HU’s Unique Multidisciplinary Approach is Key to its Success

      By Diane Hess

      For over 100 years, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) has been a trailblazer in multidisciplinary education, encouraging student and faculty collaboration in various fields of study.

      Today, more than ever, it is seeing the fruits of its multidisciplinary focus, which has been formalized in course offerings and programs. In 2018, approximately 65% of the innovations recorded to HU’s technology transfer company, Yissum, stemmed from partnerships between academic faculties—such as medicine and engineering, or agriculture and science.

      “I think this is an important validator for the hypothesis that the multidisciplinary approach has impacted successes coming out of the university,” said Dr. Yaron Daniely, CEO and President of Yissum. “I believe that number is very high compared to other institutions globally.”

      In the fall of 2018, the Hebrew University announced that entrepreneurship—a hallmark of the Israeli economy and, more broadly, its culture—will be a required class for all students, even those majoring in linguistics or philosophy.

      Avner Mendelson, President & CEO of Bank Leumi USA and an HU alumnus, believes in this ethos of multidisciplinary entrepreneurship. “From a real-world corporate and banking perspective, we really see that cross-disciplinary collaboration is key for so many of the Israeli innovators taking their next step in the U.S. market. As a financial institution, Bank Leumi is keenly focused on emerging technologies and supporting commercial ventures in all phases of growth—from addressing the unique needs of start-ups and supporting companies through growth phases, to structuring financial models that help our clients sustain success,” he said.  “I strongly believe that the entrepreneurial foundations that HU provides its students equip these future leaders with a practical understanding of how to translate ideas into commercially viable innovations.”

      The Hebrew University offers many curricular opportunities for cross-pollination. One of its initiatives, the BioDesign Center, takes a collective tact to medical innovation. Created by the Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical Center, in conjunction with Stanford University, it provides teams of medical fellows, bioengineering, and business graduate students the structure to collaborate and commercialize solutions to medical problems.

      “These students are the best physicists, chemists, and medical students, and many will be interested in forming a company,” said Dr. Zvi Wiener, dean of the Jerusalem School of Business Administration at the Hebrew University. “BioDesign gives them an opportunity to learn how to start a business, raise money from investors, and hire employees.”

      Dr. Wiener highlights commercial successes of the program, including ThoraXS, a one-handed thoracic portal opener that shortens the time required to insert a tube into a patient’s chest from minutes to less than 30 seconds. The technology has been effective in preventing deaths from chest trauma. It was developed by engineering and business students from Hebrew University, along with an internal medicine specialist and pulmonologist from Hadassah Medical Center.

      “One of the goals of the business school is to make students more hirable,” said Dr. Wiener. “If they have been involved in an attempt to develop a new product, they are much more valuable.”

      Last month the business school launched a FinTech Center to help students bring machine learning and data analytics technologies to the marketplace. The center offers a mentoring program for computer scientists with experienced entrepreneurs and academics.

      “From an industry perspective, multidisciplinary innovations are largely more valuable and attractive than single-disciplinary or classical inventions,” said Dr. Daniely. “A technology that combines healthcare with data science, or agriculture with engineering, or machine learning with nanotechnology, is highly sought after in the marketplace.”

      One of Yissum’s companies, Future Meat, received a $2.2 million investment in May from Tyson Foods to develop lab-grown meat. Dr. Yaakov Nahmias, a bioengineering professor and the founder of the company, developed a cost-effective way to grow meat from animal cells in a lab. When he began his research, lab-grown meat cost about $5,000 to produce. He lowered the price to $400 per pound and expects to reduce it further.

      “By looking at a problem in life sciences from an engineering standpoint, Dr. Nahmias essentially created a multidisciplinary innovation,” said Dr. Daniely. “He applied his skills in one area to a completely different domain; it’s a novel approach.”

      Grail, a healthcare company focused on the early detection of cancer, brought together professors from HU’s computer science and engineering department, as well as doctors from Hadassah Medical Center. The company, which has teamed up with Yissum, is creating a method for doctors to screen patients with a simple blood test for abnormal tissue or cell death.

