Science & Technology
- Written by Technion
Technion ranked 31st in the world in the U.S. Academy of Inventors index
The Technion received approval for 65 patents in the U.S. in 2014, the most of any Israeli university.
The rankings list of the National Academy of Inventors, founded in the U.S. in 2010, ranks the Technion in 31st place in the list of universities around the world, based on the number of patents approved in the U.S. in 2014. The Technion, with 65 approved patents last year, ranks above well-known universities such as Yale, Duke, Rutgers, USC (University of Southern California) and Tokyo University, as well as all the other Israeli institutions that placed in the rankings: Tel Aviv University (43rd place), the Weizmann Institute (52nd place) and Hebrew University (73rd place). The top-ranked university is MIT, which advanced from second place in 2013, with 453 approved patents in 2014.
A few of the patents registered by the Technion and approved in 2014 are: medical scaffolding; a system for monitoring air passage in the lungs; a system for the rapid imaging of the macula; non-friction molecular engines; an innovative device for separating oxygen from air; silicon-air batteries; and assessment for the early diagnosis of growths in the large intestine.
Prof. Wayne D. Kaplan, Technion’s Executive Vice President for Research, congratulated the researchers, senior staff and students on this impressive achievement.
“The commercialization of inventions and the registering of patents are strategic goals for us, connected with strengthening the ties between academia and industry. The Technion invests significant resources in these matters, and the Technion’s patent registration department, headed by Ofir Alon, is doing wonderful work. We will continue to strive to translate research into finished technology and to bring inventions from the lab to the market.”
Benjamin Soffer, director of T3―Technion Technology Transfer Office, which houses the patent registration department, said that this impressive accomplishment is “an expression of the Technion’s tremendous openness to innovation and to the balance between the entrepreneurial spirit and excellence in academia and research. In the past few decades the Technion has been constantly increasing the entrepreneurial component in training students, with the intention that at the end of their studies the students will be equipped not only with scientific and engineering tools, but also with the managerial and entrepreneurial skills that will enable them to ‘invent their own workplace’ and not only to find jobs as salaried employees in existing companies.”
In many instances, the approval of a patent is the preliminary stage to the commercialization of technology or an invention. In the commercialization field, too, the Technion has made impressive strides: Within less than a decade, revenues from commercialization have jumped from $10.7 million annually (in 2008-2009) to over $30 million (2014-2015).
“It’s important to take into account that the Technion’s research budget, $135 million a year, is very low compared to the other universities and is only 8% of the MIT’s research budget. If the universities were ranked based on their revenues from commercialization relative to their research expenditures, the Technion would be in third place, behind Princeton and New York University,” said Soffer.
The Technion Technology Transfer (T³) office operated in the framework of the Technion Research & Development Foundation, and is responsible for the commercialization and protection of intellectual property developed by the Technion. One of the outstanding successes in this field is the commercialization of Azilect, a drug developed in cooperation with Teva Pharmaceuticals, based on research by professors Moussa Youdim and John Finberg. Sales of this drug top $400 million annually.
T3 manages holdings in some 50 active companies and over the past three years, the Technion’s portfolio companies have raised over $250 million in investment capital. These companies include Argo Medical Technologies (which develops exoskeletons to help the disabled to walk); Applied Immune Technologies (a drug development company specializing in T-Cell Receptor-Like, TCRL, antibodies); Accellta (media and cell cultures for the stem cell industry), Sealantis (tissue adhesive); Avraham Pharmaceuticals (drugs to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and mild cognitive disorders), Corindus (robotics technology that enables cardiologists to perform remote catheterization), VibeSec (information security on web-based telephony), NanoSpun Technologies (smart fibers), ElMindA (imaging system for neuron network activity in the brain and treatment based on network stimulation) DigiFlex (products for the printing industry and industrial processes) and Regentis (gel for regenerating tissue).
The department is responsible, among other things, for the management of the Technion’s patent portfolio, which has over 780 applications for patent registration.
