Dinner for Israeli Academics

November 3, 2011 by Sue Freedman-Levy
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The Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce hosted a dinner for Israeli academics who participated in the University of Sydney-Israel Research Partnership Forum: Shared Challenges Future Solutions at which two $100,000 grants were awarded.

David Schlessinger, CEO AICC NSW, Emanuel Tov, Moshe Phillip, Ori Danieli AICC Head of Trade, Meni Ben-Hur; (at back) Meir Itzchaki, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Israel & Kim Jacobs, President AICC NSW; (front) Yael Ziv, Michael Scwartz, Dror Selikar, Gideon Grader, Mark Latchford

Guests included prominent members of the community, academics and business leaders many of whom have interests in the field of research and development. Among the guests were Meir Itzchaki, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Israel, Canberra who spoke about the enormous contribution in many fields which have been made by Israeli research and development and the added value that international collaborations bring to these fields.

This event was also the occasion for the announcement of the awardees of the inaugural SIR ZELMAN COWEN UNIVERSITIES FUND BLUESKY RESEARCH GRANT which has been initiated by the Fund to support the development of novel ideas. With the Fund’s aims being to support medical & scientific research and to promote cooperative work between the University of Sydney and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the applications were open to scientists from both Universities and stated a preference for a joint project between scientists of the two Universities.

The quality and number of applications received for the grant resulted in the Trustees’ decision to make two awards, each of $100,000 in this new scheme.

Meir Itzchaki, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Israel, Prof John Rasko with Sydney members of his team, Dr Janet Macpherson and Prof Tony Weiss; Prof Jacob George, Sydney collaborater of HU Prof Yehudit Bergman

The announcement of the awards was made by, Meir Itzchaki who told the audience that the grants have been awarded to Prof Yehudit Bergman, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, for a collaborative project with Prof Jacob George, University of Sydney and Prof John Rasko of the University of Sydney & RPA Hospital, Dr Janet Macpherson (RPAH) and Prof Tony Weiss (USYD) for a collaborative project with Prof Dan Gazit of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The project headed by Prof Rasko, Characterising a unique substrate for expansion and differentiation of mesenchymal stromal cells for use in regenerative medicine, builds on earlier work. Summarising the project, Prof Rasko said, “We have recently shown that blood-forming cells respond favourably to being grown on an elastic bed or “nano-mattress”. In this Blue Sky project we will test the potential of our “nano-mattress” to enhance the ability of other human cells found in the bone marrow to make bone and connective tissue, such as tendons and cartilage, for applications in diverse diseases including those affecting the heart, joints, bones, and immune systems.”

Prof Bergman’s project, Identifying novel factors for improving liver regeneration in the elderly will also build on earlier work. Describing her work, Prof Bergman has said, “Working in mice models of human cancers, we have shown that pregnancy induces the rapid growth of liver cells, accelerating liver regeneration and reducing mortality. In this Blue Sky project, we will identify the factor(s) generated during pregnancy which induce this regeneration, and will explore their ability to reduce mortality, and the mechanisms of their action on liver cells. Our aim is to identify therapeutic options for humans requiring resection of liver tumours, whether primary or secondary.”

Speaking at the dinner, Managing Trustee of the Fund, Prof Jonathan Stone said, “The Blue-Sky Grant scheme was established in 2011, to provide seed funding for research in emerging areas, such as organ/tissue regeneration, where the investigators would use the funds to gain sufficient momentum to be competitive in larger funding systems. The Trustees hope to provide such an opportunity for quite novel ideas to gain traction, and reach success more quickly than they otherwise would.”

The Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund is a Sydney-based fund, established in 1978 by the late John Hammond, to promote scientific research and co-operative work between the University of Sydney and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Mr Hammond was a Sydney businessman who understood the value of supporting research in the fight to alleviate human suffering. Prof Stone says, “The Trustees of the Fund are confident that this project is entirely in keeping with Mr Hammond’s original vision for the Fund. We believe some very exciting outcomes could lie ahead, which John would be proud to be a part of.”  The initiative is supported by a special donation from the John Hammond Trust.”

Sir Zelman Cowen served as Governor General of Australia from 1977 to 1982 and has been Patron of this Fund since 1997 having served as a Trustee prior to that time. When the Fund was established in 1978 it was named in honour of his appointment as Governor General in the previous year.

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