Global Scientific Collaborations: Building bridges between Bay Area and Israeli universities

U.S.-Israel Bridge Building

Global Scientific Collaborations: Building bridges between Bay Area and Israeli universities

U.S.-Israel Bridge Building

The Koret Foundation is committed to supporting a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, and one way we do this is through academic exchanges. These deepen individual and organizational connections while helping advance work that benefits society globally. Such collaborations include research programs in smart cities and digital living, precision medicine, population studies, disease advancement, trauma and emergency treatment, and maritime archaeology.

In each collaboration, scholars bring complementary expertise to bear on some of the most pressing issues of our day. The partnerships provide researchers the means to work together, in person and virtually, through exchanges, seminars, symposia, and research grant funding. This dynamic relationship between Israel and the U.S. breaks down preconceived notions that fuel antisemitism and the delegitimization of Israel.

These partnerships strengthen Koret’s long-standing commitment to higher education, which includes supporting the key priorities of Bay Area colleges and universities. Leaders at many of the institutions in Koret’s Bay Area Higher Education portfolio proposed collaborative projects with Israeli universities. Israel has quickly earned a reputation as a global leader contributing to advancement of the fields of science, technology, education, cyber security, and intelligence. The U.S. universities also acknowledge that Israel’s entrepreneurial spirit is something to be emulated.

The partnerships highlighted below illustrate the diversity of innovations underway between key Israeli and Bay Area universities. Several of the research collaborations described below had begun informally and were already proving fruitful. A complete list of the collaborations is included at the end of this story.

  • Planning smarter cities; Tackling neurodegenerative diseases: Tel Aviv University–Stanford

    Tel Aviv University (TAU) and Stanford have expanded their partnerships for joint research in two fields: urban planning and personalized medicine.

    Smart Cities and Digital Living

    Many modern cities, ever larger and denser, have become complex “systems within systems.” This program addresses the challenges of collecting and analyzing massive volumes of data from an increasing range of sources and devices. The project collaborations will provide the basis for developing vital new infrastructure.

    TAU and Stanford already have a critical mass of some 50 scholars and academics working on related analytics, information systems, and operational research, as well as looking at supply chains, privacy concerns, and the role of social media. Both Stanford, with its proximity to Silicon Valley, and TAU are training their best-and-brightest to make contributions to our collective “start-up nations.” Combining research talent and practical-application expertise will leapfrog the potential for accelerating dramatic advances. Both institutions already work closely with corporate giants Google, Apple, IBM, Intel, Ford, Infosys, and Tata.

    Tackling Neurodegenerative Diseases

    The prevalence of these devastating diseases continues to increase, notably Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, and Huntington’s. Research seems to indicate that people of Jewish descent are at increased risk of developing these neurodegenerative diseases. Unfortunately, all major pharmaceutical companies have decreased their research in this area, due to low success rates.

    The TAU-Stanford collaboration is focused on identifying biomarkers in the earliest stages of disease progression, to advance new strategies for screening and for drug development. This partnership also includes researchers at UCSF’s Gladstone Institutes and the Buck Institute on Aging. TAU’s Sagol School of Neuroscience, the most influential in Israel, will house cutting-edge microscopy equipment to support research initiatives. More than 20 Sagol neuroscientists have received mega-grants from the U.S. National Institute of Health, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the European Research Council. TAU currently has more than twenty drugs and medical technologies in development.

  • Harnessing the potential of bioinformatics: Tel Aviv University–Berkeley

    Bioinformatics involves developing algorithms and computer software to record and analyze biological data. This young field holds enormous potential for introducing an era of precision medicine for diseases from cancer and diabetes to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Worldwide, the ten top-ranked academic institutions for bioinformatics research are all in the United States. Tel Aviv University (TAU) is eleventh, making it the most highly ranked institution outside the U.S. TAU’s prestige is reinforced by practical achievements. Worldwide, it is ranked: eighth for producing entrepreneurial billionaires; 22nd for most citations per faculty; and 43rd for most U.S. patents granted. This collaboration confirms the value UC places on TAU’s research accomplishments; formalizes long-term projects already underway between the two institutions; and, shows UC standing with Israel.

