates are known to contain powerful antioxidants that fight the oxygen free radicals that cause inflammation, accelerated aging of the tissues, the activation of harmful genes within DNA and an overloaded immune system. Various herbs, spices such as turmeric and teas, as well as dark chocolate, pecans, fruits like blueberries, goji berries, elderberries, cranberries, blackberries and vegetables and pulses like sweet potatoes, broccoli, artichoke and kidney beans also reduce the effects of oxidative damage in the body.

The leading health problems facing us today – including conditions like heart disease, cancer, dementia and other neurological diseases – have been linked to increased levels of oxidative damage.

But until now, there has been no natural, powerful antioxidant capable of crossing the “blood-brain barrier” (BBB) – the semi-permeable, highly selective membrane of endothelial cells that separates the circulating blood from the brain and extracellular fluid in the central nervous system. While the BBB is a vital mechanism for protecting the brain from fluctuations in plasma composition and from substances that can upset neural function, it also keeps out those that can benefit the brain.

Punicic acid (Omega 5) found in oil made from pomegranate seeds (not the red fruit but the small, hard seeds inside) is among the most powerful natural antioxidants, but to breach the BBB, it had to be turned into a submicron self-emulsion formulation.

Researchers headed by experimental neurology Prof. Ruth Gabizon at the neurology department at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, along with Prof. Shlomo Magdassi of the Hebrew University’s Nanotechnology and the Casali Center for Applied Chemistry, have developed a food supplement called GranaGard with high concentrations of punicic acid. This substance converts in the body into conjugated linoleic acid, an established neuroprotector. Hadassit, the Hadassah Medical Organization’s research and development arm, and Yissum, the R&D company of the university, established Granalix. This company markets the supplement (it is made by the SupHerb company in Nazareth), which has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The supplement (NIS 120 for 60 capsules, a month’s supply, and sold via the company’s website and at some stores) is aimed at preventing or slowing the development of neurological disorders from multiple sclerosis to dementia and even reducing symptoms in patients who suffer from them. As GranaGard is a food supplement, it cannot legally make therapeutic claims, but it can provide data on mice studies in which the rodents showed significant improvement in neurological conditions and benefits shown in patients who have taken the supplement over time.

GABIZON, WHO was born in Argentina and came on aliya with her family at the age of 11, is married to Prof. Alberto Gabizon, chief of the oncology institute at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, and they have four grown children.

“We met at the Weizmann Institute of Science. I am not a physician, but a neurology researcher,” she said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. She did a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California at San Francisco with Prof. Stanley Prusiner, an American neurologist and biochemist who discovered prions – a class of infectious self-reproducing pathogens primarily or solely composed of protein – for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1997.

“It was very serendipitous, as I had read Prusiner’s articles on prions and then met somebody by chance who was on sabbatical at the university. I sent a letter to Prof. Prusiner, and I was accepted to work at his lab. I was in the right place at the right time, as he was doing totally pioneering work.”

When she returned to Israel in 1988 and continued her research on prion-caused diseases in the lab she built at Hadassah’s neurology department, she did not work on theoretical research detached from the physical disease. “I was part of the clinical department, exposed to patients and their families.”

GABIZON HAS devoted most of her career to the study of neurodegenerataive and prion disorders, including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a genetic disease among Jews of Libyan and Tunisian origin that was identified in Israel in the 1980s. The incidence of the disease in this ethnic group is about 100 times more than in the worldwide population, and there are some 50,000 carrier families in Israel and 15 actually suffering from the disease. Its effects were similar to the “mad-cow disease” (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) that affected cows whose brain and spinal cord had been contaminated in Britain and killed its first victim there in 1995.

Genetic CJD is vertically transmitted from parent to child in autosomal dominant inheritance. Gabizon noted that there have also been some sporadic cases among Jewish of Ashkenazi origin.

“A young man or woman in their 30s, at the beginning of their life, have just finished their studies and started on a career, got married, and are raising kids. In the midst of this intensive endeavor – a mother or father, perhaps an uncle, becomes ill. The patient is not particularly old, in his 50s or 60s, and is still very much active – with future plans and unattained goals. Yet the disease is progressing at an alarming rate. At first, the patient doesn’t remember small details or his speech slurs. He gets lost in a familiar neighborhood, loses balance. Something is happening; something is festering. He visits his family doctor and then a neurologist, undergoing CT or MRI; his condition continues to deteriorate relentlessly. And then the patient is no longer really with us, even if he or she still lives a bit longer. This is of course shocking and very sad. But it is just the beginning of the story.”

In the midst of all this mayhem, “the specialist asks: ‘Are you from Libya or Tunis?’ Then there are genetic examinations. Thus our man or woman, still in their 30s, and their entire family, find out that their family member is afflicted with a hereditary disease.”

