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Rosetrees Trust Interdisciplinary Prize Awarded to Hebrew University Scientists

18/09/2017

Yaakov Nahmias and Nir Friedman win prize for a bold new model of human metabolism

The Rosetrees Trust Interdisciplinary Prize for 2017 has been awarded to two scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Prof. Yaakov Nahmias and Prof. Nir Friedman. This is the first group from outside the United Kingdom to win the prize. The award was presented at the 30th Rosetrees Trust Anniversary Symposium on September 14 at the UCL Institute of Child Health in London.

Profs. Nahmias and Friedman won for their research proposal to engineer a platform that mimics the physiological dynamics of human metabolism. The circadian rhythm or “body clock” is a daily cycle that regulates many physiological processes, such as telling our bodies when to eat or when to sleep. 

With funding from the Rosetrees Trust, the two scientists will lead a team of Hebrew University researchers in combining Prof. Nahmias’ groundbreaking organ-on-chip platform with Prof. Friedman’s key understanding of molecular networks. This interdisciplinary partnership will unravel the complex interplay between changing metabolism and its underlying genetic regulation in human cells, replacing current animal models that lack clinical relevance. The research will be instrumental to drug development, offering a route to the rational design of therapeutics for obesity, fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes.

The Rosetrees Trust is a private, family funded charity, formed in 1987 to support medical research. Rosetrees provides grants to fund outstanding research projects across all areas of human health and disease. The theme of the 2017 Rosetrees Interdisciplinary Prize is to promote collaborative research between medicine and engineering.  The prize is worth up to £250,000 over 3 years.

The prize is given each year to two researchers from different disciplines with the purpose of inspiring collaborative research between medicine and another field, in the hopes of pushing forward medical breakthroughs in the realm of human health. This year, for the first time, two sets of research teams impressed the Rosetrees Trust panel of judges enough to issue a joint prize: in addition to the Hebrew University team, Dr. James Dear and Dr. Maiwenn Kersaudy-Kerhoas from Edinburgh University won for their proposal to develop a prototype device to rapidly diagnose drug-induced liver damage.

“Each year Rosetrees seeks the best research to support and every year the quality is a little better,” said Richard Ross, Chairman of the Rosetrees Trust. “This year the judging panel found it extremely hard to choose a winner because there were so many outstanding projects.”

Prof. Yaakov Nahmias is the founding director of the Alexander Grass Center for Bioengineering, which brings Hebrew University researchers together to develop transformative technologies, and an ERC-funded tissue engineer at the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences. His research is focused on the integration of tissue engineering, microfluidics, and metabolism. Projects include nanotechnology-based diagnostic devices and microchip alternatives for animal and human testing recently commercialized to Tissue Dynamics Ltd., a startup company that was established by Prof. Nahmias together with Yissum, the technology transfer company of the Hebrew University.

Prof. Nir Friedman is a professor at the Rachel and Selim Benin School of Computer Science and Engineering, and the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, at the Hebrew University. His research combines machine learning and statistical learning with systems biology, specifically in the fields of gene regulation, transcription and chromatin. He has received two ERC advanced awards.

Prof. Yaakov Nahmias said, “The Rosetrees Trust Interdisciplinary Prize is instrumental in bringing scientists of different disciplines together. It will enable us to not only build a groundbreaking model of human physiology on a chip, but also to leverage the advanced computational resources needed to understand the vast amount of data our platform will generate, in the hope of developing critical new therapies for metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.”

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading university and premier research institution. Founded in 1918 by innovative thinkers including Albert Einstein, the Hebrew University is a pluralistic institution that advances science and knowledge for the benefit of humankind. For more information, please visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

Rosetrees Trust Interdisciplinary Prize Awarded to Hebrew University Scientists
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New research could lead to earlier diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease

05/07/2017

Suaad Abd-Elhadi wins Kaye Innovation Award for her work on a new diagnostic approach that could pave the way for early diagnosis of one of the most common and debilitating neurodegenerative disorders

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in humans, after Alzheimer’s disease. It is typically characterized by changes in motor control such as tremors and shaking, but can also include non-motor symptoms, from the cognitive to the behavioral. An estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson's disease, with medication costing approximately $2,500 a year, and therapeutic surgery costing up to $100,000 dollars, per patient.

Making an accurate diagnosis of Parkinson’s, particularly in early stages and mild cases, is difficult, and there are currently no standard diagnostic tests other than clinical information provided by the patient and the findings of a neurological exam. One of the best hopes for improving diagnosis is to develop a reliable test for identifying changes in the severity of the disease. This will allow drug companies to test potential drugs at higher efficacy.

Now, a novel diagnostic approach developed at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Medicine could pave the way toward such a test. Working under the supervision of Dr. Ronit Sharon, at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC), PhD student Suaad Abd-Elhadi developed the lipid ELISA, an approach that could lead to earlier detection of Parkinson’s, along with better tracking of the disease’s progression and a patient’s response to therapy.  