      Dr. Shlomo Magdassi, a chemistry professor at the Hebrew University for over 30 years, has lent his expertise in colloids, a type of chemical mixture, and nanoparticles to a host of innovations. He has worked with physicists, biologists, and mechanical engineers on several technologies. Among them, Dr. Magdassi has created solar panels in California using coatings that contain nanoparticles, printed medication that can be customized for individual patients, glass printing technology—he even developed technology to print logos on coffee and cappuccino.

      Dr. Shlomo Magdassi

      For the past 18 months, Dr. Magdassi has been working with Dr. Oded Shoseyov, a nanotechnology professor at HU who is currently focusing on the molecular biology of plants. With funding from Yissum, their lab results, using waste from wood material, have been successful and they’re now investigating commercial applications.

      “It’s impossible to be masters in everything we do, and we know that we must collaborate,” said Dr. Magdassi. “It’s the spirit of the Hebrew University.”


      3D bioprinted lungs to be available for global transplants

      CollPlant, an Israeli regenerative medicine company focused on 3D bioprinting of tissues and organs, signed a license, development and commercialization agreement with United Therapeutics Corporation of Maryland for 3D bioprinted lung transplants.

      The agreement combines CollPlant’s proprietary recombinant human collagen (rhCollagen) derived from engineered tobacco plants, and its BioInk technology, with the regenerative medicine and organ manufacturing capabilities of United Therapeutics subsidiary Lung Biotechnology PBC.

      One of many companies founded by Hebrew University nanotechnology pioneer Prof. Oded Shoseyov, CollPlant will manufacture and supply BioInk for a few years to meet development process demand, and will provide technical support to United Therapeutics as it establishes a US facility for the manufacture of CollPlant’s rhCollagen and BioInk.

      The BioInk product line also includes a soft-tissue repair matrix for treating tendinopathy and a wound repair matrix to promote a rapid optimal healing of acute and chronic wounds.

      In addition to the initial focus on 3D bioprinted lungs for transplant surgeries anywhere in the world, the agreement grants United Therapeutics an option to expand the field of its license to add up to three additional organs.

      “We are excited to work with CollPlant’s extraordinary Israeli technology to transform the tobacco plant that is so associated with lung disease into a collagen-expressing plant that will be essential to the production of an unlimited number of transplantable lungs,” said United Therapeutics Chairwoman and CEO Martine Rothblatt.

      Once the agreement is approved by the Israel Innovation Authority and meets certain closing conditions, Ness Ziona-based CollPlant will receive an upfront payment of $5 million and milestone payments of up to $15 million based on the achievement of certain operational and regulatory milestones related to the development of manufactured lungs.

      Read the source article at ISRAEL21c


      The man who just can’t stop inventing

      Oded Shoseyov’s lackluster grades failed to get him into the undergraduate chemistry program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. So he audaciously persuaded a committee of professors to take a chance on him.

      It was a good gamble: He would later become a professor of protein engineering and nano-biotechnology at the same university, and one of its most prolific inventors and serial entrepreneurs.

      Shoseyov, now about to found the 12th company spun out of his research, has a knack for turning crazy concepts into commercially viable products such as printed meals, human collagen, transgenic eucalyptus trees for the paper industry, and a pooper-scooper that turns dog droppings into odorless powdered fertilizer.

      “I wasn’t a particularly good student but I was always curious about science. As a kid, I had a chemistry and electronics lab and I built things with my brother,” Shoseyov tells ISRAEL21c from his lab at the Robert H. Smith Institute of Plant Science and Genetics at Hebrew University’s Rehovot campus for agriculture, food and environment.

      He is the eighth generation of his family in Rehovot, a city of 150,000 about 20 kilometers south of Tel Aviv. A major academic and biotech hub, Rehovot also has a rich farming tradition.

      “My great-grandfather was one of the founders of Rehovot. What is now the main street, Rehov Herzl, was his vineyard,” Shoseyov relates. “We still own a vineyard of about 50 acres. Situated in the middle is a boutique winery, Bravdo, established about 19 years ago.”

      Prof. Oded Shoseyov sampling a product of his Bravdo winery. Photo: courtesy

      The name of the winery pays homage to its founding partner, Hebrew University Prof. Ben Ami Bravdo, a leading scientist of modern viticulture under whom Shoseyov studied for his PhD on the biochemistry of wine and grape flavor.

      After a post-doc at the University of California at Davis in 1987 to 1990, Shoseyov accepted a position with Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agriculture and founded its first protein-engineering lab.