For the full list of the rankings: http://www.academyofinventors.com/pdf/NAI-IPO-Top-100-Universities-2014.pdf
- Written by KKL
Clean Water for Advanced Agriculture in Kibbutz Bror Hayil
A pipeline for wastewater and an upgraded pumping system are about to solve the sewage problem in Kibbutz Bror Hayil, which is located near the Gaza perimeter. The project, which was undertaken with the support of Ma'alot 360, Friends of JNF in Victoria, Australia, is expected to be completed within a few weeks. The upgraded system will enable an influx of new residents, agricultural expansion, environmental protection and a higher standard of living for the people of the entire region.
“The new system is very important to us and to other rural communities in the vicinity as far as ecology and agriculture are concerned,” said Simon Guthrie, the Economic Coordinator of Kibbutz Bror Hayil, regarding the upgraded sewage system. “The water is used for irrigating the fields, and without proper treatment of effluents, it would be impossible to absorb new residents and expand the kibbutz.”
The old oxidation pools provided low quality water and did not meet the standards of the Ministry of Health. The new facility includes an upgraded pumping station and the installation of sewage pipelines, 1.2 kilometers long, that reach the regional wastewater treatment plant in Sderot. The water will be treated in the Sderot Wastewater Treatment Plant and conducted back to irrigate the fields of Sderot and the local rural communities. Upgrading the sewage system keeps the environment clean, ensures a high standard of living for the people and prevents sanitation problems that could inhibit expansion of the kibbutz.
Read more at :
Photo Simon Guthrie in front of Jojoba groves
Credit.: Yoav Devir
- Written by Technion
Breakthrough in Cancer Research
The ubiquitin system produces a protein that greatly restricts the development of cancerous tumors
A new study by researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology could hold one key to control cancer cell growth and development. In a paper published in the April 9, 2015 edition of CELL. The team reports on the discovery of two cancer-suppressing proteins.
The research was conducted in the laboratory of Distinguished Professor Aaron Ciechanover, of the Technion Rappaport Faculty of Medicine. The team was led by research associate Dr. Yelena Kravtsova-Ivantsiv and , included additional research students and colleagues, as well as physicians from the Rambam, Carmel and Hadassah Medical Centers, who are studying tumors and their treatment.
The heretofore-undiscovered proteins were found during ongoing research on the ubiquitin system, an important and vital pathway in the life of the cell, which is responsible for the degradation of defective proteins that could damage the cell if not removed. The ubiquitin system tags these proteins and sends them for destruction in the cellular complex known as the proteasome. The system also removes functional and healthy proteins that are not needed anymore, thereby regulating the processes that these proteins control.
Usually, the proteins that reach the proteasome are completely broken down, but there are some exceptions, and the current line of research examined p105, a long precursor of a key regulator in the cell called NF-κB. It turns out that p105 can be broken down completely in certain cases following its tagging by ubiquitin, but in other cases it is only cut and shortened and becomes a protein called p50.
NF-κB has been identified as a link between inflammation and cancer. The hypothesis of the connection between inflammatory processes and cancer was first suggested in 1863 by German pathologist Rudolph Virchow, and has been confirmed over the years in a long series of studies. Ever since the discovery (nearly 30 years ago) of NF-κB, numerous articles have been published linking it to malignant transformation. It is involved in tumors of various organs (prostate, breast, lung, head and neck, large intestine, brain, etc.) in several parallel ways, including: inhibition of apoptosis (programmed cell death) normally eliminates transformed cells; acceleration of uncontrolled division of cancer cells; formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis), which are vital to tumor growth; and increased resistance of cancerous cells to irradiation and chemotherapy.
As noted, the precursor p105 is “handled” by the ubiquitin system in one of two parallel and equally prevalent ways. It is either destroyed completely, or shortened and transformed to p50. The current research deciphers the decision-making mechanism that determines which process will be applied to the protein: when a ubiquitin system component called KPC1 is involved in the process and attaches ubiquitin to p105, the protein is shortened to become p50. When ubiquitination is mediated by another component of the system (and without KPC1), p105 is degraded.