There is a mutation that causes an important protein in the brain to change its form, so that instead of breaking down when it has completed its role, it oxidizes and is stored in brain cells in clusters called amyloids. As a result of the accumulation of clusters of faulty protein, destructive free radicals are created, damaging the quality of the cells. Ultimately, a process of accelerated destruction of the cells is created by this combined co-dependent process, in which protein does not break down, but rather accumulates in clusters, thus creating free radicals that harm the quality of the brain cells.

“Most people who are CJD carriers don’t want to know because the symptoms show up after the age of 40, and there is nothing to do for them. They become confused, very nervous and then paralyzed. They usually die within three months of diagnosis. There is no approved blood test for it,” she said. “But if a couple suspected of being carriers plan to have a baby, they usually want to test embryos by in-vitro fertilization and then use preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to find unaffected embryos that could be implanted.”

“In view of the dead end reached by all researchers in treating the disease, we decided at the lab to tackle the problem from a totally different direction. If we cannot ‘clean’ the brain cells of destructive faulty protein clusters, thereby curing the patients, perhaps we can strengthen their durability, extend the life span of brain cells, and improve their functioning even under dire conditions such as these, with all of the ‘biological garbage’ and the destructive oxidizing free radicals.”

To this end, “we decided to research the influence of antioxidization on the brain cells, through lab mice in which we planted the Libyan mutation of the PRP protein. The research hypothesis was that if we treat them with sufficiently strong antioxidization that can reach the brain, this may protect the cells and compensate for the damage already incurred. We further stipulated that the treatment should be completely safe of side effects, in order to offer it to young carriers before the disease erupts, as a preventive measure used over many years with no risk involved.”

Her prion research led Gabizon to look for antioxidants connected to lipids that could cross the BBB and reach the brain. “By chance, I bought face cream from the Israeli cosmetics company Lavido that was made from pomegranate oil. People said how young I looked. The Chinese, by the way, discovered long ago that pomegranate seeds were good to eat.”

She called the head of the company and asked for a sample of the oil. “We gave it to mice with the Libyan mutation. We saw that it postponed the mice’s death somewhat, but not enough.” So Gabizon went to Magdassi, who prepared a nano formula with tiny particles and two emulsants. When mixed with water, it turns white. The emulsion isn’t destroyed in the stomach and liver; it goes directly to the blood and breaches the BBB. We started to give it to multiple sclerosis patients after it was effective in slowing the animal model of the disease in mice. We also gave it to mice models with Alzheimer’s disease and to healthy mice that we caused to get a stroke.” It is also being tested on Parkinson’s disease.

“We can’t cure these neurodegenerative diseases, because when neurons die, they can’t be restored. But the supplement can help prevent the disease in people at risk. I have two capsules a day for two years, and so has my husband. I find the supplement improves my sharpness of thinking and gives me much more energy. There are no known side effects or harmful interactions with drugs. The supplement is comprised of 90% pucinic acid in a form that can enter the brain.”

GRANALIX, JUST at the beginning of its marketing effort, sells some 5,000 containers a month, mostly through the Internet. “It costs NIS 10 to manufacture and sells for NIS 120; most of the income goes towards manufacture, salaries and other expenses. We also redirect profits into expanding our research,” said Gabizon, who does not yet profit from the patent held by Yissum and Hadassit registered three years ago. “We don’t want it to be expensive and prohibitive to most people who can benefit from it.”

To register GranaGard as a pharmaceutical drug, the company would have to spend a fortune on large, time-consuming clinical trials and fees for applications to the FDA. “We could do this at some point,” but it is very complicated. In the meantime, since GranaGard is a safe food supplement, we ask patients taking it how they feel. Some report improvement in a month or even a week of taking the supplement.”

The food supplement’s efficacy in the form of nanodrops taken by rodents with a multiple sclerosis model, CJD and metabolic disorders was proven in three articles in scientific journals, the International Journal of Nanomedicine, Nanomedicine and Neurobiology in Disease. GranaGard was shown to delay disease onset in a mouse model of genetic prion disease, which presents neurodegenerative features reminiscent of Alzheimer’s disease. It also was shown to reduce the disease burden in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis. “There are many other studies on the way,” she said.

“Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease seem to be prion-like diseases with aggregation and oxidation, so punicic acid with this delivery system could be effective, without being destroyed in the stomach and liver,” she added.

Neuropaths recommend pomegranate oil to people, but they don’t take into account that it can’t help against neurodegenerative diseases because it doesn’t reach the brain in the form or ordinary supplements.”

