Technion Professor Alon Wolf, a medical mechanical engineer, recently visited Toronto and Montreal where he spoke to Technion Canada volunteers and supporters about his remarkable surgical robot snake invention. Using live snakes as the design inspiration, Professor Wolf’s team created a small, highly flexible robotic snake that enters the body through a natural orifice and perform surgical maneuvers without the need for an incision. This much less invasive surgery reduces recovery time and risk of infection.
Professor Wolf, Technion’s VP for external relations and resource development, stressed the impact that Technion researchers and alumni are having in the hi-tech market world-wise. “Israeli companies are number 3 on Nasdaq after the United States and China, and two-thirds of those companies are led by Technion graduates. Our graduates are responsible for 90 per cent of the successful startups in Israel.”
Patients on antibiotics are often prescribed probiotics to counter the effects of the antibiotics on their gut flora. Now, however, a research team from the Technion and Boston Children’s Hospital has found that using probiotics in hospital intensive care units could lead to blood infections, and that in some cases the risk could outweigh the benefits.
The study was published in Nature Medicine is a collaboration between Professor Roy Kishony and Dr. Idan Yelin of the Technion, and researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital. Prof. Kishony is the Marilyn and Henry Taub Professor of Life Sciences, director of the Lorry Lokey Center for Life Sciences and Engineering, and a member of the Faculties of Biology and Computer Science.
With the help of the ReWalk Robotics exoskeleton, retired U.S. Army Sergeant Terry Hannigan Vereline recently became the first paralyzed American to successfully complete a marathon. ReWalk was invented by Technion alumnus Dr. Amit Goffer, and was processed through the Technion’s incubator for further development before it was used in clinical trials. Vereline successfully walked the 2019 New York City Marathon, walking all 26.2 miles over a span of 3 days.
“Ever since the day I stood up in the ReWalk for the first time, opportunities I never thought I’d have again were laid out before me,” Vereline said in a press release. “Words cannot express the feelings I had crossing the finish line. This has been a dream of mine, and I hope I can serve as an inspiration to others that you too can achieve what seems like the impossible — especially all of the disabled children I meet across the country.”
For the sixth time: Technion wins a gold medal at the international iGEM competition in Boston. The team also ranked among the top five in the category of community contribution. The group has developed a technology for the creation of bee-free honey
The Technion team has been working on the development of bee-free honey for the past year. The synthetic honey is produced by the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, which “learns” to produce the honey following reprogramming in the lab. The innovation gains importance within the context of the decline in bee populations in many parts of the world. Moreover, in the artificial production of honey, the manufacturer can determine the properties of the honey, including its taste.
iGEM is a prestigious competition established in 2004 by MIT – The Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The competition gives students the opportunity to study and experiment with all aspects of scientific and applied research in synthetic biology. Some 300 teams from universities all over the world took part in the competition.
This year, with the support of the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Technion, a delegation left for the US comprised of 12 students from six different faculties at the Technion: Biomedical Engineering; Medicine; Biotechnology and Food Engineering; Industrial Management and Engineering; Chemical Engineering; and Aerospace Engineering.
Student groups from the Technion have been participating in the iGEM competition since 2012 under the initiative of Prof. Roee Amit, head of the Synthetic Biology Laboratory for the Decipherment of Genomic Codes in the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering, and Lab Director Dr. Orna Atar. This year the group was also guided by mentors Noa Eden, Tzila Davidov, and Liron Abrahami-Patchuk.
The competition is structured so that groups are required to both develop a scientific-technological idea, and to present themselves as real business enterprises. In addition to the development of new technology, group members are required to raise research funding; meet with relevant experts from academia and industry; and perform experiments to improve the product. Over the years, dozens of startups have been born through the international competition.
“The winnings in the competition are definitely exciting, but equally important is the intellectual property created around the project,” said Prof. Roee Amit. “Just this year, we’ve shortlisted two rare achievements with developments from previous student competitions: a scientific article published January 2, 2019; and a patent approved in the United States on March 26, 2019.”
The article, which was published in the ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering journal, describes the use of engineered bacteria to detect and measure harmful substances in food and water. Patent No. 10240132, which Prof. Amit and Dr. Attar are signed onto together with students Alexei Tomsov and Maayan Lufton who participated in the 2015 delegation, is a device for preventing baldness based on body bacteria activity.
One parameter for participation in the competition is social contribution. Within this framework, the Technion group held a unique Hackathon on environmental issues and sustainability. At the Hackathon, 44 outstanding students from 10th-12th grade in Haifa participated, with “The Green Choice” group winning first place, developing a solution to reduce the amount of food waste in the world. This was achieved through an application that allows supermarkets to offer lower prices on products that are about to expire. The Hackathon organization put the Technion team among the top five in the iGEM Community Engagement category.
