President Shimon Peres announced at the 10th ILSI-Biomed Conference 2011 today that he will set up a non-profit organization to support brain research in Israel, which will be headed by Dr. Rafi Gidron. Gidron, a co-founder of Chromatis Networks, which was sold to Lucent for over $4 billion in 2000, is currently involved in volunteer work and invests in cleantech companies through his firm Precede Technologies Ltd.
The aim of the proposed NPO will be to shift the emphasis of research in Israel towards brain research through conventions, steering committees, and, most importantly, by raising money. The NPO will identify the most interesting and important subfields in brain research where Israel has the greatest comparative advantage, and raise capital to support basic and applied research in them via a range of research institutes, NPOs, and possibly young commercial companies.
Peres told "Globes", "We intend to replicate our achievements in nanotechnology in neurotechnology, but the scale will be much greater and more impressive."
The president's aides said that Peres helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars for nanotechnology research, and that he could probably do the same for neurotechnology.
Gidron said that two areas would be the focus of research: the human-machine interface and therapies. At ILSI Biomed 2011, Peres and Gidron met top Israeli and foreign brain researchers, as well as Office of the Chief Scientist head of life sciences Ora Dar. They identified several important subjects for action, including early diagnostics for neurological and psychiatric disorders, support and for demonstration for academic ideas, and support for the use of advanced medical computer systems at Israel's hospitals and health funds to collect data and conduct research on brain disorders, including depression, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, autism, strokes, and schizophrenia.
In the coming months, the NPO will convene a steering committee to formulate a road map for operations, after which it will begin raising capital and publish calls for papers for researchers and companies.
The first fruit of this activity is the raising of $10 million for neuron computability - the translation of brain activity for the computer. The money was raised from foreign donors for a special foundation that will finance a joint research team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne.
Peres said, "Israel lives on its brain. This is not a one-time thing, it is something renewed constantly and ever more powerfully. We're now embarking on the fourth revolution. The first were the agricultural, industrial, and information revolutions, and now comes the revolution of the brain. This is a problem that Israel devotes itself to solving as quickly as possible and as strongly as possible."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on May 23, 2011
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