How the ELISA works

ELISA stands for “enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.” An assay is a procedure used in laboratory settings to assess the presence, amount and activity of a target entity, such as a drug, cell or biochemical substance. ELISA is a common assay technique that involves targeting cellular secretions.

In the case of the lipid ELISA, the cellular secretion of interest is a specific protein called the alpha-Synuclin protein. This protein serves as a convenient biomarker that is closely associated with the tissues where Parkinson’s disease can be detected, along with the neurological pathways the disease travels along, causing its characteristic symptoms.

The development of a simple and highly sensitive diagnostic tool that can detect Parkinson’s biomarkers could lead to a minimally invasive and cost-effective way to improve the lives of Parkinson’s patients. Toward this end, Abd-Elhadi has recently demonstrated a proof of concept to the high potential of the lipid-ELISA assay in differentiating healthy and Parkinson’s affected subjects. She is now in the process of analyzing a large cohort of samples, including moderate and severe Parkinson's, and control cases, as part of a clinical study.

The Hebrew University, which holds granted patents on the technology through its technology transfer company Yissum, has signed an agreement with Integra Holdings for further development and commercialization.

2017 Kaye innovation Award

In recognition of her work, Suaad Abd-Elhadi was awarded the Kaye Innovation Award for 2017.

The Kaye Innovation Awards at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have been awarded annually since 1994. Isaac Kaye of England, a prominent industrialist in the pharmaceutical industry, established the awards to encourage faculty, staff and students of the Hebrew University to develop innovative methods and inventions with good commercial potential, which will benefit the university and society. For more information about the 2017 Kaye Innovations Awards, visit http://bit.ly/kaye2017.

Suaad Abd-Elhadi is a direct-track Ph.D. student at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of the institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada in the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine. Under the supervision of Dr. Ronit Sharon, she conducts research that has been published in Scientific Reports and Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. She completed her BSc in medical laboratory science at Hadassah Academic College, and was awarded a scholarship from the Liba and Manek Teich Endowment Fund for Doctoral Students and an Adrian Sucari Scholarship for Academic Excellence.

Photo for download: http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170613_abdelhadi.jpg - Doctoral student and Kaye Innovation Award winner Suaad Abd-Elhadi (Credit: Hebrew University)

About the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel’s leading academic and research institution, is ranked among the top 100 universities in the world. Founded in 1918 by visionaries including Albert Einstein, the Hebrew University is a pluralistic institution where science and knowledge are advanced for the benefit of humankind. For more information, please visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en

New research could lead to earlier diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease
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Algorithm leads to dramatic improvement in drug discovery methods; Prof. Amiram Goldblum wins 2017 Kaye Innovation Award

22/06/2017

An algorithm developed at the Hebrew University cuts through the immense number of possible solutions to shorten drug discovery times from years to months

Discovery earns Prof. Amiram Goldblum a 2017 Kaye Innovation Award

Antibiotics for treating particularly resistant diseases, molecules that block immune system overreactions, molecules that inhibit the growth of cancer cells by removing excess iron, molecules that may increase the digestion of fats: all these and more have been discovered in recent years using a unique computerized approach to solving particularly complex problems.

Over the past five years, an Iterative Stochastic Elimination (ISE) algorithm developed in the laboratory of Prof. Amiram Goldblum, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute for Drug Research, has been applied to the discovery of potential drugs. The Institute is part of the School of Pharmacy in the Faculty Of Medicine. First tested to solve problems in the structure and function of proteins, the algorithm has since been used to reduce drug discovery times — from years to months and even to weeks.

Goldblum’s solution is different from other algorithms called "heuristics," which are based on deriving solutions using logic and intuition, and suggests better solutions. In this instance, the algorithm produces a model for the activity of small molecules on one or more proteins known to cause the disease. A model is a set of filters of physico-chemical properties that distinguish between active and non-active molecules, or between more and less active ones. Millions of molecules can then be screened by the model, which enables the scoring of each molecule by a number that reflects its ability to pass through the filters based on its own physico-chemical properties.

A model of this type is usually built in a few hours and is capable of screening millions of molecules in less than a day. Therefore, within a few days or more, it is possible to make initial predictions about the candidate molecules for a specific activity to combat a disease. Most of those candidates have never been known before to have any biological activity.

For the development of this algorithm, Prof. Goldblum won an American Chemical Society Prize in 2000. Since then, the algorithm has solved many problems related to understanding various biological systems such as protein flexibility, proteins-small molecules interactions, and more. These and other discoveries stem from collaborations between Goldblum's laboratory, where his students employ the algorithm to solve various problems, and laboratories and pharmaceutical companies in the world that test Goldblum's predictions in Germany, Japan, the United States and of course in Israel.

