The Technion is one of the participants of a funding round for Tamar Robotics, a startup that develops robots that assist neurosurgeons in the operating room. The company was founded in 2018 and is based in northern Israeli Kibbutz Yagur.
The company’s system is based on a five-year study conducted by co-founder and vice president of research and development, Hadas Ziso, at the Technion’s D. Dan & Betty Kahn Medical Robotics Laboratory. Professor Moshe Shoham, of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and head of the Kahn Medical Robotics Laboratory, is Tamar Robotics’ second co-founder. Prof. Shoham is also the founder of Mazor Robotics and Microbot Medical. Mazor Robotics was acquired by Medtronic PLC in 2018 at a $1.7 billion valuation.
Israel has a reputation for being the Startup Nation, but Marcelle Machluf, Dean of Biotechnology and Food Engineering at Technion Israel Institute of Technology, predicts that in coming years Israel will be known as the FoodTech Nation.
“Foodtech and biotech are two fields that are climbing to the top of the tech industry,” Machluf told Calcalist in a recent interview. “This push is happening for a reason. There is a very clear understanding of just how critical this technology is to our continued existence,” she said, adding that in the future, she expects to see food manufacturing processes becoming quicker and more automated, improved shopping experiences, and food that is higher in nutritional values and more affordable while also being produced in a less polluting manner.
Haifa 3D, an Israel-based non-governmental organization, uses 3D printing technologies and plastic to provide customized bionic hands, arms, and accessories to children and adults born without hands.
“For me personally it was a surprise that the kids don’t want hands that resemble natural ones, but technological hands that are similar to robotic ones,” says Yacov Malinovich, cofounder of Haifa 3D. “They usually order superhero hands,” he chuckles.
The group has strong ties with the Technion, and they receive assistance from professors and labs on campus. Computers, printers, plastics, and all other parts are all from donations that the group receives. Prosthetics are printed free of cost, and in some cases, recipients, especially growing children, will receive multiple prosthetics over time.
Haifa3D Founder and Chairman Yoav Medan is a Technion alumnus.
Researchers at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya have demonstrated a significant improvement in the efficiency of the process needed to store digital information in DNA.
In a paper published in Nature Biotechnology, the group demonstrated storage of information in a density of more than 10 petabytes (10 million gigabytes) in a single gram of DNA while significantly improving the writing process. Theoretically, such density allows for storing all the information stored on YouTube in a volume of a single teaspoon.
The study was led by research student Leon Anavy, a student in the Technion Faculty of Computer Science, under the guidance of Professor Zohar Yakhini of the Technion Faculty of Computer Science and the Efi Arazi School of Computer Science at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. It was conducted in collaboration with Professor Roee Amit’s Synthetic Biology Laboratory at the Technion Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering.
The amount of digital information available to humanity has grown at a tremendous speed since IBM invented the hard disk in the 1950s. Storing this information has become a major challenge not only in the technological context but also with regards to economic and environmental aspects, as server farms – information warehouses that serve us all – are currently responsible for about 2% of global carbon emissions, a similar rate to the cumulative emission of global air traffic, and for about 3% of global electricity consumption, more than the electricity consumption of the entire UK. Against this backdrop, a new technological approach has developed over the last decade: information storage in DNA. This technology allows for significant minimization, longer-term (thousand-fold) retention of information, and zero energy and economic cost of maintenance.
The basic idea of encoding information on DNA is that the DNA molecule is a chain made up of links called nucleotides. The nucleotides are divided into four types marked with letters A, C, G and T. To store information on DNA, each binary sequence (consisting of the 0 and 1 symbols) must be translated into a sequence consisting of these letters. In the next step, in a process called synthesis, actual DNA molecules are produced representing these same sequences. To read the data, these DNA molecules are sequenced. DNA sequencing produces an output that represents the nucleotide sequence that makes up each molecule in the input. That output is then translated into a binary sequence that represents the original message that was coded. Modern technologies support the synthesis of many thousands of different nucleotide series in parallel.
The storage of information on DNA is a very complex technological challenge. In the field of information reading (sequencing), there has been tremendous progress driven by the genome revolution; for the writing of information, however, there are still significant technological difficulties and costs are heavier. This is the importance of the researchers’ breakthrough. It allows for: (1) increasing the number of letters used to encode the information (beyond the original 4 letters); (2) significantly reducing the number of synthesis rounds required to store information on DNA; (3) improving the error correction mechanism used.
Researchers at the Technion and at IDC Herzliya have increased the effective number of letters beyond the four building blocks in natural DNA, using new letters that are unique combinations of the original letters. The idea is similar to the formation of new colors using mixtures of base colors. Increasing the number of letters allows more information to be encoded in each letter in the sequence.
