Science & Technology
- Written by Weizmann Institute
A new approach to stabilizing protein structures could be key to an efficient vaccine
Despite decades of malaria research, the disease still afflicts hundreds of millions and kills around half a million people each year – most of them children in tropical regions. Part of the problem is that the malaria parasite is a shape-shifter, making it hard to target. But another part of the problem is that even the parasite’s proteins that could be used as vaccines are unstable at tropical temperatures and require complicated, expensive cellular systems to produce them in large quantities. Unfortunately, the vaccines are most needed in areas where refrigeration is lacking and funds to buy vaccines are scarce. A new approach developed at the Weizmann Institute of Science, recently reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), could, in the future, lead to an inexpensive malaria vaccine that can be stored at room temperature.
The RH5 protein is one of the malaria parasite’s proteins that have been tested for use as a vaccine. This protein is used by the parasite to anchor itself to the red blood cells it infects. Using the protein as a vaccine alerts the immune system to the threat without causing disease, thus enabling it to mount a rapid response when the disease strikes, and to disrupt the parasite’s cycle of infection. Research student Adi Goldenzweig and Dr. Sarel Fleishman of the Institute’s Biomolecular Sciences Department decided to use the computer-based protein design tools they have been developing in Fleishman’s lab to improve the usefulness of this protein.
Based on software they have been creating for stabilizing protein structures, Goldenzweig developed a new program for “programming” proteins used in vaccines against infectious diseases. Such proteins, because they are under constant attack by the immune system, tend to mutate from generation to generation. So the program she developed uses all the known information on different configurations of the protein sequence in different versions of the parasite. “The parasite deceives the immune system by mutating its surface proteins. Paradoxically, the better the parasite is at evading the immune system, the more clues it leaves for us to use in designing a successful artificial protein,” she says.
The researchers sent the programmed artificial protein to a group in Oxford that specializes in developing a malaria vaccine. This group, led by Prof. Matthew Higgins and Simon Draper, soon had good news: The results showed that, in contrast with the natural ones, the programmed protein can be produced in simple, inexpensive cell cultures, and in large quantities. This could significantly lower production costs. In addition, it is stable at temperatures of up to 50o C, so it won’t need refrigeration. Best of all, in animal trials, the proteins provoked a protective immune response. “The method Adi developed is really general,” says Fleishman. “It has succeeded where others have failed, and because it is so easy to use, it might be applied to emerging infectious diseases like Zika or Ebola, when quick action can stop an epidemic from developing.”
Fleishman and his group are currently using their method to test a different strategy for treating malaria, based on targeting the RH5 protein itself and blocking its ability to mediate the contact between the parasite and human red blood cells.
Dr. Sarel Fleishman’s research is supported by the Rothschild Caesarea Foundation; Sam Switzer, Canada; and the European Research Council. Dr. Fleishman is the incumbent of the Martha S. Sagon Career Development Chair.
A Rusty Green Early Ocean?
Though they may seem rock solid, the ancient sedimentary rocks called iron formations – the world’s chief economic source of iron ore – were once dissolved in seawater. How did that iron go from a dissolved state to banded iron formations? Dr. Itay Halevy and his group in the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Earth and Planetary Sciences Department suggest that billions of years ago, the “rust” that formed in the seawater and sank to the ocean bed was green – an iron-based mineral that is rare on Earth today but might once have been relatively common.
We know there was dissolved iron in the early oceans, and this is a strong indication that Earth’s free oxygen (O2) concentrations were exceedingly low. Otherwise, the iron would have reacted with oxygen to form iron oxides, which are the rusty red deposits familiar to anyone who’s left a bike out in the rain. Today, says Halevy, iron is delivered from the land to the oceans as small insoluble oxide particles in rivers. But this mode of sedimentation only came about as free oxygen accumulated in Earth’s atmosphere, about 2.5 billion years ago. With almost no oxygen, the oceans were iron-rich, but that did not mean that iron remained dissolved in seawater indefinitely: It ultimately formed insoluble compounds with other elements and settled to the seabed to give rise to banded iron formations.