      Cellulose is everywhere

      For the past 15 years, Shoseyov has focused on nano-biotech, especially nanocellulose.

      This lightweight transparent nano-fiber is stronger than steel and has infinite potential as the basis for super-durable fabrics, shoes, touchscreens, packaging, paints, buildings, medical implants and much more. It’s derived from plant cellulose, a polysaccharide (sugar) that is the most abundant polymer on earth.

      “Cellulose is everywhere,” says Shoseyov, whose first breakthrough back in 1993 was developing and cloning a protein that binds to cellulose in order to create composite materials.

      At that point he was naively ready to publish a paper before patenting his invention. Luckily, he mentioned this during a casual lunch with George Aaron, cofounder of an Israeli-American pharmaceutical company for which Shoseyov had done some consulting.

      Alarmed, Aaron put down his fork and phoned Yissum, Hebrew University’s tech-transfer company. He hastily arranged to get Shoseyov’s protein patented before the paper was published, gave the budding scientist $150,000 to do a proof of concept, promised him 4% equity in a commercial venture based on his invention, and asked Yissum to negotiate any licensing agreements.

      “We didn’t even write the agreement on a napkin but they fulfilled it,” says Shoseyov.

      CBD Technologies, the protein-engineering company founded in December 1993 as a result of that café conversation, merged with FuturaGene 13 years later and was sold for $100 million to Brazilian paper company Suzano in 2010. The R&D center remained in Rehovot Science Park.

      Shoseyov’s technology accelerates the growth rate of transgenic eucalyptus trees used for making paper. (Transgenic plants are enhanced with DNA from other organisms.)

      “It was the first commercial transgenic tree ever approved,” says Shoseyov.

      “I realized it was one thing to do research and publish a paper but we can find ways to use the data for economic benefit. So I’ve done that now more than 10 times,” he tells ISRAEL21c.

      Human collagen from tobacco, food from a printer

      Another offshoot of his university laboratory is regenerative medicine company CollPlant.

      Recombinant human collagen fibers extracted from Shoseyov’s proprietary transgenic tobacco plants are six times tougher than the body’s own tendons and ligaments.

      CollPlant’s first two CE-approved products are for healing diabetic foot ulcers and treating tendinitis.

      “We have now developed a bio-ink based on our collagen that is suitable for use in 3D printing, ”Shoseyov reports, and he has collaborations in place to develop 3D-printed human corneas, kidneys and lungs.

      Meanwhile, Shoseyov is establishing his 12th company, Chef-it, with fellow Hebrew University Prof. Ido Braslavsky.

      “It’s really a revolution,” says Shoseyov. “For the first time we can print the food and cook it at the same time.”

      The Chef-it computerized platform enables 4D printing and cooking of personalized meals using ingredient cartridges including one containing calorie-free nanocellulose fiber as a self-assembling binder in place of starch, eggs, gluten or gelatin.

      A wide variety of dishes can be baked, fried or grilled, and tailored according to taste preferences and dietary restrictions. Printed and cooked layer by layer, they can take virtually any form.

      “You could make a plant-based burger with fries in the middle,” says Shoseyov. “I’m talking about things that are not possible with regular cooking methods.”

      In about 18 months he hopes to have beta sites up and running in Israeli workplaces. Hospitals and restaurants may follow.

      In the future, he envisions individual Chef-it users programming the machine to prepare food in time for the kids to come home from school. “You could use a smartphone app to send a print command to each of your children to order exactly what they want and need for their personal diet and taste,” he explains.

      70 by 70

      There’s no question those chemistry professors at Hebrew University are happy they accepted Oded Shoseyov in 1978. His first year of university, after his service in the artillery corps, Shoseyov made the dean’s list.

      He has won several awards, authored or co-authored more than 180 scientific publications, invented or co-invented 50 patents, and was recently chosen by the Founders Studio for its “70 by 70” feature saluting outstanding Israelis.

      In addition to overseeing the 20 graduate students in his lab, teaching classes and maintaining an active role in his businesses, Shoseyov enjoys running, mountain biking and singing in a quartet.

      “My inspiration is Leonardo da Vinci, the most interdisciplinary scientist ever — a chemist and medical doctor, engineer and artist,” says Shoseyov, the father of a daughter and two sons from his first marriage and stepfather of two daughters with his present wife, Yaeli Pintchuk, a psychologist specializing in eating disorders.