On the strength of Goldblum’s technology, the company Pepticom was founded in 2011 by Yissum, the Technology Transfer arm of the Hebrew University, to revolutionize the discovery of novel peptide drug candidates. Pepticom’s key asset is an exceptional artificial intelligence platform aimed at designing peptide ligands based upon solved crystal structures of proteins.

Wide Applications

The algorithm can be applied to other types of problems, in which the number of possibilities is immense and are not solvable even if the world's most powerful computers would work on it together. These include problems in which the number of possible outcomes are 10 to the power of 100 and more, such as problems of land transport, aviation, communications and biological systems.

In the field of transportation, this could involve finding alternative ways to get from one point to another using traffic data on each of the alternative roads leading between the two points. In aviation, an optimal arrangement of landings and takeoffs at busy airports. In telecommunications, finding the least expensive routes within a complex array of communication cables. And in biology, a model that is constructed on the basis of a few dozen or hundreds of molecules serves to screen millions of molecules and to discover new drug candidates. These are then sent to experimental labs to be developed further, and in some cases have been crucial in furthering the development of treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and different forms of cancer.

Kaye Innovation Award

In recognition of his work, Prof. Amiram Goldblum was awarded the Kaye Innovation Award for 2017.

The Kaye Innovation Awards at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have been awarded annually since 1994. Isaac Kaye of England, a prominent industrialist in the pharmaceutical industry, established the awards to encourage faculty, staff and students of the Hebrew University to develop innovative methods and inventions with good commercial potential, which will benefit the university and society. For more information about the 2017 Kaye Innovations Awards, visit http://bit.ly/kaye2017.

About the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel’s leading academic and research institution, is ranked among the top 100 universities in the world. Founded in 1918 by visionaries including Albert Einstein, the Hebrew University is a pluralistic institution where science and knowledge are advanced for the benefit of humankind. For more information, please visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en

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Algorithm leads to dramatic improvement in drug discovery methods; Prof. Amiram Goldblum wins 2017 Kaye Innovation Award
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Germany’s Order of Merit Awarded to Hebrew University President Menahem Ben-Sasson

02/03/2017

“The Order of Merit recognizes Prof. Ben-Sasson's outstanding, extensive, and personal commitment to German-Israeli relations in the field of science, and thus to the cooperation between our two nations.”

 

The Ambassador of Germany to Israel, Dr. Clemens von Goetze, today bestowed the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany on Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The ceremony took place at the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus in Jerusalem. [Photos are available for download below.]

 

“The Order of Merit recognizes Prof. Ben-Sasson's outstanding, extensive, and personal commitment to German-Israeli relations in the field of science, and thus to the cooperation between our two nations,” said Dr. Clemens von Goetze, the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Israel.

 

The Order of Merit is the highest tribute the Federal Republic of Germany can award to individuals and is the only honor that may be awarded in all fields of endeavor. The Order of Merit may be awarded to Germans as well as foreigners for achievements in the political, economic, social or intellectual realm and for all kinds of outstanding services in the field of social, charitable or philanthropic work.

 

“I thank the President of Germany for this high honor. It is a tribute to the many researchers, students and administrators at the Hebrew University, who for two generations have advanced research, student exchanges, and daily cooperation with German institutions,” said Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, President of the Hebrew University. “In every interaction with Germany there is an element of introspection. We must never forget the Holocaust, its victims, and its perpetrators; yet this memory also unites us in a common duty¾to remember the past, to educate accordingly, and to use science and research to create a brighter future for humanity. To this end we will continue to grow our academic and research relations with Germany.”

 

The Association of University Heads of Israel, representing the heads of Israel's research universities, said: “The Association of University Heads of Israel congratulates Prof. Menahem Ben Sasson on receiving the Order of Merit on behalf of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany. In his capacity as president of the Hebrew University, Prof. Ben-Sasson promotes collaborations with leading academic institutions around the world and is a model for promoting academic research in Israel."

 

Hebrew University Cooperation With German Institutions

 

Germany is now considered the Hebrew University`s most significant research partner in Europe, second worldwide only to the US. Cooperation is based on scientific excellence, bringing together top scientists in a wide range of joint research projects, as well as a growing number of students from both countries. Among the many collaborations are the Max Planck Center for Sensory Processing of the Brain in Action, the Martin Buber Society of Fellows at the Hebrew University, several Minerva Centers, and recently the Fraunhofer Project Center for Cybersecurity in Jerusalem.

 

Even before diplomatic relations were established between Israel and Germany, there were connections between students and faculty at the Hebrew University and Freie Universität Berlin. The first official partnership between the universities was formalized in 1986, and since 2011 they have been working together as strategic partners, with numerous projects in the natural and social sciences and the humanities, as well as programs for student exchange and the promotion of young researchers. In 2015, the two universities signed an agreement to launch a joint doctoral program, the first of its kind between German and Israeli institutions.