Technion Awards Harvey Prize to Developers of the CRISPR-Cas9 Genetic Editing Technology, and to Father of Algorithmic Game Theory
The prestigious Harvey Prize for science and technology was awarded on Sunday at Technion to Prof. Emmanuelle Charpentier, Prof. Jennifer Doudna and Prof. Feng Zhang, who developed the groundbreaking genetic editing technology CRISPR-Cas9, and to Prof. Christos H. Papadimitriou, one of the founding fathers of algorithmic game theory. The ceremony was attended by Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan, Executive V.P. for Research Prof. Koby Rubinstein, Executive V.P. for Academic Affairs Prof. Shimon Marom, Senior Executive V.P. Prof. Oded Rabinovitch, V.P. for External Relations and Resource Development Prof. Alon Wolf, deans and faculty members. The master of ceremonies was Prof. Adi Salzberg of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine.
“The Harvey Prize epitomizes the institution that I have the honor of heading,” Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan said at the ceremony. “It represents excellence on a global scale, celebrates human ingenuity and accomplishments, and showcases the power of science to improve humanity. The four individuals who received the prize are proof that curiosity, creativity and determination can indeed change the world.”
Prof. Emmanuelle Charpentier from the Max Planck Institute and Prof. Jennifer Doudna from UC Berkeley published their historic article in 2012 in the prestigious journal Science, describing how the bacterial protein CRISPR-Cas9 can identify targets in the DNA. The article demonstrated how Cas9 can be easily programmed to edit a broad range of DNA targets. Prof. Charpentier and Prof. Doudna were awarded the Harvey Prize for their extraordinary contribution to understanding central aspects of the CRISPR-Cas9 bacterial defense system and its use as a genome editing tool to program eukaryotic cells, as well as for clarifying structural biology and the biochemistry of the CRISPR-Cas9 system and its translation to applied science. These dramatic discoveries generated a revolution in life sciences and make it possible to edit, modify and repair DNA. In the future, these breakthroughs are expected to spark the development of innovative treatments for diseases and aging.
“Basic science did not lose its importance, and it is still crucial for developing important applications,” said Prof. Charpentier, who is head of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Pathogens, at the ceremony. “A deep understanding of biological processes is necessary for developing medical applications and innovative treatments for serious diseases, and I am extremely grateful for the academic freedom we are given and for the financial support for our work.
“It is a great honor for me to receive this prize, and I thank the Technion for acknowledging the importance of our research. I would not have been able to embark by myself on the long journey that led to the development of the CRISPR-Cas9 technology as a genetic editing tool, and I would like to thank all the young students and brilliant colleagues who worked with me over the years, and especially my partner Prof. Jennifer Doudna.”
Prof. Doudna, who was unable to attend the ceremony, expressed gratitude for the prize in a video clip. “It’s a wonderful honor to be receiving the Harvey Prize for the development of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology. I congratulate my co-recipients and in particular I acknowledge the wonderful collaboration with lab of Prof. Emmanuelle Charpentier. Our teams worked together to understand the fundamental biology of a bacterial immune system known as CRISPR. When we figured out how Cas9 works as a programmable enzyme, we recognized it could be harnessed as a powerful technology to change the DNA sequences cells and of organisms – in ways that scientists around the world are now using towards curing genetic diseases and coming up with agricultural solutions to the problems of climate change and pestilence.”
Prof. Feng Zhang received the prize for a landmark article he published in Science in 2013 on CRISPR-Cas9 technology for genomic editing in developed organisms and on using the CRISPR-Cas9 system as an RNA-programmable system for use in eukaryotic cells. “Working with scientists from all over the world creates close research and personal relationships, and I’m glad that I have wonderful friends and colleagues also from Israel,” Prof. Feng Zhang said at the ceremony. Prof. Zhang, who is 38, is the youngest person to ever win a Harvey Prize. “The Harvey Prize is a huge honor for me, and I have no doubt that it will motivate me to return to the lab and continue working hard.”
The winner in the field of Computer Science, Prof. Christos H. Papadimitriou, is considered the father of algorithmic game theory. He taught at Harvard, the National Technical University of Athens, Stanford, UC San Diego and UC Berkeley, and is currently a professor of Computer Science at Columbia University. He is one of the leading scientists in the theory of computer science, and is best known for his work on computational complexity. Prof. Papadimitriou won a Gödel Prize in 2012.
