Technion researchers are on the frontline in the fight against COVID-19 and have mobilized in the worldwide effort to find solutions for the current global health crisis.
Researchers in more than 20 Technion labs are working round the clock to help fight the spread of COVID-19. Their research includes early detection and diagnosis of the virus, development of a vaccine and therapies, and designing robotic solutions for remote monitoring and care of patients.
“Technion is at the forefront of science and technology worldwide, and during this time of crisis, we are collaborating closely with the health system and the hospitals in order to find immediate solutions to the challenges they are facing,” said Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan. “We are working on advanced diagnostic techniques, personalized medical treatment, technologies that enable pinpointed drug delivery, treatment protocols based on machine learning and artificial intelligence, data mining and Big Data management, developing robots for remote medical care, and more. Technion’s added value is apparent in the close interaction between medicine and engineering at our university, and in the interdisciplinary collaborations that are generating rapid and sophisticated solutions to help fight COVID-19.”
Technion emergency projects include:
• Prof. Hossam Haick, Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering: His lab is developing a diagnostic test for pre-symptomatic coronavirus carriers. Research focuses on two approaches: diagnosing the virus with a breath test, and monitoring the virus with an inexpensive patch adhered to the arm or chest. • Prof. Roy Kishony, Faculty of Biology: Pooling method for accelerated testing of COVID-19. • Prof. Amit Meller, Faculty of Biomedical Engineering: Identifying and quantifying viral RNA using nanopores. • Prof. Moran Bercovici, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering: Innovative and rapid diagnostic test using blood and saliva.
• Prof. Avi Schroeder, Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering: Developing a vaccine for coronavirus based on a vaccine for shrimps, he invented at Technion – and is being commercialized by his Technion start-up ViAqua Therapeutics. • Prof. Zaid Abassi and Prof. Oded Lewinson, Rappaport Faculty of Medicine: Prof. Lewinson is developing recombinant ACE-2 receptors in collaboration with Prof. Ofer Mandelboim of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The aim is to develop antibodies for ACE-2 receptors on which the coronavirus attaches itself to the host organism’s cells.
• Prof. Josué Sznitman, Faculty of Biomedical Engineering: Innovative technology for delivering drugs to the lungs. Especially suitable for treating acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which is the principal cause of death among coronavirus patients. • Prof. Roee Amit, Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering: Developing an ointment to treat coronavirus infections. • Prof. Marcelle Machluf, Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering: Trapping the coronavirus using the existing nano-ghost technology developed in her lab. • Prof. Avi Schroeder, Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering: Developing a targeted drug for treating acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), based on existing drug delivery methods.
Aids for medical teams
• Prof. Eyal Zussman, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering: Developing filters and coatings using nanometric fibers. • Prof. Yotam Bar-On, Rappaport Faculty of Medicine: Virologist specializing in COVID-19 – expert advice to medical teams. • Prof. Shai Shen-Orr, Rappaport Faculty of Medicine: Identifying infected individuals based on their immune response; monitoring disease progression and complications in infected individuals; triage for the aged population and predict those with higher risk of complications or death. Additional collaboration is to develop rapid cell-based diagnostics for infections. • Prof. Shady Farah, Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering: Developing anti-viral disinfectants. • Prof. Shie Mannor, Viterbi Faculty of Electrical Engineering: Artificial Intelligence research to evaluate the patients’ condition and the progress of the disease, in collaboration with Prof. Uri Shalit, Davidson Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management and Prof. Joachim Behar, Faculty of Biomedical Engineering. • Prof. Alex Bronstein, Faculty of Computer Science is developing ultrasound for lung imaging. The researchers are adapting inexpensive ultrasound sensors in order to identify infections in the lungs caused by the coronavirus. Prof. Ron Kimmel, Faculty of Computer Science and Doron Shaked of General Electric are collaborating on this project. • Prof. Ezri Tarazi, Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning: Design and produce novel protective equipment for medical personnel using 3D printing; establishing a national network of designers who will plan and produce products for immediate use in the COVID-19 crisis.
For the first time in Technion’s history, the semester opened with a comprehensive program of distance teaching and learning.
The spring semester at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology opened on schedule – Wednesday, March 18, 2020 – with a comprehensive program of distance teaching and learning. This is in accordance with the updated guidelines of the Ministry of Health and the Council for Higher Education following the spread of COVID-19.
Technion has long been investing in the development and promotion of innovative digital teaching technologies. This has included both implementation and the training of faculty members in novel teaching methods for distance and hybrid learning (which combines frontal teaching with distance learning). Now, as a result of the spread of COVID-19, all Technion faculties are prepared for distance teaching and learning. In the past days, faculty members have undergone refresher training.
