UK and Is­rael launch joint sci­ence projects

The Jewish Chronicle - - News -

THE FIRST ben­e­fi­cia­ries of a scheme to pro­mote aca­demic ties be­tween Bri­tain and Is­rael, backed by the gov­ern­ments of the two coun­tries, have been an­nounced by the Bri­tish Coun­cil.

Fif­teen part­ner­ships in­volv­ing Bri­tish and Is­raeli uni­ver­si­ties will share grants worth £365,000 in all, rang­ing from re­search into the causes of dis­eases such as Parkin­son’s to the evo­lu­tion­ary his­tory of the uni­verse.

The suc­cess­ful ap­pli­cants were cho­sen for their “in­no­va­tion and sci­en­tific ex­cel­lence”, said Jim But­tery, di­rec­tor of the Bri­tish Coun­cil in Is­rael. “We ac­tu­ally had 185 applications in to­tal. It shows a real ap­petite from aca­demics in Bri­tain to work to­gether with their Is­raeli coun­ter­parts.”

While there may have been calls to boy­cott Is­rael “in the back­ground”, he ex­plained, the Bri­tish Coun­cil has been work­ing for the past five years to foster aca­demic links be­tween Is­rael and Bri­tain.

Some of the grant re­cip­i­ents are “built on ex­ist­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions, oth- ers com­pletely new,” he said. “We’ve got a great mixed bag of col­lab­o­ra­tions which are go­ing to strengthen re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries.”

Par­tic­i­pat­ing Bri­tish in­sti­tu­tions in­clude Ox­ford, Cam­bridge, Cardiff, Swansea, As­ton, Manch­ester, Leeds, Liver­pool, New­cas­tle, Southamp­ton, Anglia Ruskin Uni­ver­si­ties, Uni­ver­sity Col­lege Lon­don and Im­pe­rial Col­lege.

Prime Min­is­ter Gor­don Brown, who an­nounced the scheme last year with the then Is­raeli Premier Ehud Olmert, said: “The va­ri­ety and di­ver­sity of th­ese suc­cess­ful bids re­flect the strong na­ture of the UK-Is­rael bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship. It was an hon­our for me to launch the scheme… and my gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to sup­port and ac­tively en­cour­age aca­demic links be­tween the UK and Is­rael.”

The main fun­ders of the Bri­tain-Is­rael Re­search and Aca­demic Ex­change Part­ner­ship (Birax) are the Pears Foun­da­tion which has com­mit­ted £550,000, and the UJIA, with £200,000, over five years. The two gov­ern­ments pledged £20,000 each.

But Mr But­tery said that other fun­ders were be­ing can­vassed to ex­tend the scope of the scheme and be­yond an ini­tial five years.

One part­ner­ship, be­tween Tel Aviv Uni­ver­sity and Im­pe­rial Col­lege, will in­ves­ti­gate the im­pact of pol­lu­tion as it is in­haled through the nose.

“It is very dif­fi­cult to repli­cate what hap­pens in the body in a lab­o­ra­tory set­ting,” ex­plained Pro­fes­sor De­nis Doorly. “What we will do is to de­sign a test en­vi­ron­ment which will al­low res­pi­ra­tory cells to ex­pe­ri­ence the sort of con­di­tions that would be found in a real nose.”

The ex­per­i­ment will com­bine the abil­ity of the Is­raeli team to gen­er­ate res­pi­ra­tory cells in the lab with Im­pe­rial’s ex­per­tise in pro­duc­ing com­puter sim­u­la­tions of air­flow through nasal pas­sages.

“There will be great ben­e­fits,” Pro­fes­sor Doorly said. “Peo­ple need to be bet­ter in­formed of the haz­ards as­so­ci­ated with air pol­lu­tion.”

Pro­fes­sor Doorly has vis­ited Is­rael be­fore on a Bri­tish Coun­cil trip. He said: “It was a chance to see what re­search pair­ings might come out of it. There is great en­thu­si­asm for re­search in Is­rael. They are also very re­source­ful.”

A model show­ing how air en­ters the nose — from an joint ini­tia­tive be­ing un­der­taken in Tel Aviv and Lon­don

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