IF THE formulation can delay Alzheimer’s disease, it would bring about a revolution, she declared. The International Alzheimer’s Association has reported that by 2030, the number of dementia patients will double, reaching about 70 million worldwide. Global expenditure on treatment has now reached $600 billion, 70% from Western Europe and North America alone.

In Israel, there are now some 120,000 dementia patients, including 1% of the population in their 60s. This percentage is doubled every five years, reaching 30% for ages 85 to 90 and 66% of those over 90.

This data is even more alarming in view of solutions offered by medicine (nowadays appearing quite ordinary – such as nutrition, cholesterol, diabetes, blood pressure issues and hygiene) that have increased life expectancy and created a new demography, she added. ‘The various degenerative brain diseases harm half of the population over 80 and cause significant mental and physical suffering. A cure has yet to be found for the disease, but our nutritional supplement may prevent it.”

The common cause of all degenerative brain diseases is pathological oxidization of components in the nerve cells, which is the precise point of departure of GranaGard. “Since there is no reversal for highly faulty nerve cells, the treatment focuses on maintaining the existing ones, that is, maintaining our brain cells for as long as possible,” she concluded.

Read the source article at Jpost

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Meet Hebrew University’s top cannabis researcher

Attorney General Jeff Sessions unwittingly has become a key supporter of Israel’s thriving medical marijuana industry. Just ask cannabis researcher Yossi Tam.

Speaking in Palo Alto this week, the Israeli expert on cannabinoids — chemicals that give the cannabis plant its medical and recreational properties — said anti-pot politics in the United States have allowed Israel’s medical marijuana industry to thrive. Israel even has attracted some of the top American researchers, he said.

Israel even has attracted some of the top American researchers, he said. After all, in the U.S., marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug, alongside heroin and ecstasy, meaning that research is stunted because such substances have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

However, in Israel, which is preparing to start issuing export licenses for cannabinoid-based products, cannabis research is flourishing. Tam is focused on how cannabinoids can help patients battle obesity, and he’s also part of a team seeking medicinal uses of cannabis in fighting everything from epilepsy to traumatic brain injury to cancer.

“Israel has become a leader because it was allowed to conduct research, whereas here [in the U.S.] it was stopped,” Tam told J. after his talk, which focused on the science of cannabinoids and how to use them to fight obesity. “Once it will be legal here, then the U.S. will take over like with every other thing.”

Tam is the managing director of the Multidisciplinary Center on Cannabinoid Research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and he also heads the Obesity and Metabolism Laboratory there.

He spoke Jan. 16 in Palo Alto at the Morgan, Lewis and Bockius law firm, telling an audience of about 50 that medical marijuana was first used in China nearly 5,000 years ago and that synthetic cannabinoids could have an even wider range of curative powers. The talk was presented by the California Israel Chamber of Commerce, American Friends of the Hebrew University and WGD Partners, a Palo Alto-based financial advisory firm.

Recreational use of marijuana is banned in Israel, but medical marijuana is legal there — and Israeli researchers have been focused on the efficacy of cannabinoids in fighting pain and disease for more than 50 years. Meanwhile in the U.S., Sessions has spearheaded a federal drive to keep pot illegal, even as California this year became the eighth state to legalize recreational use of marijuana and more than half the states allow the use of medical marijuana.

Tam works at Hebrew University with Raphael Mechoulam, who in the 1960s first isolated CBD and THC, the two most prominent of the many cannabinoids found in marijuana.

A brochure available at his talk proclaimed: “Join the cannabis revolution: Cannabis is no longer just associated with getting high, but is now tantamount to getting healthy.”

Michael Mitgang, WGD’s managing director, gave a short presentation on the cannabis industry and its growth potential before Tam’s talk, predicting the $8.1 billion U.S. cannabis market in 2017 will balloon to more than $100 billion annually in a few years.

Tam, a former dentist who did postdoctoral work in the U.S. at the National Institutes of Health, said Israeli researchers know their place at the forefront of cannabinoid investigation will be threatened if the U.S. reclassifies marijuana.

“We have a window of opportunity now,” he said. “Let’s see what happens.”

Read the source article at jweekly.com

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Why Israel rocks at commercializing academic innovations

It’s no coincidence that Harvard and UCLA chose experienced Israelis to direct their technology-transfer offices. Cash-strapped universities urgently need to streamline the transfer of inventions from lab bench to market, and Israeli TTOs have a remarkable track record of generating more revenue from IP sales than any other country except the United States.

“Universities are reinventing themselves as microenvironments for innovation and entrepreneurship. A university that can’t demonstrate its impact on industry and the marketplace will become less relevant in the future,” says Benjamin Soffer, chairman of Israel Tech Transfer Network.

Soffer, who frequently hosts TTO officials from top universities in the United States, Europe and the Far East, also heads the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s T3 TTO, which encompasses two technology incubators and 90 spin-off companies including ReWalk Robotics and Mazor Robotics.