The idea that one of those insoluble compounds could be a rusty green mineral, says Halevy, occurred to him during his doctoral research, when he was trying to recreate the conditions on early Mars, including its rusty-red iron sediments. “I got some green stuff I didn’t recognize at first, which quickly turned orange when I exposed it to air. With a little more careful experimentation, I found that this was a mineral called green rust, which is extremely rare on Earth today, owing to its affinity for oxygen.” Today green rust quickly transforms into the familiar red rust, but with not much free oxygen around, Halevy reasoned, it could have been an important way for dissolved iron to form solid compounds and settle to the seafloor.
Support for these ideas comes from Sulawesi, Indonesia, where green rust forms today in iron-rich, oxygen-poor Lake Matano, thought to be similar to the seawater that existed during extended periods of Earth’s early history. To test his ideas in detail and explore their significance, Halevy set up experiments in which he and his team recreated, as closely as possible, the conditions of the ancient, oxygen-free, Precambrian ocean. They found that green rust not only forms under these conditions, but that when left to age, it transforms into the minerals found in Precambrian iron formations – a combination of iron-bearing oxides, carbonates and silicates.
Could green rust have been a main vehicle for settling iron out of seawater? Halevy and his team developed models to depict the iron cycle in Earth’s early oceans, including the possibility of green rust formation and competition with other mineral shuttles of iron to the seafloor. Their findings suggest that green rust was probably a major player in the iron cycle. The iron in the green rust later transformed into the minerals we can now observe in the geologic record. “Of course, it would have been one of several means of iron deposition, just as a number of different processes are involved in chemical sedimentation in the oceans today,” says Halevy. “But as far as we can tell, green rust should have delivered a substantial proportion of iron to the very early ocean sediments.”
Dr. Itay Halevy’s research is supported by the Helen Kimmel Center for Planetary Science; the Deloro Institute for Advanced Research in Space and Optics; and the Wolfson Family Charitable Trust. Dr. Halevy is the incumbent of the Anna and Maurice Boukstein Career Development Chair in Perpetuity.
Uncovering the Secrets of White Cell Power
White blood cells push their way through barriers to get to infection sites
One of the mysteries of the living body is the movement of cells – not just in the blood, but through cellular and other barriers. New research in the Weizmann Institute of Science has shed light on the subject, especially on the movement of immune cells that race to the sites of infection and inflammation. The study revealed that these cells – white blood cells – actively open large gaps in the internal lining of the blood vessels, so they can exit through the vessel walls and rapidly get to areas of infection.
Prof. Ronen Alon and his group in the Weizmann Institute’s Immunology Department discovered how various white blood cells push their way through the lining of the blood vessels when they reach their particular “exit ramps.” Using their nuclei to exert force, they insert themselves between – as well as into – the cells in the vessel walls called endothelial cells. Dismantling structural filaments within the cytoskeletons – the internal skeletons – of the endothelial cells creates the large holes – several microns in diameter.
Alon explains that the nucleus is the largest, most rigid structure in the cell. When driven by motors specifically engaged for this function, is tough enough to push through the barrier imposed by the blood vessel walls.
The scientists tracked the cytoskeletons of endothelial cells as they were crossed by immune cells in real time, the behavior of the nuclei of various white blood cells during active squeezing and the fate of the various types of actin fibers that make up the endothelial cell skeletons. The researchers used a number of methods, including fluorescence and electron microscopy, in collaboration with Dr. Eugenia Klein of the Microscopy Unit; a unique system in Alon’s lab for simulating blood vessels in a test tube; and in vivo imaging with Prof. Sussan Nourshargh of Queen Mary University of London. The results of this research, conducted in Alon’s lab by research students Sagi Barzilai and Francesco Roncato and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Sandeep Kumar Yadav, were recently reported in Cell Reports.
