British Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership (Birax) will grant NIS 25 million over five years for seven joint Israel-UK stem cell research programs.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched Birax in 2008 through the Ministry of Science and Technology and the British Council. The British Embassy in Israel and the UK-Israel Life Sciences Council decided that Birax would focus on regenerative medicine. Program management is being led by Dr. Adi Matan, science attache at the Embassy.
Israel and the UK are global biotechnology leaders, with expertise in stem cells. Stem cells are cells which have not completed their speciation and have unique reproductive, renewal, and regenerative capabilities for organs. The ultimate dream is to use stem cells to build new tissue and organs, but in the meantime, stem cells are being developed for drug delivery and tissue regeneration. The first stem cell-based drugs were approved in 2012.
Under Birax, joint projects have already been established by Cambridge University, Oxford University, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Nottingham in the UK and the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The projects are in multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and type 1 diabetes, as well as basic research on ways to prevent the immune system from attacking stem cells.
The grants will be financed by the Israeli and UK governments, and Britain's Pears Foundation, Britain's Bonita Trust, the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust, the Rosetrees Trust, Lord Fink, the United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA), the Rothschild family's Yad Hanadiv, Morris Kahn's Aurum Ventures MKI Ltd.
The British Embassy also supports the life sciences through the UK-Israel Tech Hub. The Biomed sector at the UK Israel Tech Hub, managed by Dr. Iris Geffen Gloor, is becoming a major power in brokering Israeli-UK academic and business ties. The Hub's recent important projects include establishing ties between academic institutions and new companies and British pharmaceutical commercialization companies, and establishing ties between Israeli parties and the UK's National Organization for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI), a powerhouse for clinical studies.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on January 20, 2013
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