The Technion’s net research budget of roughly $90 million pales in comparison to MIT’s $1.5 billion, yet its income from commercialization of research is similar, says Soffer.

“Even more remarkable, the combined research budget of all Israeli universities is half the research budget of MIT. This is validation of the strength of the technology we produce.”

Soffer says Israel’s startup ecosystem provides an efficient “packaging” system for the flood of innovation from universities and military tech units.

“Startups have small teams with tight budgets and schedules and no bureaucracy, so they can be extremely effective. The tech transfer is done through these startups, and big companies don’t mind paying a premium for getting that technology at a later stage when it has been de-risked by the startup.”

Born abroad, raised in Israel

The concept of technology transfer was born at the University of Wisconsin in 1925, later to be nurtured and refined in Israel through the world’s second and third TTOs – the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Yeda Research & Development Company in 1959 and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Yissum Research Development Company in 1964.

According to the most recent Weizmann data, nearly 2,000 patent families have been registered by Yeda and 73 companies were spun off, generating a cumulative $28 billion in sales. Yeda’s first blockbuster deal was licensing multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone to Teva Pharmaceuticals in 1987.

Yissum is Israel’s biggest TTO in terms of patents (10,000-plus), licenses (900) and spinoff companies (125, including standouts such as Mobileye and BriefCam) in a wide variety of fields. In the global seed industry, the long-shelf-life cherry tomato developed at Hebrew University is a primary example.

Some Israeli healthcare organizations also have TTOs.

The nonprofit Israel Tech Transfer Network includes BGN (Ben-Gurion University), BIRAD (Bar-Ilan University), Carmel-Haifa University Economic Corp. (University of Haifa), Gavish Galilee Bioapplications (MIGAL Galilee Research Institute), Hadasit (Hadassah Medical Organization), Mor Research Applications (Clalit Health Services), Ramot (Tel Aviv University), T3, Tel Aviv Medical Center, Yeda and Yissum.

Becoming a bridge

Dr. Vladi Dvoyris, director of venture community at Tel Aviv University’s Coller Institute of Venture, says Israeli academic institutions developed a unique way of managing tech transfer.

“Foreign universities usually have two entities, one looking inward for IP worth licensing and one looking outward and liaising with industry. Those two are sometimes not communicating well. The Israeli model has a single point of contact for industry and academic researchers,” Dvoyris tells ISRAEL21c.

When former Yeda and Ramot CEO Isaac Kohlberg was hired to head the Harvard Office of Technology Development in 2005, and when former Yeda CEO Amir Naiberg took the reins at Westwood Technology Transfer at UCLA in 2016, they had the opportunity to introduce the integrated Israeli approach, says Dvoyris.

Today’s TTOs must do much more than protect intellectual property (IP), says Yissum’s new CEO, Yaron Daniely. They need to share information among one another and, most importantly, build bridges facilitating the free transfer of ideas and opportunities between the academic world and the outside world of entrepreneurs, investors, industries and communities.

“When you’re a bridge and not a knight in shining armor safeguarding the ivory tower, you understand that it’s only helpful when both worlds – academia and industry — benefit. If one world shrinks and dies, the other won’t prosper either,” Daniely tells ISRAEL21c.

“The good TTOs are experimenting with new models to make sure they stay relevant and effective for the benefit of both sides and eventually for the benefit of society,” says Daniely, who holds a PhD from NYU Medical School and an MBA from Technion.

The growth of Jerusalem’s venture ecosystem has contributed to more and bigger deals (think Mobileye, acquired by Intel last March for $15.3 billion). Yissum also has partnerships with the likes of J&J, Novartis, Merck and Google.

Soffer says the volume and speed of deal-making matters more than the terms of the deals. “Technology is all about serendipity and you have to be ready when opportunity presents itself. Most tech-transfer companies in the world are not ready or able to respond quickly. This deal-making approach is unique to Israeli academia.”

And while many university TTOs run entrepreneur clubs, Israeli universities separate the two, encouraging innovation within the university environment even for entrepreneurs planning to retain their IP, says Dvoyris.

HUStart, Hebrew University’s entrepreneurship center, opened the IP-free zone BioGiv as an “excubator” for this purpose.

Healthcare TTOs

Tamar Raz, head of Hadasit the commercialization arm of Hadassah Medical Organization, was invited to speak at the 2017 annual meeting of the US-based Association of University Technology Managers held in Miami.

“There is very high appreciation for what’s going on in Israel in technology transfer,” she tells ISRAEL21c. “We are considered very advanced both professionally and in terms of the quality of the agreements we do with companies all over the world.”