Common wisdom in this field had held that the endothelial cells must help immune cells squeeze through by contracting themselves like small muscles, but the present study found no evidence for such contraction-based help. Alon says: “Our study shows that the endothelial cells, which were thought to be dynamic assistants in this process of crossing of blood vessel walls, are really more responders to the ‘physical work’ invested by the white blood cell motors and nuclei in generating gaps and crossing through blood vessels.”
Significance for cancer research
In addition to increasing the basic understanding of how the various arms of the immune system reach their sites of differentiation and activity, these findings may aid in cancer research. “We believe that small subsets of metastatic tumor cells have the ability to adopt the mechanisms used by immune cells to exit the blood vessels into the lungs, the bone marrow, the brain and other organs. If this is true, we might be able to identify these subsets and target them before these cells leave their original tumor sites and invade distant organs,” says Alon.
Prof. Ronen Alon’s research is supported by the Herbert L. Janowsky Lung Cancer Research Fund; Mr. and Mrs. William Glied, Canada; and Carol A. Milett, Aventura, FL. Prof. Alon is the incumbent of the Linda Jacobs Professorial Chair in Immune and Stem Cell Research.
The Weizmann Institute of Science is one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary research institutions. Comprising five faculties, 17 departments, a graduate school and 50 multidisciplinary centers, hundreds of scientists, laboratory technicians and research students work on the Institute's lushly landscaped campus, embarking daily on fascinating journeys into the unknown, seeking to improve our understanding of nature and our place within it.
Facebook Weizmann Institute of Science
Photo : by “thinkstock”. provided by Weizmann Department of Media Relations
- Written by Forbes
Forbes Announces First Round of Speakers for 2017 Forbes Under 30 Summit EMEA
Speakers for Forbes’ Under 30 Summit EMEA include Sean Rad, Cofounder and Chairman, Tinder; Yossi Vardi, Internet Entrepreneur; Teddy Sagi, Founder of PlayTech, Market Tech and SafeCharge; Steven Izen, Founder & CEO, Lokai; and Farah Abdi, Somali Refugee, Author, Blogger and Human Rights Activist
750 Young Entrepreneurial Game Changers and Legendary Mentors Are Expected to Gather in
Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, April 2-6, 2017
TEL AVIV (January 26, 2017) – Forbes announced today the first round of speakers and participants for the second Under 30 Summit EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), which will take place in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, April 2-6, under the theme “Innovation, Exploration, and Inspiration.” For the summit, an invitation-only event, Forbes is expected to bring together over 750 of some of the world’s most influential young entrepreneurs -- 250 from the U.S., 250 from Europe and 250 from Israel, as culled from Forbes’ 30 Under 30 lists. The speakers announced today include:
Sean Rad, Cofounder and Chairman, Tinder (U.S.)
Yossi Vardi, Internet Entrepreneur (Israel)
Teddy Sagi, Businessman and Entrepreneur, Founder of PlayTech, Market Tech and SafeCharge
Steven Izen, Founder and CEO, Lokai (U.S.)
Farah Abdi, Somali Refugee, Author, Blogger & Human Rights Activist (Germany)
Obinwanne Okeke, Chairman and CEO, Invictus (Nigeria)
Lawrence Brand, Founder, Porterlight Bicycles (U.K.)
Joséphine Goube, CEO, Techfugees (U.K.)
Sofia Hmich, Founder, Future Positive Capital (U.K.)
Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, CEO and ‘Head Stemette’, Stemettes (U.K.)
Netanel Rubin, CEO, Vaultra (Israel)
For more information on the summit, please visit:
Building on last year’s successful entrepreneur-driven summit and cultural immersion, Forbes is expanding its celebration of innovation and startups. For five days, innovators, inventors, pioneers, mentors and investors will focus on breakthrough ideas that tackle the most intractable problems facing our society and the planet.
Forbes will feature -- as part of the summit’s agenda, panels, interviews, performances, product demos and keynote addresses, showcasing the most cutting-edge innovators and disruptors, and will provide mentorship from successful business leaders. The conversation will focus on using innovation to reimagine humanity. At the event, participants will hear from visionaries -- entrepreneurs, artists, activists and inventors -- shaping the future in powerful ways.