 

Prof. Ben-Sasson is the thirteenth president of The Hebrew University and is currently serving his second four-year term in office. Prior to serving as president, Prof. Ben-Sasson was a Member of the Israeli Knesset, where he served as Chairman of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, and headed the Knesset Lobby for Higher Education. Prof. Ben-Sasson is a scholar in the Department of the History of the Jewish People in the Faculty of Humanities. A historian of the heritage of Jews in Muslim Lands, he has written some forty books and scholarly articles. He has served as President of the World Union of Jewish Studies, Vice-President of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, Chairman of the Ben-Zvi Institute for the Study of Jewish Communities in the East, and on the board of directors at Yad Vashem. He is married and has three children and six grandchildren. A full bio is available at https://new.huji.ac.il/en/page/454.

 

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel’s leading academic and research institution, is ranked among the top 100 universities in the world. Founded in 1918 by visionaries including Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Martin Buber, the Hebrew University is a pluralistic institution where science and knowledge are advanced for the benefit of humankind. For more information, please visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

 

PHOTOS FOR DOWNLOAD:

  • http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170301_mbs1.jpg - (L to R) Dr. Clemens von Goetze, the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Israel, and Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Photo by Bruno Charbit for Hebrew University)
  • http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170301_mbs2.jpg - Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Photo by Bruno Charbit for Hebrew University)
  • http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170301_mbs3.jpg - (L to R) From the Hebrew University, Ambassador Yossi Gal, Vice President for Advancement and External Relations; Mr. Michael Federmann, Chairman of the Board of Governors; and Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, President; with Dr. Clemens von Goetze, the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Israel. (Photo by Bruno Charbit for Hebrew University)
  • http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170301_mbs4.jpg - (L to R) Dr. Clemens von Goetze, the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Israel, Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, President of the Hebrew University,  and Mr. Michael Federmann, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Hebrew University (Photo by Bruno Charbit for Hebrew University)

- Dov Smith

Germany’s Order of Merit Awarded to Hebrew University President Menahem Ben-Sasson
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Israel Prize to Hebrew University's Prof. Yehuda Liebes

05/02/2017

Prof. Liebes, from the Department of Jewish Thought, awarded for his work in Kabbalah and Jewish myth

Prof. Yehuda Liebes from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was notified today that he will be awarded the Israel Prize for his work in the field of Kabbalah and Jewish mystical literature. Prof. Liebes is the Gershom Scholem Professor Emeritus Of Kabbalah in the Department of Jewish Thought in the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Humanities.

Established in 1953, the Israel Prize is considered Israel’s highest honor and is awarded to Israeli citizens or organizations that have displayed excellence in their field or contributed significantly to Israeli culture. The award will be presented at an Israel Independence Day ceremony attended by Israel's president, prime minister, Supreme Court president and other national leaders.

In its recommendation, the Israel Prize Committee noted that Prof. Liebes is a brilliant leading researcher in the study of Jewish mystical literature. His many innovations include highlighting the role of myth and messianism as prominent forces in Jewish culture, and his research ranges across many fields, in particular all aspects of Kabbalah, where he showed depth, boldness and innovation.

The Committee added that Prof. Liebes is outstanding in his vast knowledge of many cultures: the classical, the Christian and the Muslim cultures; and in his knowledge of many languages, which enriches the depth of his research. His unique contribution in the field of the Zohar and Sabbateanism has significantly changed the map of research in these fields, while he has nourished a new generation of researchers with great devotion.

Prof. Yehuda Liebes was born in Jerusalem in 1947 and has lived in the city all his life. Following his military service in the Paratroop Brigade he began his studies at the Hebrew University, where he has served as a member of the teaching staff at the Department of Jewish Thought since 1972. Many of his courses dealt with aspects of Jewish myth and Kabbalah, and above all he took upon himself the teaching of the Zohar. In his research he elucidates Jewish myth from its biblical roots through its metamorphoses in Hellenistic Judaism, in Sefer Yetzirah, in Talmudic writings and in the Kabbalah from its beginning up to modern times. He wrote extensively on the Zohar, Lurianic Kabbalah, Sabbateanism, Braslav Hasidism and the Gaon of Vilna and his disciples. In these studies he frequently sought the autobiographical element of the author encoded in his teaching, as well as the Messianic element.

Prof. Liebes studied the complex relationship between Judaism and other religions: the Hellenic religion, Christianity and Islam. He also wrote about Jewish religious poetry, and studied the theory of literary creation, based on the religious myth. His scientific work includes translation into Hebrew of religious poetry from the Greek, Latin and Arabic, and many of these translations were published with introductions and notes. Occasionally he expresses in writing his views on culture and current affairs. Over the years he was invited to lecture in various American universities, and also taught Zohar courses at the University of Chicago. He was awarded the Bialik Prize and the Scholem Prize for his research.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading academic and research institution, producing one-third of all civilian research in Israel. For more information, visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

- Dov Smith

Israel Prize to Hebrew University's Prof. Yehuda Liebes
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Hebrew University Researchers Bring Home 3 of the 8 EMET Prizes Awarded for 2016

04/12/2016

Hebrew University Congratulates All 2016 EMET Prize Winners for Hard-earned Recognition

The awarding of the prestigious EMET Prize will take place this evening at the Jerusalem Theatre with the participation of the Prime Minister of Israel. This year, researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will be awarded prizes in three of the five award categories, and will account for three of the eight EMET Prizes awarded in 2016.