Founded in 1986 as Israel’s first hospital-based TTO, Hadasit holds fewer patents than, say, the Cleveland Clinic but compares favorably in terms of patents per dollar of research budget, says Raz, who came to Hadasit from Ramot at Tel Aviv University, where she earned a PhD in biology. “

What’s unique is the relevancy of our patents to real medical and pharmaceutical needs because the physicians are familiar with those needs. We also help companies with consulting services from Hadassah physicians,” says Raz.

Like many TTOs, Hadasit is becoming more proactive by “going out and looking for companies willing to advance our inventions.”

In 2006, Hadasit established a public holding company, Hadasit BioHoldings (HBL), enabling investment in its biotech startups through the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. HBL’s first exit was Cell Cure Neurosciences, in a $12.75 million deal with Biotime in June last year.

“We’re now planning to raise another fund to support early-stage technologies in medical devices and digital health,” says Raz. “This is going on worldwide in TTOs. The big difference is that in the US, most of the investment in university and hospital early-stage technologies comes from philanthropic funds, while in Israel the funding sources are more business-oriented.”

The experts we spoke to believe Israel will continue pioneering the evolving field of bringing innovations from bench to market.

“The startup nation is an example of how Israel has reinvented the way entrepreneurship works, and we are very capable of reinventing technology transfer. Because of the density of our innovation and networking in the world, Israel could be uniquely positioned to lead this transformation,” says Daniely.

Read the source article at ISRAEL21c

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Israeli auto-tech, robotics, photonics light up Las Vegas

Intel’s blockbuster acquisition of Israel’s Mobileye last year is finally bearing public fruit: The combined companies unveiled their first autonomous vehicle at the Consumer Technology Association’s flagship event, CES, in Las Vegas on January 9-12.

Mobileye develops the sensors and software that allow a car to know where it is in relation to its surroundings. That key component for the coming self-driving car age was the main reason Intel bought the company in March 2017 for more than $15 billion.

Prof. Amnon Shashua, Mobileye’s CEO and now a senior VP at Intel, shared the CES stage with Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, as a Mobileye-powered autonomous Ford Fusion drove onto the stage. The car is equipped with 12 cameras, radar and scanners that give it a 180-degree view from a distance of up to 300 meters.

The Ford Fusion was just a prototype, but another Mobileye product is already installed in 2 million cars from BMW, VW, Nissan and eight other car manufacturers, Krzanich announced at CES.

The technology – dubbed REM (for “road experience management”) – uses Mobileye sensors to draw high-definition maps of road conditions in near real time, crucial for both fully autonomous driving and the advanced safety systems of today’s cars.

REM will be heading to the Far East, as well, through a collaboration Intel announced with carmaker SAIC to develop self-driving vehicles in China using Mobileye technology.

Mobileye may have been the highest-profile Israeli technology cruising the Las Vegas Strip, but it was hardly the only startup from Israel to hitch a ride at the show this year. And for Israeli auto-tech, in particular, the convention center felt at times like a Las Vegas tailgate party.

Ness Ziona-based Foresight showed off its QuadSight Vision product. Competing with Mobileye, QuadSight uses four cameras with two pairs of stereoscopic infrared and daylight cameras (which Foresight says exceed a human driver’s ability to see 3D objects in real time) to help self-driving cars avoid obstacles. QuadSight works regardless of inclement weather or poor lighting conditions.

Read the source article at ISRAEL21c

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Martin Buber Supported MLK In Letter To LBJ

Just before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the National Library of Israel has unveiled a timely letter from its Martin Buber Archive. In 1965 Buber, just before his death, joined a group of Hebrew University professors in writing to President Lyndon B. Johnson to emphasize the importance of the end of King’s brief incarceration following a march on Selma, Alabama. King had received the Nobel Peace Prize the previous year. “We are taking the liberty to express our deep satisfaction that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is now again a free man and can continue his righteous fight for the equality of his people,” the letter’s signatories wrote, according to a press release from the National Library. They acknowledged Johnson’s own participation in that fight; the president would meet with King shortly after his release from prison. Buber, one of the most significant Israeli Jewish philosophers, had helped form King’s own thinking; the civil rights leader cited Buber’s influential essay “I and Thou” in his famous “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” Read the full text of the letter, below.

Martin Buber Estate Martin Buber’s letter, with Hebrew University professors, to Johnson.

Read the source article at The Forward

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Albert Einstein Collection Heads to Taiwan

January 11, 2018-For the first time in history, the Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (HU) will be on display in Asia.  The exhibit, Albert Einstein: Life in Four Dimensions, curated by Avi Muller, will open January 12 at the National Chiang Kei-Shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan.  Scores of original Einstein memorabilia will be on display, including his 1921 Nobel Prize, handwritten pages from the Theory of  Relativity, letters exchanged with Sigmund Freud, family members and lovers, and the physicist’s own vinyl record collection.