      Other nanotech companies Shoseyov helped found are SP Nano, Melodea(nano-crystalline cellulose from paper sludge for structural foam, composites and adhesives), Valentis Nanotech (nano-bio-based transparent films for food packaging and agriculture), Paulee CleanTec (transforming pet and human waste into sterile powdered fertilizer), GemmaCert (fast cannabis plant analysis), Biobetter (producing therapeutic antibodies on tobacco plants), Cannabi-Tech (standardization tools for medical cannabis products) and BondX (environmentally friendly bio-additives for the paper industry).

      He also serves on the boards of PlantArcBio and UBQ Materials.

      Most of his firms’ offices are in Rehovot Science Park. At the two companies headquartered in the North, he delegates more of the responsibilities.

      “I’m always ready to give my ideas up to other people because I have probably more than I can take care of myself. I believe if you really want to take something to the next step it’s important to collaborate with people from different disciplines,” Shoseyov says. “I’m lucky to work with very good people so it’s not all on my shoulders.”

      Read the source article at ISRAEL21c


      The Goal: Printing the Perfect Burger from Cellulose

      Israeli food tech company Chef-it is about 18-24 months away from disrupting the fast food burger industry, according to Oded Shoseyov, Chef-it’s co-founder. The startup’s secret weapon: cellulose.

      Chef-it is developing a machine that can instantly “print” a juicy burger from a cartridge containing plant-based proteins, fats, and flavor components and the aforementioned cellulose, a common fiber that can be manipulated into a variety of textures, including that of beef muscle and fat. Chef-it’s technology uses infrared light to simultaneously cook the food as it prints.

      Oded Shoseyov. Photo: Tal Azoulay
      Oded Shoseyov. Photo: Tal Azoulay

      According to Mr. Shoseyov, a professor of plant molecular biology, protein engineering and nano-biotechnology at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Chef-it can imitate the flavor effect of different cooking styles, such as grilling, baking, and frying.

      A prototype of this machine, located at the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment in Rehovot, in central Israel, currently takes 10 minutes to print a single burger, Mr. Shoseyov told Calcalist in an interview Tuesday. Chef-it’s team is hard at work bringing the printing time down to three minutes, he added.

      The company’s first target markets include coworking spaces, offices, and food trucks, Mr. Shoseyov said. The company successfully printed its first burger six months ago and is expecting to hit the market within two years.

      A fast and convincing alternative to meat, Chef-It is setting out to deliver products that are environmentally-friendly and potentially healthier than traditional processed foods. Cellulose, Mr. Shoseyov says, has a zero glycemic and caloric value.

      Along with Scientific co-founder Ido Braslavski, Mr. Shoseyov began the research behind Chef-It’s technology in 2013. In 2016, the company received a $282,000 (NIS 1 million) grant from Israel’s government innovation investment arm. Currently employing a team of eight, the company is in the process of raising a $2 million funding round, which Mr. Shoseyov said is expected to complete within two months.

      The global meat industry is ripe for disruption, being one of the world’s biggest polluters, generating as much greenhouse gas emissions as all of the world’s cars, trucks, trains, ships, and airplanes combined, and using 30% of all land and over 25% of all freshwater on Earth, Mr. Shoseyov said Monday speaking at a Food and Tech conference. The conference was hosted by Calcalist, and by Israel’s Bank Leumi at Labs TLV, a co-working and events space in central Tel Aviv.

      By using cellulose as a malleable binder, Chef-It could potentially print every type of food known to men, and even invent new foods, Mr. Shoseyov said.

      As a first target, the company set out to print the perfect its burger. By utilizing adjustable infrared cooking levels the company hopes it can get it just right.

      “We are a few months away from delivering a burger that is indistinguishable from the real thing,” Mr. Shoseyov said.

      Read the source article at


      Oded Shoseyov: How we’re harnessing nature’s hidden superpowers

      What do you get when you combine the strongest materials from the plant world with the most elastic ones from the insect kingdom? Super-performing materials that might transform … everything. Nanobiotechnologist Oded Shoseyov walks us through examples of amazing materials found throughout nature, in everything from cat fleas to sequoia trees, and shows the creative ways his team is harnessing them in everything from sports shoes to medical implants.








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