The Hebrew University researchers are:

Prof. Yehuda Bauer, 'inner in Humanities (Holocaust Research): Awarded for multifaceted research that raised public awareness of the Holocaust and influenced the study of the Holocaust and the public discourse in Israel and worldwide on antisemitism, the Holocaust and genocide. Prof. Bauer is the Jonah M. Machover Professor Emeritus of Holocaust Studies, and the Pela and Adam Starkopf Professor Emeritus, at the Hebrew University (link).

Prof. David Kazhdan, winner in Exact Sciences (Mathematics): Awarded for major contributions in the design of representation theory and its uses in algebra, algebraic geometry and number theory (link)

Prof. Haim Sompolinsky, winner in Life Sciences (Brain Research): Awarded for establishing the theoretical framework for understanding the principles of brain function and the behavior of neuronal networks, and for shaping brain theories into a systematic discipline using methods borrowed from statistical mechanics. Prof. Sompolinsky is the William N. Skirball Professor of Neurophysics at the Hebrew University (link). 

The Hebrew University congratulates all of the Emet Prize winners on this  well-deserved recognition of their many years of research in different academic fields.

The EMET Prize is awarded annually for excellence in academic and professional achievements that have far-reaching influence and significant contribution to society. The Prizes, in a total amount of one million Dollars, are sponsored by the A.M.N. Foundation for the Advancement of Science, Art and Culture in Israel, under the auspices of and in cooperation with the Prime Minister of Israel. The Prizes are awarded annually in the following categories: The Exact Sciences, Life Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities & Judaism, Art and Culture. The A.M.N. Foundation for the Advancement of Science, Art and Culture was founded in 1999 by Alberto Moscona Nisim, a Mexican friend of Israel. More information at http://en.emetprize.org.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel's leading academic and research institution and is ranked among the top 100 universities in the world. Founded in 1918 by visionaries including Albert Einstein, the Hebrew University is a pluralistic institution where science and knowledge are advanced for the benefit of humankind. The Hebrew University produces one third of all civilian research in Israel. For more information, visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

Hebrew University Researchers Bring Home 3 of the 8 EMET Prizes Awarded for 2016
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Columbia University Awards Top Honor to Hebrew University & NIH Epigenetics Pioneers

07/09/2016
Research led to the new field of Epigenetics, yielded insights into how cells and embryos develop

Research led to the new field of Epigenetics, yielded insights into how cells and embryos develop

Columbia University has announced that its top honor for achievement in biological and biochemical research will be awarded to two researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a colleague from the United States.

The 2016 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize will be presented to Prof. Howard Cedar and Prof. Aharon Razin of the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine, and Dr. Gary Felsenfeld of the National Institutes of Health.

Since the Horwitz Prize was first awarded in 1967, 43 of the 94 winners have gone on to win Nobel Prizes, most recently in 2014.

The researchers will be awarded for their fundamental work on how molecules regulate the structure, behavior, and activity of DNA without modifying its genetic code. Their research has yielded key insights into how cells and embryos develop, and led to the formation of a new field of biology called Epigenetics.

Among the innovations attributed to Profs. Cedar and Razin is the concept of epigenetic reprogramming, a key process in development that erases and re-establishes the ability of cells to transform into different types.

The awards ceremony will be held in New York on November 22, 2016, following the 2016 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize Lectures. The Columbia University announcement is at http://newsroom.cumc.columbia.edu/?p=37120.

  • Howard (Chaim) Cedar is an emeritus professor of molecular biology, and the Edmond J. Safra Distinguished Professor (Emeritus), at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Medicine.
  • Aharon Razin is an emeritus professor of biochemistry, and the Dr. Jacob Grunbaum Chair of Medical Science (Emeritus), at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Medicine.
  • Gary Felsenfeld is a senior investigator of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, and an NIH Distinguished Investigator.

“These three scientists have advanced our understanding of how gene regulation works and what happens when the processes go wrong,” said Lee Goldman, MD, Harold and Margaret Hatch Professor of Columbia University, dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine, and chief executive of Columbia University Medical Center. “These are fundamental medical discoveries that may lead to innovative treatments for a range of diseases.”

“These researchers laid the foundation for an important new field of study,” said Gerard Karsenty, MD, PhD, chair of the Horwitz Prize Committee and chair of the Department of Genetics and Development at Columbia University Medical Center. “As our cells divide and become more specialized they need instructions on which genes to use and which to ignore. Epigenetics adds these annotations to our biological textbook; it’s a process that is crucial to our development and continues throughout our lives.”

The Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize was established under the will of the late S. Gross Horwitz through a bequest to Columbia University. It is named in honor of the donor’s mother, Louisa Gross Horwitz, who was the daughter of Dr. Samuel David Gross (1805–89), a prominent Philadelphia surgeon who served as president of the American Medical Association and wrote Systems of Surgery. For more information, please see the Columbia University website at http://www.cumc.columbia.edu/research/horwitz-prize.

About the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine

The Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine is a comprehensive training and research institution. Its mission is to educate Israel's finest medical personnel and deliver biomedical research breakthroughs that alleviate human suffering and improve healthcare throughout the world. The Faculty encompasses five schools: in addition to the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, the Schools of Pharmacy, Nursing, Occupational Therapy and the Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine provide the training that enable graduates to deliver the highest standards of research and treatment in Israel and around the world. At two major Institutes, the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC) and the Institute of Drug Research, the Faculty of Medicine conducts fundamental and applied research essential to understanding and finding therapies for the illnesses that challenge medical science, among them cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, and infectious diseases.​ For more information, visit https://medicine.ekmd.huji.ac.il/En.

Columbia University Awards Top Honor to Hebrew University & NIH Epigenetics Pioneers
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IMRIC Scientist Awarded for Work in Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine

18/07/2016

Dr. Yosef Buganim is a young researcher at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC), part of the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine

Dr. Yosef Buganim, a research scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the prestigious journals Science and Science Translational Medicine, and the Boyalife industrial research consortium, for his work in stem cells and regenerative medicine. (See Buganim’s essay in Science at http://science.sciencemag.org/content/352/6292/1401.full).

Dr. Buganim is a young researcher who recently joined the Department of Molecular Biology and Cancer Research at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC, http://imric.org). Part of the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine, IMRIC is one of the most innovative and multidisciplinary biomedical research organizations in the world.

Awarded for the first time this year, the Boyalife Science & Science Translational Medicine Award in Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine honors researchers for outstanding contributions in stem cell research and regenerative medicine around the globe. AAAS, Science, and Science Translational Medicine joined efforts with Boyalife, an industrial-research consortium formed in Wuxi, China, in 2009, to sponsor the award.  Composed of prominent researchers, the judging panel was co-chaired by a Science and a Science Translational Medicine editor.

At his Hebrew University laboratory, Buganim uses somatic cell conversion models to identify and investigate the elements that facilitate safe and complete nuclear reprogramming. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT, he used single-cell technologies and bioinformatic approaches to shed light on the molecular mechanisms that underlie the reprogramming of somatic cells to iPSCs.

Regenerative medicine is a developing field aimed at regenerating, replacing or engineering human cells, tissues or organs, to establish or restore normal function. Embryonic stem cells have enormous potential in this area because they can differentiate into all cell types in the human body. However, two significant obstacles prevent their immediate use in medicine: ethical issues related to terminating human embryos, and rejection of foreign cells by a patient's immune system.

In 2006, Japanese researchers discovered that it is possible to reprogram adult cells and return them to their embryonic stage, creating functional embryonic stem-like cells. These cells are known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), and constitute a solution to these two obstacles. In addition, these cells provide a good basis for modeling diseases and finding medical solutions, because they can be reproduced from different patients and different diseases.

Despite these cells’ enormous potential, their quality is still not sufficient to be used in clinical practice, and there is a need to find the best protocol that will enable production of high-quality iPSCs that will not endanger patients.

Dr. Buganim’s laboratory has made two major breakthroughs in this area, representing a major step forward in the field of regenerative medicine and transplantation.

Project A: To improve the quality of embryonic stem cells, Dr. Buganim and colleagues conducted bioinformatics analyses which pointed to four new key genes capable of creating iPSCs from skin cells, of superior quality to stem cells in current use. These cells produced in his laboratory (in this case mouse cells) are able to clone a whole mouse at a much higher percentage (80%) than other iPSCs (30%). This test is the most important one determine the quality of the cells.

Project B: Many women suffer recurrent miscarriages and abnormal development of the placenta, which causes fetal growth restriction and in some cases produces children with mental retardation. Dr. Buganim’s lab found the key genes of the placenta stem cells and by expressing them in surplus in skin cells, created placental iPSCs. These cells looked and behaved like natural placental stem cells. Various tests showed that these cells have cell-generating capability in a Petri dish and inside a placenta that develops following a transplant. These cells have potential for use in regenerative medicine in cases of problematic placental functioning. The success of this project may enable women with placenta problems to give birth to healthy children and rescue pregnancies at risk of dysfunctional placenta. (See details at http://new.huji.ac.il/en/article/27928.)

Forward-looking: Alongside creating specific cell types (e.g. nerve cells in patients with Parkinson's disease, ALS and Alzheimer) from a patient’s skin cells, a potential future use of iPSCs is the creation of whole organs (such as heart, liver or kidney) in a suitable animal model using cells taken from the patient.