Taiwan is the first stop on the Einstein exhibit’s Asia tour.  Taipei will house the collection through April 8, whereupon the exhibit will head to China and Japan.

This historical collaboration began more than two years ago when Taiwan’s Blue Dragon Art Company reached out to the Einstein Archives at Hebrew University to propose the exhibit.  Since then, curators, conservationists, shippers, and handlers have painstakingly worked to edit, collect, wrap and transport the 100-year-old collection.

In all, 75 artifacts were shipped from Hebrew University in Jerusalem to Taipei, Taiwan.  A Brinks truck, complete with a police escort and a dummy car to throw off potential thieves, delivered the collection.  Forty of the more valuable artifacts hand to be hand-delivered by Dr. Roni Grosz, curator of the Einstein Archives and his colleague, chief conservator Neil McManus.

“This exciting new exhibition in Taiwan further deepens Hebrew University’s ties with the people of Asia,” said HU president Professor Asher Cohen.  “For years our academics have collaborated with their colleagues in the Far East, now the people of Taiwan will get to experience one of our greatest minds up close.”  

 

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Unprecedented Security Measures Expected in New York’s Times Square This New Year’s Eve

While everyone knows New York City’s Times Square will be the scene of one big party this New Year’s Eve, police know it’s also a big target for terrorists. City officials said the standard security measures will, of course, be in place, like sand trucks and blocker vehicles. But after two terror attacks in NYC since Halloween, more efforts are being focused on trying to catch and prevent an attack, even though no credible threat has been found. For instance, parking garages will get increased scrutiny. In recent years, the NYPD had been closing some parking garages in the area of Times Square, and this year, they’ll close more in a wider zone. NYPD’s hotel team, which has discussed security ahead of previous New Year’s Eve events, will be on patrol this year. A high ranking police source tells CBN News the NYPD reviewed the recent Las Vegas shooting incident and has decided to position some of its 7,000 officers monitoring Times Square inside every hotel along 7th Avenue on New Year’s Eve. “People should expect to see an increase in security this New Year’s because of an ongoing threat we’ve seen from ISIS,” said former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Matt Olsen. “Really over the past few years they’ve sought to encourage their followers to carry out low-level attacks where ever they can, particularly targeting people where they gather in crowds,” he explained. A recent joint assessment released by the FBI, NYPD, Department of Homeland Security and the New York Port Authority said they “remain concerned about international terrorists and domestic extremists potentially targeting” the celebration in Times Square where over a million people are expected to gather to ring in 2018. One computer software tool the NYPD will be using is called Video Synopsis. It was developed by Dr. Shmuel Peleg, with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, School of Computer Science and Engineering. The cutting edge program allows police to monitor real time hours of video in minutes. It can even search for specific items in the video, such as men only wearing the color red. Dr. Peleg says whenever someone plans an evil action they do preparations and scout the area, and that’s when his software will help. “You can take the entire night and instead of watching 10 hours you can watch ten minutes. You can detect these people and check what they are planning,” said Dr. Peleg. He adds the technology was instrumental in identifying and leading the FBI to the Boston Marathon bombers in 2013.

Read the source article at CBN.com

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13 of the biggest health breakthroughs in Israel in 2017

Compound kills energy generating system of cancer

An Israeli researcher devised a synthetic compound to disable the enzymes that allow cancer cells to metastasize. When cancer cells leave the primary tumor and spread to other organs, they reprogram their energy-generating system in order to survive in harsh conditions with a shortage of nutrients like glucose. Prof. Uri Nir of Bar-Ilan University identified an enzyme called FerT in the energy-generating mitochondria of metastatic cancer cells – an enzyme normally only found in sperm cells (which need to function outside the body they came from). When he targeted FerT in lab mice, the malignant cells soon died. Using advanced chemical and robotic approaches, Nir’s lab team developed a synthetic compound, E260, which can be administered orally or by injection, causing a complete collapse of the entire mitochondria “power station.” “We have treated mice with metastatic cancer and this compound completely cured them with no adverse or toxic affect that we can see,” reported Nir, adding that normal cells were not affected. Phase 1 clinical trials are planned over the next 18 months. 

Personal menu to help avoid diabetes

In 2015, two researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel released a groundbreaking study showing that specific foods and food combinations affect each individual’s blood-sugar level differently.

That discovery was incorporated into a made-in-Israel app, DayTwo, which helps pre-diabetics and diabetics who are not insulin dependent choose dishes that can best balance their individual blood-sugar levels. The algorithm predicts blood-glucose response to thousands of foods based on gut microbiome information and other personal parameters.

