A delegation of 60 British top academics will visit Israel this week to launch a groundbreaking program to promote collaboration between the two countries in regenerative medicine.
Over 250 people will participate in the first UK-Israel Regenerative Medicine Conference at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev on November 22-23, with millions of people who have suffered major trauma, heart disease and Parkinson’s disease standing to benefit from this first-ever gathering of specialists.
Regenerative Medicine aims to restore the function of tissues and organs using a variety of approaches including cell therapy, tissue engineering, gene therapy and biomedical engineering.
Both Israel and the UK are recognized as world leaders in this cutting-edge area of medicine.
The conference is the inaugural event of the BIRAX – Regenerative Medicine Initiative, a five-year program that aims to raise £10 million (about $16 million) and will give generous support to 15 joint high quality UK-Israel research projects. Projects will be selected by an expert panel and approved by the UK-Israel Life Sciences Council.
“Britain and Israel are natural partners in regenerative medicine,” says British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould. “The UK is a world leader in science – we have four of the world’s top 10 universities – and Israel is a scientific powerhouse. We can achieve much more together than we can apart.
“My hope is that this conference leads to a surge of collaborations between British and Israeli scientists, with the UK-Israel Regenerative Medicine program stimulating ground-breaking research projects.”
‘Potential to make real scientific breakthroughs’
BIRAX was originally launched in 2008 by the British and Israeli prime ministers and is managed by the British Council Israel. It aims to enhance research and academic cooperation, creating new institutional links for the future and strengthening academic links between universities in the UK.
Dr Simon Kay, director at the British Council’s Israel office, says: “We believe this project has potential to make real scientific breakthroughs. Science is an incredibly strong tool for celebrating and sharing the immense intellectual prowess of both our countries and is one of the cornerstones of our work here in Israel.”
The UK-Israel Life Sciences Council – a group of 19 top scientists from both countries which met for the first time in Jerusalem in January 2011 – decided that the BIRAX program should focus on the area of regenerative medicine.
This senior group of scientists includes four Nobel Prize winners, three members of the House of Lords, presidents of universities, and some of the most distinguished scientists in the world.
The Pears Foundation and the UJIA, as well as the British and Israel governments are among the supporters of the program.
The conference expert committee will be jointly chaired by Lord Naren Patel (University of Dundee) and Prof. Benjamin Geiger (Weizmann Institute of Science), with Prof. Smadar Cohen (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev) and Prof. Chris Mason (University College London).
Conference sessions will include cell therapy, stem cell biology, tissue engineering, biomedical engineering and gene therapy, giving British and Israeli researchers the opportunity to develop collaboration.