Citation: Science, Vol. 352, Issue 6292, pp. 1401, DOI: 10.1126/science.aag1215 (link: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/352/6292/1401.full)

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Boyalife Group, previously known as the International Consortium of Stem Cell Research (INCOSC), was founded in July 2009 in Wuxi, China. In July 2015, Boyalife became the world’s first Stem Cell Bank accredited by AABB standard of Somatic Cell. Through subsidiaries, the company is also engaged in regenerative medicine, genomics, animal cloning, innovative drug discovery and disease modeling.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journals Science, Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling and Science Advances. The non-profit AAAS -- www.aaas.org -- is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, and more.

The Institute for Medical Research-Israel Canada (IMRIC), in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Faculty of Medicine, is one of the most innovative biomedical research organizations in Israel and worldwide. IMRIC brings together brilliant scientific minds to find solutions to the world's most serious medical problems, through a multidisciplinary approach to biomedical research. More information at http://imric.org.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading academic and research institution, producing one-third of all civilian research in Israel. For more information, visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

IMRIC Scientist Awarded for Work in Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine
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European Neuroscience Outreach Award Goes to Hebrew University's ELSC Brain Sciences Center

07/07/2016

“Crucial for the public to understand that brain research affects each and every one of our lives, from basic decision-making processes to complex brain diseases.

The EDAB-FENS Brain Awareness Week Excellence Award for 2016 has been awarded to The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The Dana Foundation and the European Dana Alliance for the Brain (EDAB) presented the award in collaboration with the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS).

Celebrating special contributions to the promotion of brain awareness through continued public outreach efforts, the Neuroscience Outreach Awards were presented at FENS Forum 2016, Europe’s pre-eminent neuroscience meeting, on July 4 in Copenhagen.

Prof. Monica di Luca, FENS president, said: “The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have embraced public engagement as an integral part of their research agenda. People of all ages are intrigued by the creative brain, and here the scientists have found imaginative ways to combine neuroscience research with the arts.”

Established in 2010, the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences has a comprehensive and innovative research agenda that includes dialogue with the public. To this end, the Center initiated Art and the Brain Week, a series of lectures and cultural events including dance, art exhibitions and films that reveal the brain’s creative processes. Since 2011, Art and the Brain has reached more than 10,000 children and adults in Jerusalem and beyond, and thousands more through newspapers, radio and television.

Dr. Rafi Aviram, Executive Director, and Ms. Alona Shani-Narkiss, Events and Publications Coordinator of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences, accepted the award in Copenhagen.

Dr. Rafi Aviram said: “At ELSC we believe it is crucial for the public to understand that brain research affects each and every one of us in many aspects of our lives, from basic decision-making processes to complex brain diseases. Strengthening our bonds with the community, and enhancing the public's awareness of the importance of brain sciences, are integral to the advanced research conducted at The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences.”

Also honored at the awards ceremony was Prof. Paul Bolam, emeritus Senior Scientist at the MRC Brain Networks Dynamics Unit at the University of Oxford, who received the 2016 Dana/EDAB Neuroscience Outreach Champion award.

The 10th FENS Forum of Neuroscience, the largest basic neuroscience meeting in Europe, organized by FENS and hosted by the Danish Society for Neuroscience, attracted an estimated 6000 international delegates. The mission of FENS is to advance research and education in neuroscience within and outside Europe, to facilitate interaction and coordination between its members. FENS represents 43 national and single discipline neuroscience societies with about 24,000 member scientists from 33 European countries. http://www.fens.org/

About the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences:

The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) was founded in 2010 with the assistance of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, as an interdisciplinary center for brain sciences. The Center has an innovative and revolutionary research agenda for understanding the brain and its complex products: movement, perception, cognition, language, and creativity. Scientists at ELSC examine the brain from the level of the single neuron to complex human behavior using state-of-the-art scientific equipment and innovative research approaches: nanotechnologies, telemetry, and optogenetics. The unique integration of theoreticians with experimental researchers facilitates the simulation of brain activity using supercomputers utilizing mathematical and physical models to present the brain as an ever-changing, dynamic learning system.

One important component of ELSC’s vision is to maintain a dialogue between scientists and the general public. ELSC seeks to reach out to those who are interested in the impacts of brain sciences research and are directly influenced by it. By holding public lectures and hosting temporary exhibitions on the brain, with informational handouts and joint “brainstorming,” the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences renders brain research accessible to all who are interested. For more information, please visit http://elsc.huji.ac.il.