    The partnership between UC Berkeley and TAU will provide many opportunities for graduate students and post-docs from both institutions to develop close working relationships through: major annual workshops and seminar series; joint research grants; and, an innovative joint summer research program hosted by the Simons Institute for Theory and Computing at UC Berkeley. As the partnership progresses, joint press releases will announce achievements. Bioinformatics is “new news,” and attractive to media attention. Major players in the private sector will follow the collaboration closely and publicize progress.

  • Diving deep on marine climate science and oceanography: University of Haifa–UC San Diego

    Coastal communities have always faced challenges posed by climate and other environmental changes. The field of marine archaeology offers exciting potential for advancing our understanding of these changes and how earlier societies responded to them. Israel’s protected coastal areas are uniquely rich in 10,000 years of maritime history, from prehistoric to modern times. Successive cultures in the region actively adapted to oscillating sea levels in myriad ways. Since the late 1960s, researchers at the University of Haifa’s Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies have pioneered the study of the eastern Mediterranean’s maritime archaeology.

    Southern California, with a similar Mediterranean climate, is home to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography (SIO) at UC San Diego. In 2015, the Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology (SCMA) was founded to specialize in deep-water time studies around the globe. Its focus is human societies in coastal zones, specifically changes in climate, environment, and culture. SCMA has quickly applied tools developed at SIO to its research and its teaching mission.

    The two institutions will establish a joint research station in Akko, Israel, modeled after the facilities at Scripps. The station will host annual field school sessions; publicize research findings; and, help Israel gain recognition as a leader in the field, regionally and globally. The partners will also jointly develop communications strategy for public engagement to raise awareness of the venture and its potential. Two SF Bay Area museums have already expressed interest in hosting digital exhibitions or symposia on the project.

  • Preparing for emergency and trauma response: Rambam Health Care Campus–Stanford Medical School

    The Rambam Health Care Campus (Rambam), located in Haifa on the Mediterranean coast, serves more than 2 million residents of Northern Israel, plus defense and peacekeeping forces stationed in the region. Rambam and Stanford Medicine have begun collaborating on a broad range of projects, such as: developing educational programs to promote innovations in medical technologies; refining patient-centric systems of care for cancer patients; and, facilitating exchange of physicians, faculty, and students, including research funding and an annual symposium for sharing ideas.

    The collaboration has rich potential for advances in digital health and big data analysis. Stanford’s Department of Biomedical Data Science brings to the partnership great expertise in data mining, and Rambam faculty and students will learn novel techniques in this field. Rambam brings to the partnership unique data sets for analysis: the complete health records of patients, including genetic data and tissue samples. The completeness of these records provides a remarkable opportunity to advance understanding of a range of illnesses.

    Rambam’s Teaching Center for Trauma, Emergency, and Mass Casualty Situations (MCS) was established in 1999. The center has provided advanced training to more than 3,000 participants from 61 countries. Rambam will collaborate with Stanford researchers to improve treatments for trauma victims and to enhance organizational systems for trauma treatment. Mass casualty situations are a reality for Rambam due to terrorist activity in the North of Israel; Stanford is particularly motivated to elevate their MCS preparedness by the possibility of seismic and wildfire activity in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Koret’s U.S.-Israel Bridge-building collaborations:

Tel Aviv University & Stanford University: Smarter cities; neurodegenerative diseases

Tel Aviv University & UC Berkeley: Bioinformatics

University of Haifa & UC San Diego: Marine climate science and oceanography

Rambam Health Care Campus & Stanford Medical School: Emergency and trauma response

Clalit Research Institute  & Stanford University: Center for Population Health

Hebrew University & UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine: Faculty exchange