High blood sugar is linked to energy dips, excessive hunger and weight gain as well as increased risk of metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

To use the app, which went on sale in the US in 2017, users need to answer a questionnaire about their medical history, physical characteristics, lifestyle and diet. A stool-sample kit is then FedExed to the user, who sends it on to DayTwo’s lab. There the microbiome DNA is sequenced and the data is plugged into an advanced machine-learning algorithm.

In about six to eight weeks, users receive a microbiome report and a six-month plan of personalized meal recommendations to help balance blood sugar.

World’s first bone implants

In August and December, doctors at Emek Medical Center in Afula performed rare bone implants – one on a man missing part of his arm bone and the second on a man missing five centimeters of his shinbone, both as the result of car accidents. Normally, the human body cannot restore bone segments, but revolutionary tissue-engineering technology developed by Haifa-based Bonus BioGroup enables growing semi-solid live bone tissue from the patient’s own fat cells. The tissue is then injected back into the patient’s body in the expectation that the missing bone fragment will be regenerated in around six weeks without any danger of implant rejection or the complications of traditional bone transplants. “This surgery is truly science fiction; it changes the entire game in orthopedics,” said Dr. Nimrod Rozen, head of orthopedics at Emek, who carried out the experimental procedure. In the future, the Bonus BioGroup regeneration technology could be used for a variety of bone-loss conditions, including bone cancer, for which there is currently no solution.

Artificial cornea

An early-stage Israeli ophthalmic medical devices startup developed a revolutionary artificial cornea implant that holds out hope to millions of blind and visually impaired people. The nanotech-based synthetic cornea by CorNeat Vision of Ra’anana proved successful in initial tests on animals. The company plans human implantations in Israel in mid-2018, and a larger clinical trial in the United States. According to the World Health Organization, diseases of the cornea are the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, affecting as many as 30 million people. “Unlike previous devices, which attempt to integrate optics into the native cornea, CorNeat’s implant leverages a virtual space under the conjunctiva that is rich with fibroblast cells, heals quickly and provides robust long-term integration,” said CorNeat Vision’s Almog Aley-Raz. The surgical procedure takes just 30 minutes. 

Hernia surgery just got simpler

In June, ISRAEL21c reported on a new tool developed by Via Surgical for attaching mesh to tissue, allowing surgeons to treat hernias with fewer complications, less pain and faster recovery. In the US alone, some five million people have a hernia – a protrusion of an organ or tissue through a weak spot in the abdomen or groin — according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Traditionally, open hernia-repair surgery involved stitching a mesh patch, or surrounding tissue, over the weak tissue. Today, many hernias are repaired laparoscopically, but because suturing through tiny laparoscopic incisions is difficult, most surgeons use a less ideal solution — screw-like tacks to secure the mesh to the abdominal wall or bone. Via Surgical’s unique FasTouch cartridge system, which received FDA approval in 2016, affixes prosthetic material to soft tissue. It is designed like sutures and delivered like tacks, with the goal of providing the best of both worlds for laparoscopic hernia repair. “Surgeons are very excited about it,” says Lena Levin, cofounder and CFO of Via Surgical. “Hernia repair is one of the most common surgeries.

Screening newborns for autism

Israeli engineer Raphael Rembrand developed a simple noninvasive way to screen newborns for signs of autism using the same instrument currently used to test infants’ hearing. The SensPD diagnostic test, now ready for clinical trials, uses optoacoustic emissions as an indicator of the baby’s overall sensory perception. It can be administered hours after birth, and because the inner-ear mechanism develops in the third trimester of pregnancy, one day it may even be possible to screen for autism spectrum disorders prenatally. Some three million children are diagnosed with autism every year. The earlier the condition is detected the better the possible outcome. Thirty years ago, Rembrand’s four-year-old son was diagnosed as autistic, but it was too late at this point for critical early-intervention therapies. “Applying interventions before the age of two results in better than 90% success rate in ingraining social skills for social integration,” says Rembrand.

Reversing cognitive decline with cannabis

In May, scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and from the University of Bonn in Germany announced that they had restored the memory performance of lab mice to a juvenile stage by administering a small quantity of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. The report in Nature Medicine showed that after giving low doses of THC to mice over a four-week period, the cognitive functions of 12- to 18-month-old mice treated with cannabis were just as good as the functions of two-month-old mice in the control group. Clinical trials on humans are to follow. A study by Therapix Biosciences presented in September to the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines’ Conference on Cannabinoids in Cologne, Germany, similarly suggested that THC can significantly reverse age-related cognitive impairment in old mice.