According to Prof. Yakhini, “The current synthesis and sequencing processes are inherently redundant, because each molecule is produced in large numbers1 and is read in multiple copies during sequencing. The method we developed leverages this redundancy to increase the effective number of letters well over the original four letters, making it possible for us to encode and write each unit of information in fewer cycles of synthesis.”
The team demonstrated a reduction of the number of synthesis rounds required per unit of information by 20%. They also showed that the number of synthesis rounds could be reduce in the future by 75% without significant development efforts. This means that the storage process will be faster and less expensive.
“In this work, we have implemented a DNA based storage system that encodes information with synthesis efficiency that is significantly better than the standard approach,” explained Prof. Amit. “The study included the actual implementation of the new coding technique for storing large-volume information on DNA molecules and reconstructing it for testing the process.”
In fact, on one of the shelves in Prof. Amit’s lab at the Technion sits a small test tube containing about 10 nanograms (billionths of a gram) of DNA, encoding thousands of copies of a bilingual version of the Bible.
The research group has developed advanced error correction mechanisms to overcome errors that are an integral part of biological-physical processes, like the one used here. Part of the DNA sequence of the molecules that store the information, designed by Leon Anavy and Prof. Yakhini, is used for this error correction.
According to Leon Anavy, “thanks to the use of error-correction codes that are tailored to the unique encoding we created, we were able to perform highly efficient coding and to successfully recover the information. When working in a system consisting of millions of parts (molecules), even one-in-a-million events occur, which can disrupt the reading. Careful coding allowed us to overcome these problems.”
According to the researchers, “the technology we presented in the paper has the potential to streamline further processes in synthetic biology and biotechnology. We believe that in the coming years, we will see a significant increase in the use of synthetic DNA in research and industry.”
The synthetic DNA used by the researchers and designed by the group was produced by the Twist Bioscience, a California based company that also has offices in Tel Aviv. Sequencing was performed at the Technion’s Genome Center. The study was partly supported by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Framework Program for Research and Innovation. Leon Anavy is a fellow of the ADAMS fellowship program of the Israeli Science Academy. Dr. Orna Atar and research student Inbal Vaknin were also involved in the study.
Global Collaboration Week takes place September 23-27th, 2019 and is designed to demonstrate the power of global connectivity in classrooms, schools, institutions of informal learning and universities around the world.
Discover some of the inspiring ways that the Technion is making an impact through global collaboration – contributing Technion know-how to countless international projects and research initiatives, and partnering with leading educational institutes around the world.
CELEBRATING TEN YEARS OF TECHNION INTERNATIONAL
The Technion recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the Technion International, the program that oversees all of university’s international academic programs, supports its international initiatives and academic agreements with its foreign partners worldwide, and serves incoming and enrolled international students at the Technion.
NY GENOME CENTER PARTNERS WITH TECHNION TO FIGHT ALS
The New York Genome Center and Technion will collaborate to complete the genetic mapping of all 600 ALS patients in Israel, including both Arabs and Jews, the first time such multi-ethnic mapping of Israeli ALS patients will occur.
Technion researchers and their partners in Africahave received a prize for the development of a technology that creates water from heat, which aims to provide clean water to third world countries. The Mauerberger Foundation award aims to strengthen academic ties and the exchange of ideas between researchers in Israel and Africa.
The growing Israeli presence at the world’s largest medical center in Houston, Texas is creating a large-scale launchpad for Israeli digital health innovations into the complex US healthcare system. Three of the companies featured have Technion DNA: Innosphere Co-founder and VP of Engineering Yousef Badran, VoiceItt Co-founders Danny Weissberg and Stas Tiomkin, and Sonaris Co-founder and CEO Tom Mayblum are all Technion alumni.
Ecologist Dr. Assaf Shwartz of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is leading a multi-national team investigating the effects of an invasive species of parrots in Europe and Israel. ParrotNet is a European network of scientists, practitioners, and policy-makers dedicated to research on invasive parrots, their impacts, and the challenges they present to agriculture and ecology.
The Eurotech University Alliance is what global collaboration is all about. Technion has recently joined an elite strategic partnership comprised of five leading European universities of science and technology. The alliance enables its members to pool resources, combine complementary research strengths, and connect innovation ecosystems for global impact.
The appearance of a theoretically impossible black hole has the whole world hypothesizing the reason for its existence. Technion researcher, Ari Laor, is part of an international team of astronomers investigating the occurrence with the aid of the Hubble Space telescope.