Prof. Papadimitriou said at the ceremony that, “Twenty five years ago, Computer Science’s center of gravity shifted from the computer itself to the Internet. This process led to studies that were crucial for the development of Science, for improving humanity and for understanding the universe. I’m happy that I was able to participate in these developments and to work with outstanding researchers from the Technion, especially the late Prof. Shimon Even. It is a big honor for me not just to receive the prize, but also to receive it together with the developers of CRISPR-Cas9, who are responsible for a revolution in life sciences.”
The Harvey Prize, which was established in 1971 by Leo M. Harvey of Los Angeles, is awarded annually at Technion for exceptional achievements in science, technology, and human health, and for outstanding contributions to peace in the Middle East, to society and to the economy. Over the years, more than a quarter of Harvey laureates have subsequently won the Nobel Prize and therefore the Harvey Prize is considered a “Nobel predictor.”
“Tikkun Olam” is a concept in Judaism meaning “repair the world”.
Technion takes pride in its faculty, students and alumni who work to make the world a better place by protecting the environment, helping the under-privileged, and giving back to our communities.
This month, we are highlighting a few ways in which Technion contributes to making a difference in the world. The hope is that these efforts may inspire others to do the same!
BEST FOOT FORWARD
Technion’s Chapter of Engineers without Borders (EwB) is part of the university’s Center for Global Engineering, whose mission is to support community-driven development programs worldwide through partnerships and sustainable engineering projects. Students participate in transformative experiences that enrich global perspectives and create responsible global leaders, and work locally and globally to plan and implement sustainable programs with different communities to improve the quality of life. Learn about EWB’s projects in Israel, Ethiopia and Nepal!
TRAINING GUIDE DOGS FOR THE BLIND
Technion’s guide dog program is the largest fostering program of its kind in northern Israel and one of numerous ways Technion students are encouraged to contribute to the wider community. Technion students foster the puppies for an 18-month period in order to expose the dogs to the widest possible range of settings and experiences.
“The Technion is very dog-friendly, and the service dogs in training have become part of the campus life and landscape,” said Alon Wolf, the Technion’s vice president for external relations and resource development. “In many ways it’s the university as a whole, and not just the students, who are taking part in this task that does so much for the greater good.”
CLEAN WATER FOR DEVELOPING NATIONS
Researchers at the Technion Institute of Technology and their partners in Africa received the Mauberger Foundation prize for the development of a technology that creates water from heat, which aims to provide clean water to developing countries. The Mauerberger Foundation award, granted for the first time, aims to strengthen academic ties and exchange of ideas between researchers in Israel and Africa.
SAVING OUR CORAL REEFS
Design technologies might hold a key to rehabilitating our underwater world! Coral reefs worldwide have been harmed due to global warming, pollution, and touristic scuba diving. Professor Ezri Tarazi, head of the Industrial Design Graduate Program in the Technion Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning, led an Israeli team that designed, 3D printed, and installed the world’s first bioplastic and ceramic coral reef in the Red Sea. Some 40 different species of fish are now sleeping, hiding, and laying their eggs on the artificial reefs!
Haifa 3D, an Israel-based non-governmental organization co-founded by Technion alumnus Yoav Medan, uses 3D printing technologies and plastic to provide customized bionic hands, arms, and accessories to children and adults born without hands. The organization benefits from close cooperation with researchers and workers at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. It also receives used equipment donations. Prosthetics are printed free of cost, and in some cases, recipients, especially growing children, will receive multiple prosthetics over time. Superhero hands are a popular choice!
Technion is doing their part to help the well-being of our world and its inhabitants, and we encourage you do your part as well! Help out around your hometown and reinforce sustainable habits within your household – You can make a difference!
Contribute to The Technion Fund to support Tikkun Olam initiatives to further research and breakthroughs that will heal the world.
A new interactive showcase of Israeli technology is now open at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Jaffa, Israel, and the Technion’s place as a driver of the country’s tech-based economy is evident throughout.
Included among the showcase’s 18 life-sized video avatars of Israeli entrepreneurs who have made their mark Israel are Technion alumnus Dov Moran, whose company M-Systems created the flash thumb drive, Professor Hossam Haick, inventor of “Na-nose” technology that can sniff out cancer and other diseases, and Technion alumna and software guru Kira Radinsky, who recently stepped down from her position as chief scientist of eBay Israel to take a position as the CTO of Diagnostic Robotics.
There is also a room in which, each year, 45 Israeli startups are highlighted. For the launch, companies highlighted include Technion alumni-led companies Electreon, StoreDot, Vayyar, SpacePharma, and BreezoMeter.