About The Hebrew University of Jerusalem:

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading university and premier research institution. Founded in 1918 by such innovative thinkers as Albert Einstein, Martin Buber and Sigmund Freud, the Hebrew University is a pluralistic institution where science and knowledge are advanced for the benefit of humankind. The Hebrew University is ranked internationally among the top 100 universities in the world, and first among Israeli universities. Serving 23,500 students from 85 countries, the Hebrew University produces a third of Israel’s civilian research, and its faculty are at the forefront of the international academic and scientific communities. For more information, please visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

European Neuroscience Outreach Award Goes to Hebrew University's ELSC Brain Sciences Center
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France’s Highest Honor Awarded to Hebrew University Vice President, Ambassador Yossi Gal

29/06/2016

Named a Commander of the Legion of Honour

Ambassador Yossi Gal, the Vice President for Advancement and External Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has been named a Commander of France’s Legion of Honour. The honor was presented at a ceremony hosted by Mr. Patrick Maisonnave, the Ambassador of France to Israel, at his official residence in Tel Aviv yesterday.

Established by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1802, the Legion of Honour (Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur) is the highest French order for military and civil merits.

PHOTO: Mr. Patrick Maisonnave, the Ambassador of France to Israel, presents the medal of the Legion of Honour to Yossi Gal, Vice President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and former Israeli Ambassador to France. (Photo credit: French Embassy in Israel / Marine Crouzet) http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu160629_yossigal.jpg

As Vice President of the Division for Advancement and External Relations at the Hebrew University, Ambassador Gal works to enhance the University’s relationships with its many Friends of the Hebrew University organizations around the world. A veteran of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, he served as its Director General and, immediately prior to joining the Hebrew University, he served as Israel’s Ambassador to France.

"As Vice President of the Hebrew University, an institute which was a home to Einstein, Freud, Buber, Bialik and Chaim Weizmann, I appreciate even more today France's contribution to the world of sciences — mathematics, medicine, literature and culture," said Ambassador Yossi Gal.

"Through and beyond your daily routine as Ambassador, you, dear Yossi, were a privileged witness to the solid, multi-faceted and passionate nature of Franco-Israeli relations,” said Mr. Patrick Maisonnave, the Ambassador of France to Israel. “First and foremost, it is a solid relationship: France is a central ally to Israel since the days it voted in favor of the Partition Plan of 1947, and since the establishment of the State of Israel which we were among the first to recognize. Secondly, this is a multi-faceted relationship, which was built around the strong human relations we share. It is built around the growing interest of French economic players in the Israeli market and in the dynamism of Israel for innovation, the increasing exchange of information between our universities, the success of Israeli literature and Israeli cinema in France, and Israelis who are interested in French culture. Finally and especially, French-Israeli relations are passionate: France holds a special place in the Israeli imagination, and Israel in the French imagination. This passion is accompanied by mutual concerns about the future of our friend. You were an outstanding player in this great friendship between France and Israel, dear Yossi Gal, and so in the name of the President of the Republic, and the under the authority granted to me, we present you the Medal of Commander of the Legion of Honour.”

The President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, said: "Thanks to Ambassador Gal's dedication and diligence, the Hebrew University continues to develop rich international relationships with its Friends organizations, donors and supporters. We applaud his commitment to strengthening the Hebrew University, and I congratulate him on this well-deserved honor.”

"The Hebrew University is the leader in higher education in Israel, and one of the most important universities in the international arena," added Ambassador Gal. "I am honored to represent Israel's best university around the world and contribute to its success.”

Born in Jerusalem, Ambassador Gal completed his elementary and high school studies in Jerusalem and graduated from the Hebrew University. Following his military service and university studies, in 1975 he began his career in the foreign service of the State of Israel.

Among his many posts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he served as Director of the Information Department, Deputy Director-General for Communications, participated in the peace negotiations with Israel's neighbors, and chaired the Israeli delegation to the multilateral peace talks on the environment.

He then headed the Press and Communications Department at the Prime Minister's office, served as Deputy Director-General for Economic Affairs, was then promoted to Senior Deputy Director-General and then Director General of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Abroad, he served twice in Washington (1976-1981 as Director of the Ambassador's office, and 1985-1989 as Spokesman of the embassy), then as Ambassador of Israel to the Netherlands (1995-2001), and Ambassador to France and Monaco (2010-2015).

Ambassador Gal participated in the Madrid Peace Conference, was a member of the peace negotiating team with Jordan and the Palestinians, headed the diplomatic process of Israel's adherence to the OECD, and led the negotiations on upgrading relations with the EU.

About The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading university and premier research institution. Founded in 1918 by such innovative thinkers as Albert Einstein, Martin Buber and Sigmund Freud, the Hebrew University is a pluralistic institution where science and knowledge are advanced for the benefit of humankind. The Hebrew University is ranked internationally among the top 100 universities in the world, and first among Israeli universities. Serving 23,500 students from 85 countries, the Hebrew University produces a third of Israel’s civilian research, and its faculty are at the forefront of the international academic and scientific communities. For more information, please visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

France’s Highest Honor Awarded to Hebrew University Vice President, Ambassador Yossi Gal
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