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Medicine of the Future: British-Israeli Conference at the Technion

This morning the second BIRAX Regenerative Medicine Conference opened at the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine. The conference is focusing on British and Israeli collaborative research in the field of regenerative medicine and medicine based on stem cells. About 300 people will be attending the conference, over 80 of them from Britain. Among the delegates are recipients of seven large scale groundbreaking joint research projects  , which were awarded funding following first call for proposals of the BIRAX Regenerative Medicine Initiative.

Technion President, Professor Peretz Lavie, conveyed that in 1997, when he served as the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Professor Joseph Itzkovitz requested funding for the amount of $10,000 to bring Professor James Thomson from the University of Wisconsin. “Professor Itzkovitz explained that he was a leading stem cell researcher. At the time this research sounded to me like science fiction, but I agreed to his request. Professor Thomson came to the conference and the rest, as they say, is history– stem cell research has evolved into a key area in medicine, and a field with enormous potential. I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to play a small role in promoting this important field – by allocating $10,000 of the Faculty’s budget. Today, Technion researchers play a major role in this research area.”

"Without a doubt, we are living in a fascinating age,” said Professor Eliezer Shalev, the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. “Medicine is changing and evolving right before our eyes. Regenerative medicine is one of the most important areas of medicine, and it gives new hope to patients that until now had no cure for their ailments. Regenerative medicine offers compensation for the deterioration of bodily functions within a lifetime, and is of great importance in view of today’s aging population and the shortage of organs for transplantation. It may also help reduce animal testing.”

"It is a great privilege to hold this joint conference here,” said Matthew Gould, the British Ambassador to Israel, and one of the key founding figures of the BIRAX Regenerative Medicine program. “For me this is much more than a conference focused on regenerative medicine; it’s a wonderful model of scientific collaboration and exchange between countries. This is how I would like to see the relationship between Britain and Israel: bound by positive and fruitful connections, and founded on excellence stemming from both countries in specific scientific areas. The Government of Israel and the Government of Britain are seriously committed for this type of cooperation at BIRAX conferences, and British leaders voiced this sentiment during their visits to Israel: William Hague, the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, at his visit a year ago; our Prime Minister, David Cameron, at his visit two weeks ago; and David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science who is with us today at the conference.”

Britain’s Minister of Science and Universities, David Willetts opened the conference by saying that this is his second visit to Israel. “I’ve been in Israel for almost a week along with a delegation of senior representatives from leading British universities. BIRAX is a wonderful way to promote scientific exchange between our two countries, and through its framework we advance research of global significance, which carry considerable British and Israeli contributions. We invest in different fields, such as energy and advanced materials, but most of our focus is on life sciences, in which we invest hundreds of millions of pounds.”

Professor Saul Tendler, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Nottingham , has visited Israel a number of times, as he has been involved in long term scientific cooperation with Professor Ehud Gazit from Tel Aviv University. In an exclusive interview Professor Tendler said that no British university has ever boycotted Israel and that top universities from the countries are interacting. “ “In reality, talks of boycotts are baseless, there they may be academics here and there who choose not to work with Israel, just as there are those who refuse to work with China.”

Professor Paul Curran, Paul Curran, Vice-Chancellor , City University , added that, “In the five years I’ve served as the university president there have been no anti-Semitic nor anti-Israel incident. As part of the ‘Olive Tree Scholarship we bring students from Israel and Palestine to City university where they take part in discussions sometimes hosted by journalists from theBBC,. Unfortunately, the media focuses on the  negative,.”

In connection with British-Israeli exchange Professor Curran said that, “We are two small countries who are very strong in science, and therefore cooperation is not accidental. When our Prime Minister, David Cameron, visited here two weeks ago, the first thing he did was to sign a cooperation agreement between our two countries.”

"The number of Israeli students in the UK has been declining, and it is important for us to alter this trend. We hope that BIRAX will help reverse this trend and that more students from Israel will choose to study in the UK..”

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