“As these innovators explore the intersection of Big Data, smart design, AI, robotics, virtual and augmented reality and other accelerating tech trends, participants in our summit will realize an evident truth: We have the tools and technologies to create a better world, if we can muster the comity and the will,” said Randall Lane, Editor of Forbes magazine and creator of Forbes’ Under 30 franchise.
The summit will offer rich cultural-immersion activities and a unique global-networking environment. Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit attendees will also have the opportunity to mentor and inspire the next generation of young superstar entrepreneurs in the local communities of Israel.
The summit will kick off with a welcome party on the shores of the Mediterranean.
On April 3, participants will gather in Tel Aviv for a day of content focused on “Innovation,” while enjoying access to an entire Forbes Under 30 Village with joined booths, displays and demonstrations.
April 4th will be devoted to “Exploration” and cultural immersion. Rothschild Boulevard will be transformed into an Open House, as summit participants will be able to explore and join tours, including a guided tour of the Old City in Jerusalem.
April 5th will focus on “Inspiration -- Making a Difference, Healing the World.” Participants will visit sites across Greater Israel to cultivate conversations about achieving actionable solutions. The day will end with the Forbes Under 30 Music Festival, featuring acts from across Israel, Europe and America.
On April 6, the summit will conclude with a day of inspiration and reflection, starting at sunrise at Masada and the Dead Sea.
The Presenting Sponsors for the summit are Lokai and Market Tech.
Forbes’ Under 30 franchise is a global multichannel platform that comprises 30 Under 30 lists featuring young global game changers and published in print and online all over the world; live summits in the U.S., Asia and Israel; an Under 30 channel on Forbes.com; and a Forbes Under 30 app. To access Forbes magazine’s 2017 30 Under 30 U.S. list, please visit www.forbes.com/30under30.
About Forbes Media:
Forbes Media is a global media, branding and technology company, with a focus on news and information about business, investing, technology, entrepreneurship, leadership and affluent lifestyles. The company publishes Forbes and Forbes Asia as well as Forbes.com. The Forbes brand today reaches more than 94 million people worldwide with its business message each month through its magazines and 38 licensed local editions around the globe, Forbes.com, TV, conferences, research, social and mobile platforms. Forbes Media’s brand extensions include conferences, real estate, education, financial services and technology license agreements.
Lokai is a socially responsible lifestyle brand that represents the importance of finding balance along life’s journey. Steven Izen founded the company in 2013, on the heels of a deeply emotional and transformative experience. Realizing that life is a cycle of highs and lows, he grew to appreciate the importance of remaining both humble and hopeful. The company infuses its trademark bracelets with elements sourced from the highest and lowest points on Earth -- water from Mt. Everest and mud from the Dead Sea. The Lokai lifestyle is devoted to finding balance, sharing success during life’s peaks and gaining perspective during lows. Lokai supports this message by donating 10% of net profits to various charitable organizations. Since launching, Lokai is sold in over 160 countries.
About Market Tech:
Market Tech is an LSE-listed property company that owns, manages and is developing a unique 16 acre estate (valued at £1 billion as of September 30, 2016) of office, retail, leisure and living spaces centred around the iconic Camden Markets, and supported by three e-commerce businesses, referred to as Market Tech Digital. These are Stucco Media, an e-commerce marketing platform, Glispa; a Berlin-based mobile marketing business and Fiver; a B2C online fashion retailer. www.market-tech.com
- Written by Technion
An important milestone in the establishment of GTIIT - Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology - was recorded with the official approval by the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. The Ministry confirmed that cooperation with Technion is consistent with the strategic goal of the Chinese Government: the establishment of world-class research universities; as well as with the regional strategy of innovation-based development.
The Chinese National Program for Medium- and Long-Term Educational Reform and Development is intended, inter alia, to promote the establishment of superior foreign educational resources and to establish several model Chinese-foreign universities in China, based on cooperation with other countries.