“We opened the semester with online courses and distance learning for thousands of students from home,” said Dean of Undergraduate Studies Prof. Hossam Haick. “We believe that with teamwork, and the efforts of our faculty members, we will provide digital learning extensively. We conducted intensive equipment testing with the participation of dozens of lecturers and some 2,000 students, to identify and fix glitches and to improve technical preparation for the opening of the semester.”
“In recent weeks we have put a lot of effort into building the technological infrastructure and carry out the necessary training,” wrote Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan to faculty and students. “However, transferring all instruction to online teaching is a major challenge. Its implementation during normal times would have been spread over a long period with numerous testing. The rapid proliferation of the Coronavirus left us with little time, and so there may still be glitches. We are confident that you understand this and that your cooperation will help correct any issues that may arise.”
“The online learning program is led by the Center for Promotion of Learning and Teaching headed by Dr. Abigail Barzilai,” said Senior Executive Vice President Prof. Oded Rabinovitch. “The Center, the faculty, the adjunct staff, and all relevant departments at Technion are working day and night to help us get through this challenging period and return quickly to a conventional teaching and learning routine. The students, under the courageous and wise leadership of the Students Association, are our true partners as we embark on this complex program together.”
In recent years, the Technion has introduced innovative technologies for distance teaching and learning, including: A. Synchronous learning based on live broadcast of lectures, tutorials and meetings using the Zoom app. B. Asynchronous learning based on pre-recorded lectures, the MOODLE learning management system, accessibility of digital materials via the Panopto system, shared access of documents and materials, and discussion forums. Hundreds of videotaped courses and lessons are available online. C. Integrated synchronous and asynchronous learning.
Dr. Aviv Censor of the Faculty of Mathematics at Technion is Israel’s leading online lecturer. Following the move to distance learning in the days of Corona, Censor filmed a special training video that has already received thousands of views. For the video click here.
Technion and Rambam Health Care Campus scientists present a novel method for testing more than 60 patients simultaneously
Researchers at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and Rambam Health Care Campus have successfully tested a method that will dramatically increase the current COVID-19 testing capacity using existing available resources. This method, known as pooling, enables simultaneous testing of dozens of samples. Its implementation has the potential to greatly accelerate the rate of testing and detection of COVID-19 infected patients in the population. The trial was completed in a matter of days thanks to the support of the Ministry of Health and the close collaboration between Technion and Rambam.
Testing for COVID-19 is currently being conducted in Israel with the focus on people with specific symptoms. The current rate of testing – about 1,200 a day – does not allow for monitoring of asymptomatic carriers in the population, which is vital to curb the epidemic.
COVID-19 is diagnosed with PCR testing, which is common for virus monitoring. This test examines the presence of a unique genetic sequence of viruses in a sample taken from the patient. The test takes several hours thus generating a bottleneck in identifying COVID-19 infected people in Israel and around the world. According to Dr. Yuval Gefen, director of the Rambam Clinical Microbiology Laboratory, “Today, we receive approximately 200 COVID-19 test samples a day, and each sample undergoes individual examination. According to the new pooling approach we have currently tested, molecular testing can be performed on a “combined sample,” taken from 32 or 64 patients. This way we can significantly accelerate the testing rate. Only in those rare cases, where the joint sample is found to be positive, will we conduct an individual test for each of the specific samples.”
According to Professor Roy Kishony, head of the research group in the Faculty of Biology at Technion, “This is not a scientific breakthrough, but a demonstration of the effectivity of using the existing method and even the existing equipment to significantly increase the volume of samples tested per day. This is done by pooling multiple samples in a single test tube. Even when we conducted a joint examination of 64 samples in which only one was a positive carrier, the system identified that there was a positive sample. Although there are some logistical challenges in implementing the method, we expect that it will greatly increase the volume of samples tested per day so that we can identify the asymptomatic carriers. This approach should reduce the chance of infection and flatten the infection curve.”
Director of the Rambam Virology Lab, Dr. Moran Szwarcwort-Cohen estimates that, “implementing pooling in the final stage of the PCR test will make it easier for us to shorten the entire process and significantly increase the test rate.”
President of the Technion Professor Uri Sivan said: “This experiment conducted by Technion and Rambam researchers is complex, and under normal circumstances would take months. This is a remarkable example of the mobilization of an outstanding team in a time of crisis. The initial experiment was completed in less than four days. This achievement emphasizes the importance of the close relationship between Technion and Rambam and between medicine and engineering. Technion researchers have been enlisted in the war against the Coronavirus and this is one of the many activities currently underway at Technion to combat the spread of the disease.”