Early diagnostic test for Parkinson’s

This year, Hebrew University of Jerusalem Ph.D. student Suaad Abd-Elhadi won the Kaye Innovation Award for her diagnostic tool, ELISA, which detects Parkinson’s disease at a much earlier stage than existing tools, and better tracks progression of the disease and response to therapy. Parkinson’s disease, affecting seven to 10 million people worldwide, is characterized by stiffness, tremors and shaking. Medication to control symptoms is costly. Currently there are no standard diagnostic tests for Parkinson’s other than clinical information provided by the patient and the findings of a neurological exam. Once Parkinson’s is revealed, the neurodegenerative disease is usually already progressing. Abd-Elahdi’s diagnostic tool detects the alpha-synuclein protein closely associated with Parkinson’s disease, and could lead to a minimally invasive and cost-effective way to diagnose the disorder in time to improve the lives of patients. Abd-Elhadi has demonstrated a proof of concept and is analyzing a large cohort of samples as part of a clinical study. Through its Yissum technology transfer company, Hebrew University has signed an agreement with Integra Holdings for further development and commercialization.

Hip-Hope cushions falls in elderly

Each year, nearly 3 million seniors worldwide are hospitalized due to hip fractures – many experiencing a drastic deterioration in quality of life. The direct annual cost of treating hip fractures exceeds $15 billion in the US alone. Rather than focus on better ways to treat the broken bone, Israeli engineer Amatsia Raanan decided to use cutting-edge technology to avoid injury in the first place. He and three cofounders developed Hip-Hope, a smart wearable device designed as a belt. Once Hip-Hope’s multi-sensor detection system senses an impending collision with a ground surface, two large airbags are deployed instantly from each side of the belt to cushion the hips, and a connected smartphone app sends an automatic alert message to predetermined recipients. The 1-kilo (2.2-pound) device, due to go on sale shortly, even has a built-in emergency call button that the user can activate in any situation of distress. Hip-Hope is certified by the CE (Europe), FDA (United States), Health-Canada and AMAR (Israel). In studies carried out at a major Canadian lab, the Israeli device was proven to reduce impact by 90%.

An injection that melts fat

Jerusalem-based Raziel Therapeutics has developed an injection that melts fat cells and postpones the proliferation of new fat cells. The medication generates heat to use up some of the free fatty acid that’s produced by fat cells in the body, which in turn reduces fat tissue. Obesity has become a worldwide epidemic, and the World Obesity Federation predicts that by 2025, a third of the world’s population will be overweight or obese. Raziel’s technology, which targets specific areas in the body, is now in clinical trials in the US. Preliminary results show a 30 to 50 percent reduction in subcutaneous fat at the treated site after a single injection. Each treatment lasts between six and nine months, but treatment could be more effective in those who change their lifestyle in parallel. An audio-analysis technology developed at Ben-Gurion University can assess sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) while the user is awake, at home and not hooked up to machines or sensors. The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that 22 million Americans suffer from the malady and that as many as 80% of moderate to severe OSA cases go undiagnosed. Currently, patients are diagnosed using overnight polysomnography (PSG) to record brain waves, blood oxygen level, heart rate, breathing, and eye and leg movements via electrodes and sensors. The new system, which does not require contact sensors, could be installed onto a smartphone or other device that utilizes ambient microphones. It analyzes speech during waking hours and records and evaluates overnight breathing sounds using new technology that is simpler and significantly less expensive than PSG. The researchers have tested the system on more than 350 subjects and are working toward commercialization. 

First implant for heart failure

In July, a 72-year old Canadian man became the world’s first recipient of an Israeli-developed implant to treat diastolic heart failure – a fairly common condition for which there is no effective long-term treatment. The minimally invasive surgery was performed at Rambam Health Care Campus, a medical center in Haifa. The CORolla implant was developed by cardiologists at Israeli startup CorAssist Cardiovascular of Haifa. The elastic device is implanted inside the left ventricle and applies direct expansion force on the ventricle wall to help the heart fill with blood. The patient, Robert MacLachlan, had run out of treatment options in Canada for his diastolic heart failure. His wife read about CORolla on the Internet and contacted Rambam. 

Renewing damaged cells

Researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science discovered a molecule in newborn hearts that appears to control the process of renewing heart muscle. The findings, published in June in Nature, point to new directions for research on restoring the function of damaged cardiac cells. Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. The Agrin molecule seems to “unlock” the renewal process and enable heart-muscle repair – never seen before outside the womb. Normally, after a heart attack the damaged muscle cells called cardiomyocytes are replaced by scar tissue, which cannot pump blood and therefore place a burden on the remaining cardiomyocytes. Following a single injection of Agrin, damaged mouse hearts were almost completely healed and fully functional. Scar tissue was dramatically reduced, and replaced by living heart tissue that restored the heart’s pumping function. The research team has begun pre-clinical studies in larger animals.

Read the source article at ISRAEL21c