Approval for GTIIT was given exactly one year after the cornerstone laying ceremony for the new campus: a ceremony which was attended by about 5,000 guests, including the late ninth President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres z”l. At that event, Peres said that “the establishment of a Technion campus in China is one more proof that Israeli innovation is breaking down geographic borders.”
The establishment of Guangdong Technion - the first Israeli university in China - is a dramatic and unprecedented event in Israel-China relations. Israel’s Ambassador to China Matan Vilnai said: “The opening of the Technion branch in China is the most important project in Israel-China relations during my term in office. This project, which focuses on education, is an important asset to China and Israel and hence its great importance. We have worked hard to obtain approval and I am pleased that it has been granted.”
“This is a courageous and important partnership which represents a historic step in Israel-China relations,” said Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie. “This partnership, which combines the spirit of Israeli innovation with the power of China, will benefit all parties - the Technion and the University of Shantou, Israel and China - and will give a significant boost to the Chinese education system. The outcomes of this historic project will affect the whole of humanity.”
“I’m glad we did it,” said the Mayor of Shantou, Liu Xiaotao. “I would like to thank Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie and professors from the Technion for their efforts and dedication. On behalf of the 5.5 million residents of Shantou, I would like to thank you for this important project.”
Guangdong Technion, situated near the Shantou University campus, will be a high quality, innovative and research-oriented university. In the future, an innovation center will be built near it, and will serve as a foothold for Israeli companies to crack key markets in the U.S. and China. This project is made possible thanks to the cooperation between China’s Shantou University, Guangdong Provincial Government, Shantou Municipal Government and the Technion. The project leader on behalf of the Technion is Prof. Paul Feigin, Assistant to the President for Strategic Projects.
According to the letter of approval from the Government of China, “GTIIT is a beneficial attempt to build a high standard and exemplary Sino-foreign co-running university. Guangdong Government shall offer guidance and take advantages of subjects and research provided by both sides, integrate educational resources, innovate methods of cultivating talents, classifying subjects and courses, and managing schools. It will promote Sino-Israeli educational cooperation and exchange, and contribute to our educational reform. GTIIT shall progressively carry out the master and doctoral programs by learning from Technion’s advanced experience in the way of independent admission according to the Sino-Foreign Cooperative Education Provision and its concrete measures. Masters and PhD degree certificates will be issued by Technion. “GTIIT shall strive for economic growth and social development based on the areas where Technion excels and in accordance with the environmental challenges faced by China.
The new university is headed by GTIIT Chancellor Mr. Li Jiange and Vice Chancellor Research Professor Aaron Ciechanover from the Technion. “The Government’s approval of the establishment of GTIIT has brought us much joy and confidence,” said Chancellor Mr. Li Jiange. “As an ancient Chinese saying goes, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ Now we have achieved the first step of success, we still have a long way to go. To build GTIIT into a world-class university, we need to recruit the elite faculties, and we are willing to pay them with the most attractive salaries.”
“The granting of approval by the Government of China is a moment of great hope for all of us,” said Prof. Ciechanover, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2004. “This is an initiative that will combine the diligence and determination typical of China with the extensive experience of the Technion in training scientists and engineers, and in turning scientific discoveries into developments that are beneficial to mankind.”
According to the letter of approval from the Government of China, GTIIT will have 2,960 students in the initial stage (from 2017 to 2026), including 300 postgraduates, and 5,000 in the long term, including 1,000 postgraduates. Guangdong Technion’s first undergraduate programs are Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology and Food Engineering, and Materials Engineering. Its graduate programs are Chemical Engineering, Materials Engineering, Food Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Its doctoral programs will also be in these disciplines .
The cooperation between the Technion and Guangdong Province has already led to several other agreements, including a memorandum of understanding for scientific cooperation between the State of Israel and Guangdong Province, economic cooperation agreements and a twin city agreement between the cities of Haifa and Shantou. The first academic school year at Guangdong Technion is scheduled to begin in October 2017, with 300 students will first complete a preparatory period starting in August.