General Director of Rambam Health Care Campus Prof. Michael Halberthal said, “This collaboration between Technion and Rambam, for the benefit of all humanity, is just one example of many joint projects between the two institutions. These collaborations are designed to harness the multidisciplinary capabilities of Technion researchers for the advancement of medicine.”
The experiment was led at Technion by Dr. Idan Yelin, together with Noga Aharony, Einat Tamar, and Dina Berenbaum in Prof. Kishony’s laboratory together with Amir Argoetti from Professor Yael Mandel-Gutfreund’s laboratory, both labs are in the Faculty of Biology. Dr. Esti Messer, head of the Technon Biological Safety Dept, was enlisted to help set up the dedicated laboratory and accompanied the entire experiment. Prof. Kishony holds the Marilyn and Henry Taub Chair in Life Sciences. The Rambam Health Care Campus team was led by Dr. Yuval Gefen and Dr. Moran Szwarcwort-Cohen, and Prof. Michael Halberthal, Rambam General Director and CEO.
In the midst of the worldwide CoVid-19 crisis, Israeli scientists at the Migal Research Institute are confident of breakthrough in developing vaccine for COVID-19.
MIGAL Galilee Research Institute CEO David Zigdon has said in the statement on MIGAL website that the institute is taking all possible measures to accelerate the development of the vaccine, keeping in mind the urgent requirement of such a measure across the globe. He said the institute aims to develop the vaccine in the next eight to 10 weeks and get safety approvals within the next three months. He further said that the aim is to make the vaccine an oral one, to increase its accessibility to the masses. He also revealed that the institute is in talks with different potential partners who can help in expediting the in-human trials phase and completion of the final product development.
Several Technion academics are on the Board of Migal Research Institute, and a number of Migal PhD researchers are studying with Technion faculty.
The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology held the second International Conference on Wearable Devices for Monitoring Health. The lectures during the two-day meeting focused mainly on developing chemical sensors that monitor the user’s medical condition.
The conference was led, for the second year, by the research group of Professor Hossam Haick. An expert in sensor-based medical monitoring, Prof. Haick is the head of the Wolfson Chemical Engineering Nanoscale Device Laboratory, a member of the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute, Assistant to the Senior Vice President for Equal Opportunities, and the Dean of Certification Studies. This year’s conference was organized by members of his research group, Dr. Rotem Vishinkin, Yana Milyutin, Liat Tsuri, and Dr. Yoav Broza.
“Wearable devices for monitoring health has become part of our daily lives,” said Prof. Haick. “We see this in smart watches, monitoring bracelets, and clothing that transfers physiological data. However, developing the sensors that read this data is a slow process that doesn’t keep pace with technological advances on the chemical side. Thus, we decided this year to focus on the sensors and their connection to the electronic components that receive the data.”
Faculty/Degree: BSc Mathematics and MSc Computer Science
Current Location: Advisory Council Chair Professor in Management Science; Sauder School of Business at UBC, Vancouver
Professional Highlights: A member of the Order of Canada, Dr. Frieda Granot is an award-winning mathematician and computer scientist who is a pioneer in the field of Operations Research. When she was appointed at UBC Sauder in 1976, she was the only female tenure track faculty member, and remained so for close to 10 years. She was also the first female Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Interdisciplinary Research. She is still the only female faculty member in the UBC Sauder’s Operations and Logistics Division, and often participates in workshops, panel discussions and other events to encourage young women to study the sciences and engineering. Dr. Granot is a champion of the under-represented and has helped to raise millions of dollars to support UBC students with disabilities, Indigenous students and women in science. Dr. Granot also was honored as one of Top 100- Canada’s Most Powerful Women award in the Trailblazers and Trendsetters category for promoting women in science and engineering.
A proud Technion alumna, Dr. Granot reflects on the benefits of her Technion education.
Q & A
What were some of the highlights of your Technion education?
I enjoyed the interaction with my classmates, all very smart and ambitious. All my professors were excellent and although I worked hard, I always felt that I was getting an exceptional education. I met my husband of 51 years at the Technion and we are still happily married. In our family, we have 13 Technion degrees!
How has your Technion education and experience prepared you for your career and contributed to your professional success?
The courses I took and the professors I had at the Technion were all outstanding. Although it was a male dominated environment, I saw it as an opportunity to excel and I was always treated as an equal.
