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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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An Israeli innovation feeds the world with more fish protein; earns Kaye Innovation Award

27/06/2017

A new way to grow larger fish and feed the expanding world population earns Prof. Berta Levavi-Sivan a 2017 Kaye innovation Award

As the world faces a projected population increase from today’s 7.5 billion people to 9 billion people by 2050, the demand for sustainable food sources is on the rise. The answer to this looming dilemma may well reside within the booming field of aquaculture. While wild fisheries have been on the decline for the last 20 years, aquaculture, or fish farming, is the fastest growing food-producing sector in the world, and will play an increasingly vital role in our planet’s food resources in the years to come.

One of the challenges to aquaculture is that reproduction, as an energy intensive endeavor, makes fish grow more slowly. To solve this problem, Prof. Berta Levavi-Sivan at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem identified tiny molecules named Neurokinin B (NKB) and Neurokinin F (NKF) that are secreted by the brains of fish and play a crucial role in their reproduction. Prof. Levavi-Sivan, a specialist in aquaculture at the Hebrew University’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, then developed molecules that neutralize the effect of NKB and NKF.  The molecules inhibited fish reproduction and consequently led to increased growth rates.

Better Fish Growth, More Aquaculture Jobs

These inhibitors can now be included in fish feed to ensure better growth rates.  For example, young tilapia fed the inhibitors in their food supply for two months gained 25% more weight versus fish that did not receive the supplement. So far, NKB has been found in 20 different species of fish, indicating that this discovery could be effective in a wide variety of species.

The technology developed by Prof. Levavi-Sivan and her team was licensed by Yissum, the Technology Transfer company of the Hebrew University, to start-up AquiNovo Ltd., established and operating within the framework of The Trendlines Group. AquiNovo is further developing the technology to generate growth enhancers for farmed fish.

As the aquaculture industry obtains the tools to flourish, an increase in jobs is likely to follow. In Europe, aquaculture accounts for about 20% of fish production and directly employs some 85,000 people. The sector mainly benefits those living in coastal and rural areas, where jobs are most needed.

2017 Kaye innovation Award

In recognition of her work, Prof. Berta Levavi-Sivan 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.

Prof. Berta Levavi-Sivan earned her BSc degree in life science and her MSc and PhD in zoology from Tel Aviv University.  At the Hebrew University’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, where her work focuses on fish reproduction and growth, she has published over 100 articles in refereed journals and has won several prizes for her findings. As a specialist in aquaculture, she has worked extensively in Uganda to combat depleted fish supplies in Lake Victoria.

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

Photos for download: http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170627_levavisivan.jpg - Kaye Innovation Award winner and Hebrew University aquaculture expert Prof. Berta Levavi-Sivan on the job. (Credit: Hebrew University)

 
An Israeli innovation feeds the world with more fish protein; earns Kaye Innovation Award
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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

Photos for download:

Algorithm leads to dramatic improvement in drug discovery methods; Prof. Amiram Goldblum wins 2017 Kaye Innovation Award
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Intel Corporation to Acquire Mobileye, an example of Hebrew University Research Excellence

15/03/2017

The Hebrew University congratulates Prof. Amnon Shashua, from the Rachel and Selim Benin School of Computer Science and Engineering, on the announcement that Intel Corporation will acquire Mobileye, the firm Shashua co-founded based on his Hebrew University research.

Intel announced that it will commence a tender offer to acquire all of the issued and outstanding ordinary shares of Mobileye for about $15 billion. The deal is the biggest ever exit in the history of Israeli industry.

Mobileye’s technology was developed in Hebrew University labs and was commercialized by Yissum, the Technology Transfer Company of the Hebrew University. The story of Mobileye is the story of its two founders, Amnon Shashua, who serves as chairman and CTO, and CEO Ziv Aviram. Shashua still teaches at the Hebrew University's School of Computer Science and Engineering.

"In buying Mobileye, Intel recognizes the research excellence coming out of the Hebrew University," said Prof. Isaiah (Shy) Arkin, Vice-President for Research and Development at the Hebrew University.

“We are always happy to see technology started at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem become such a huge success. This is a record deal not only for Yissum and Mobileye, but for Israel,” said Yaacov Michlin, CEO of Yissum, the Hebrew University's technology transfer company.

Mobileye was founded in 1999 with a mission to help cut the number of injuries and fatalities caused by vehicles. Over a million people are killed each year in car accidents around the world, and up to 50 million sustain heavy injuries. Mobileye is the world leader in Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).

In 2013, Mobileye showcased its driver-safety technology to President Obama as an example of Israeli ingenuity and innovation during his state visit to Israel.

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.
Intel Corporation to Acquire Mobileye, an example of Hebrew University Research Excellence
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