The decision between these two options has significant implications on the cell, as the presence of high levels of KPC1 (which generates p50) and p50 (the product of the process) – with the accompanying disruption of the normal ratios between the processes – suppresses the malignant growth and apparently protects the healthy tissue. The current research was conducted on models of human tumors grown in mice, as well as on samples of human tumors, and a strong connection was discovered between the suppression of malignancy and the level of the two proteins, clearly indicating that the increased presence of KPC1 and/or p50 in the tissue can protect it from cancerous tumors.
Professor Ciechanover, who is also the president of the Israel Cancer Society, notes that many more years are required “to establish the research and gain a solid understanding of the mechanisms behind the suppression of the tumors. The development of a drug based on this discovery is a possibility, although not a certainty, and the road to such a drug is long and far from simple.”
Professor Ciechanover won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2004 (jointly with Professors Avram Hershko – also from the Technion – and Irwin Rose, of the Fox Chase Cancer Center) for the discovery of the ubiquitin system. The current line of research is a continuation of that discovery.
Distinguished Professor Aaron Ciechanover. Photographer: Dan Porges.
- Written by Silvia G Golan
A Cocktail Reception was hosted by His Excellency, the Ambassador Mr. Lars Faaborg-Andersen, Head of the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to the State of Israel, and Mrs. Jean Murphy in the new EU Residence in Herzliya Pituach on 11 May 2015. This reception took place on the occasion of Israel National Science Day in 2015, and in order to stress the scientific cooperation between EU and Israel.
Mr. Lars Faaborg-Andersen opened his speech by expressing his great pleasure to welcome the distinguished guests to the EU reception in honour of Israel's National Science Day in which we celebrate one of the strongest bonds between the EU and Israel – cooperation in the field of scientific and technological research
He continued with the following remarks:
· Our cooperation in science and technology is a model for the type of close relations we hope will continue and which we would like to see in more fields in the future
· It is also proof that it is ludicrous to talk about an EU boycott of Israel
· Israel has been associated to the EU's Framework Programmes for R&D since 1996 and is the only non-European country to be associated
· As you are probably, with a budget of close to 80 million EURO, the current Framework Programme Horizon 2020 is the biggest research programme in the world. We hope that Israel will be as successful in this programme as it was in the previous one -FP7 - which saw Israel researchers participating in over 1,600 projects.
· The EU's cooperation with Israel in the field of science and technology is a thus win-win situation for both of us. We both have a great deal to learn and benefit from each other. It is beyond an issue of numbers – the exposure for both our academia and industry to cutting edge research, the links to leading institutions and to key actors in the private sector are invaluable contributions to both our research worlds and economies
· We will be hearing later on from Professor Hossem Haick of the Technion whose work on the "electronic nose" has been supported by the gamut of Framework Programme actions from the Marie Curie fellowship through the prestigious European Research Council grant to the collaborative research grant
· But our cooperation starts at an even earlier stage than that of post-doc. We will be hearing from high school student Avner Okun who will be speaking on behalf of the six winners of the Israeli Competition for Young Scientists and Developers who will be going on to participate in the EU Competition for Young Scientists that will take place this September in Milan. I would like to take this opportunity to wish them all the best of luck
I would like to conclude by mentioning a few more examples of our cooperation
· Both in Israel and in the European Union, we share a common problem: how to ensure that future generations of young people take an interest in science and decide to take up a career in research
Every year Israel, supported by the Framework Programmes, organizes Researchers Night, an event mirrored all over Europe whose purpose, like that of Israel Science Day, is to bring science to the general public and to instill a passion for science in young people.
· For the fifth year, the EU Delegation is organising the annual EU-Israel Innovation Seminar which brings together innovation experts to exchange ideas and forge the basis for future collaboration. Last year, the seminar was attended by close to 130 participants including 50 from 13 EU countries
Mr. Lars Faaborg-Andersen ended his speech by wishing all the guests an enjoyable evening and continued excellent cooperation.