Photo Left to right: Shantou University Provost Prof. Gu Peihua, GTIIT Chancellor Mr. Li Jiange, Shantou Mayor Liu Xiaotao, Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie, Assistant to the President for Strategic Projects Prof. Paul Feigin, and Shantou University Vice President Prof. Lin Danming
Credit: Government of the Guangdong Province
- Written by Cyber Security Conference
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be the keynote speaker at the second-largest exhibition of cyber technologies worldwide, with attendees including state leaders from around the world, global cyber security executives and investors. Mr. Chuck Robbins, CEO, Cisco, will be among the world-renowned speakers participating.
A variety of cyber-dedicated professional presentations, events and panels with experts from around the world regarding diverse topics such as international collaboration between national law enforcement authorities and the field's present challenges will be held at the conference, in addition to a hacker zone, startup competition and more.
January 30th -February 1st 2017, Israel Trade Fairs & Convention Center, Pavilion 2
The Cybertech 2017 Conference, held for the fourth year in Israel at Pavilion 2 of the Israel Trade Fairs & Convention Center on January 30th - February 1st is the second largest conference and exhibition of cyber technologies in the world. Cybertech, bringing together leading investors, entrepreneurs and cyber companies, will consist of a conference with prominent international speakers in the field of cyber security, as well as an exhibition hosting over 250 companies and 100 startups that will present innovative problem-solving strategies and solutions to challenges relevant for a wide range of sectors.
Hundreds of foreign delegations, representatives of multinational corporations and foreign investors will travel to Israel to gain exposure to the latest innovations in cyber technologies, and take part in the conference and mega exhibition. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who launched the Israel National Cyber authority devoted entirely to cyberwarfare, will open the Cybertech Conference as the keynote speaker.
Other opening plenary speakers alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will include Gov. Rick Snyder, Governor of the State of Michigan as well as Israeli and international cyber industry experts & executives from leading companies such as Cisco, HP, IBM, Checkpoint and Matrix.
The CyberTech Conference will host other prominent speakers, including Mr. Chuck Robbins, CEO, Cisco, Dr. Yossi Vardi, Conference Chairman, Chief Superintendent Meir Hayun, Head of National Cybercrime Unit, Israel Police, Dr. Eviatar Matania, Head of the National Cyber Bureau in the Prime Minister office of Israel, Mr. Yair Frank, Government CIO, Head of ICT Authority, Prime Minister Office of Israel, Mr. Avi Hasson, Chief Scientist, Ministry of Economy & Industry,Mr. Luigi Rebuffi, CEO & founder, EOS; Secretary General, ECSO, DPM., Peter Pellegrini, Deputy Prime Minister, Slovakia, Dr. Dorit Dor, VP of Products, Check Point Software Technologies, Mr. Gerard Brady, Managing Director, CISO, Morgan Stanley, USA, and many others.
The event will provide a unique platform for discussion about the latest cyber-related technological developments through panel discussions such as challenges and solutions for the cyber industry, international collaboration between law enforcement authorities around the world, cognitive computing issues, and the future of cyber security for the fintech industry. Furthermore, Cybertech will also host a variety of other events and complexes dedicated to current issues and breakthroughs, such as an Israeli startup pavilion with 100 different presentations by cyber companies, a hacker zone which will include an IoT hacking challenge and unique cyber-themed escape rooms, a Start Up competition and more.
In addition to the unique opportunity to discover the latest innovations in the local and global cyber community, Cybertech presents problem-solving strategies and solutions to challenges for a wide range of sectors including finance, defense, transportation, utilities, R&D, energy, manufacturing, service sectors, health, media, government, and more.
The event will allow businesses, startups, investors, government officials, military personnel, ambassadors and exhibition visitors to focus on networking, strengthening existing alliances, and forming new ones.
Photos Gilad Kavaranchik
- Written by Ministry of Economy and Industry Spokesperson
The program will support joint projects in the nanotechnology sector in Israel, cooperating with similar teams in Germany. The overall budget for the Israeli and German entities stands at €30 million for three years.