After obtaining our Master’s degrees at the Technion, both my husband and I were accepted with scholarships to all the universities in the US we applied to, no doubt due in part to the fact that we were both Technion graduates. During our PhD studies, we felt that we had a big advantage over other students due to the level of education we received at the Technion.
What makes you most proud to be a Technion Alumna?
The education I got and the amazing achievements of Technion alumni, both nationally and internationally. I encourage others to support the Technion - you will be helping the next generation of top scientists and engineers who will transform the world.
Maya Angelou once said: “Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women.”
Technion women have been trailblazers for generations. In 1924, at a time when academia was closed off to women in many countries, Technion’s first class of 17 students included one female.
Today, the percentage of women undergraduate students at Technion is 37%; graduate students 32%; and doctoral students 44%. This number continues to rise, with Technion’s commitment to equal ratios and empowering women in the fields of STEM.
Meet some of the Technion women who are making critical advances in human health, leading the digital revolution and developing the technologies of tomorrow.
FORBES 30 UNDER 30 ISRAEL
Technion PhD student Alona Shagan was recently featured in the Forbes Israel list for promising technological entrepreneurs.
Together with Prof. Boaz Mizrahi, Shagan developed a hot-glue and a novel adhesive to adhere human tissue that has been seriously injured. the new concept will lead to the development of devices that will reduce the use of stitches, staples and pins, speed up the healing process and reduce scarring.
Prof. Lilac Amirav, Technion Alumna, discusses her work in nano-scale photo-catalysis and the future of renewable energy. Prof. Amirav is a member of the Grand Technion Energy Project (GTEP) and the Schulich Faculty of Chemistry.
Resolving Antibiotic Resistance
Michelle Heymann and Diane Abensur were recent immigrants to Israel (Heymann from Brazil and Abensur from France) when they met while studying for in the Technion’s MBA program. Together they founded medical start-up Nanosynex, which has developed a method of precisely adapting antibiotics to infections to enable more effective and faster treatment.
The Next Cancer Killer
Prof. Marcelle Machluf, a Technion alumnus, received a $5 million investment from “aMoon”, an Israeli health-tech and life sciences fund, to commercialize her cancer-fighting NanoGhost technology. Prof. Machluf’s research uses a revolutionary bio-medical nano-technology which targets specific tumors to shrink the deadliest forms of cancer.
Professor Asya Rolls: A Pioneer in Psychology
Can emotions affect health? Is it possible that thoughts impact the body’s ability to cope with disease? Assoc. Prof. Asya Rolls’ ground-breaking research on how thoughts and emotions impact health has been recognized with numerous young scientist awards. Most recently, Rolls successfully dramatically shrank brain tumors by activating the neural reward system.
A Leader In Research
Dr. Shulamit Levenberg, Dean of the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology was named by Scientific American as a “Research Leader” in tissue engineering, for her seminal work on vascularization of engineered tissues. She is founder and chief scientific officer of two start-up companies in the areas of cultured meat and nano-liter arrays for rapid antimicrobial susceptibility testing.
Grand Technion Energy Program
Prof. Sabrina Spatari is leading the Grand Technion Energy Program Life Cycle Assessment which analyzes new renewable energy technologies at an early stage of development and analyzes whether or not these technologies have the potential to contribute large scale environmental benefits to society.
She has Reading on the Brain
Technion alumna and Professor Tzipi Horowitz-Kraus, is the Director of the Educational Neuro-imaging Center in the Technion Faculties of Education in Science and Technology, and Biomedical Engineering. Prof. Horowitz-Kraus believes that “reading is not an intuitive process”. She uses her lab to assess and predict whether or not kids will have reading difficulties with the help of electroencephalogram (EEG).
Dr. Kira Radinsky, Technion alumna, discusses the potential for artificial intelligence (A.I.) to predict events and patterns in disease, genocide, riots, and drug effects based on data analysis. Radinksy joined eBay in 2016 after they acquired of her company, SalesPredict. She has since become a pioneer in the field of data science through her machine learning solutions which are transforming the future of e-commerce.
Dr. Silva Behar-Harpaz: Inspiring a Love of Math & Physics
Dr. Silvia Behar Harpaz received her Ph.D. in physics from the Technion, during which she spent time at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project in Switzerland, which is the world’s largest particle accelerator. She has also taught at Technion’s campus in China and is always inspired to teach to students who are “highly motivated, hard-working and invested in learning”. She has been an inspiration to many of her students as she continues to receive many awards for her excellence in teaching.
These are just some of the inspirational Technion women whose passion, curiosity and intelligence will create critical advancements in science and technology, while inspiring the next generation of women to take on whatever challenges they choose!