The reception continued with a recorded video with greetings from the European Commissioner Carlos Moedas in charge of Research, Science and Innovation.
Then, Mr Ido Sharir, Director General, Ministry of Science, Technology and Space, greeted His Excellency Mr. Lars Faaborg-Andersen, Head of the EU Delegation to the State of Israel, and the distinguished guests. He thanked the Delegation of the EU for organizing this event on the occasion of Israel's National Science Day and pointed out the following remarks:
· Science and Technology are an imperative part of our lives; from the moment we open our eyes in the morning and throughout every second of our day.
· All our experiences, starting with what we see and do in our daily behavior, continuing to the instruments and devices we use on a daily basis and ending in the explanation of physiological and sociological phenomena – all are connected to Science and Technology.
· Israel's National Science Day enables us to present and promote the contribution of science to our life and society.
· The National Science Day will be celebrated tomorrow (May 12th) in over a 100 events all over Israel. (We usually mark the Science Day around March 14th - Albert Einstein's birthday, but this year we postponed it due to the general elections held at mid-March.)
· These events include interactive activities for the entire family and are open to the public.
· They will be held at the universities, at science museums, at community centers, at Regional Research and development Center, etc.
The events will showcase the importance of science in our life and aim to encourage the involvement of youth in the field.
· The Ministry of Science, Technology and Space has put on its agenda to reach out to the general public.
· We are conducting training activities for youth, women, orthodox communities and ethnic minorities to bring them closer to science and scientific activities.
· We believe that science is a bridge to minimize gaps in the society.
· Practicing science can allow every man and woman to fulfill their goals and to contribute to society regardless of gender, economic background, or religion.
· The scientific cooperation with the EU, particularly with the R&D Framework Programs, has proven to be one of the most important tools to promote academic - scientific research in Israel in the past decade.
· We are glad to be part of Horizon 2020 and encourage Israeli scientists to take part in this important European Program.
· I hope and know that through the scientific cooperation, all side will benefit and our bilateral ties will bloom.
Mr Ido Sharir ended his speech by thanking Mr. Lars Faaborg-Andersen for his hospitality and wishing all the guests a good evening.
The reception continued with presentations of the following distinguished scientists:
· Professor Hossem Haick, Department of Chemical Engineering and Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute, Technion Israel Institute of Technology.
· Mrs Maya Halevy – Director, Bloomfield Science Museum.
· Mr Avner Okun, Young Scientist, Himmelfarb Yeshiva High School, Jerusalem
The important EU Reception on 11 May 2015 is part of a series of events that took place in different sites in Israel along a week in order to commemorate Israel's National Science Day.
Photo Silvia Golan
- Written by Weizmann Institute of Science
A cell programming technique developed at the Weizmann Institute turns them into the earliest precursors of sperm and ova
Groups at the Weizmann Institute of Science and Cambridge University have jointly managed the feat of turning back the clock on human cells to create primordial germ cells – the embryonic cells that give rise to sperm and ova – in the lab. This is the first time that human cells have been programmed into this early developmental stage. The results of their study, which were published today in Cell, could help provide answers as to the causes of fertility problems, yield insight into the earliest stages of embryonic development and potentially, in the future, enable the development of new kinds of reproductive technology.
"Researchers have been attempting to create human primordial germ cells (PGCs) in the petri dish for years," says Dr. Jacob Hanna of the Institute's Molecular Genetics Department, who led the study together with research student Leehee Weinberger. PGCs arise within the early weeks of embryonic growth, as the embryonic stem cells in the fertilized egg begin to differentiate into the very basic cell types. Once these primordial cells become "specified," they continue developing toward precursor sperm cells or ova "pretty much on autopilot," says Hanna. The idea of creating these cells in the lab took off with the 2006 invention of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells – adult cells that are "reprogrammed" to look and act like embryonic stem cells, which can then differentiate into any cell type. Thus several years ago, when researchers in Japan created mouse iPS cells and then got them to differentiate into PGCs, scientists immediately set about trying to replicate the achievement in human cells. But until now, none had been successful.
Previous research in Hanna's lab pointed to new methods that could take human cells to the PGC state. That research had focused on the question of how human iPS cells and mouse embryonic cells differ: The mouse embryonic cells are easily kept in their stem cell state in the lab, while human iPS cells that have been reprogrammed – a technique that involves the insertion of four genes – have a strong drive to differentiate, and they often retain traces of "priming." Hanna and his group then created a method for tuning down the genetic pathway for differentiation, thus creating a new type of iPS cell that they dubbed "naïve cells." These naïve cells appeared to rejuvenate iPS cells one step further, closer to the original embryonic state from which they can truly differentiate into any cell type. Since these naïve cells are more similar to their mouse counterparts, Hanna and his group thought they could be coaxed to differentiate into primordial germ cells.
Working with naïve human embryonic stem and iPS cells, and applying the techniques that had been successful in the mouse cell experiments, the research team managed to produce cells that, in both cases, appeared to be identical to human PGCs. Together with the lab group of Prof. Azim Surani of Cambridge University, the scientists further tested and refined the method jointly in both labs. By adding a glowing red fluorescent marker to the genes for PGCs, they were able to gauge how many of the cells had been programmed. Their results showed that quite a high rate – up to 40% – had become PGCs; this quantity enables easy analysis.
Hanna points out that PGCs are only the first step in creating human sperm and ova. A number of hurdles remain before labs will be able to complete the chain of events that move an adult cell through the cycle of embryonic stem cell and around to sperm or ova. For one, at some point in the process, these cells must learn to perform the neat trick of dividing their DNA in half before they can become viable reproductive cells. Still, he is confident that those hurdles will one day be overcome, raising the possibility, for example, of enabling women who have undergone chemotherapy or premature menopause to conceive.
In the meantime, the study has already yielded some interesting results that may have significant implications for further research on PGCs and possibly other early embryonic cells. The team managed to trace part of the genetic chain of events that directs a stem cell to differentiate into a primordial germ cell, and they discovered a master gene, Sox17, that regulates the process in humans, but not in mice. Because this gene network is quite different from the one that had been identified in mice, the researchers suspect that more than a few surprises may await scientists who study the process in humans.
Hanna: "Having the ability to create human PGCs in the petri dish will enable us to investigate the process of differentiation on the molecular level. For example, we found that only 'fresh' naïve cells can become PGCs; but after a week in conventional growth conditions they lose this capability once again. We want to know why this is. What is it about human stem cell states that makes them more or less competent? And what exactly drives the process of differentiation once a cell has been reprogrammed to its more naïve state? It is the answers to these basic questions that will, ultimately, advance iPS cell technology to the point of medical use."
Dr. Jacob Hanna's research is supported by Pascal and Ilana Mantoux, France/Israel; the New York Stem Cell Foundation, the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute (FAMRI), the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), the Helen and Martin Kimmel Award for Innovative Investigation, the Benoziyo Endowment Fund for the Advancement of Science; the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust; the Sir Charles Clore Research Prize; Erica A. Drake and Robert Drake; the Abisch Frenkel Foundation for the Promotion of Life Sciences; the European Research Council; the Israel Science Foundation, and the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung. Dr. Hanna is a New York Stem Cell Foundation-Robertson Investigator.
This work was made possible by a grant from BIRAX Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership – Regenerative Medicine Initiative.
The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, is one of the world's top-ranking multidisciplinary research institutions. Noted for its wide-ranging exploration of the natural and exact sciences, the Institute is home to scientists, students, technicians and supporting staff. Institute research efforts include the search for new ways of fighting disease and hunger, examining leading questions in mathematics and computer science, probing the physics of matter and the universe, creating novel materials and developing new strategies for protecting the environment.
Weizmann Institute news releases are posted on the World Wide Web at
http://wis-wander.weizmann.ac.il/, and are also available at http://www.eurekalert.org/
Photo provided by The Weizmann Institute