US-Israel Collaborations: Predicting and preparing for the next crisis

U.S.-Israel Bridge Building

US-Israel Collaborations: Predicting and preparing for the next crisis

U.S.-Israel Bridge Building

July 2021

The Koret Foundation is committed to strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship, and one way we do this is through collaborative research, scholar exchanges, and shared knowledge. Faculty at Israeli and Bay Area academic institutions have distinct areas of expertise and specialization that complement one another’s strengths, leading to findings that would not have otherwise been achieved as fully. Israel brings its entrepreneurial spirit, technological aptitudes for innovation, and population datasets that can be used for case studies of community health. The U.S. institutions are pioneers in the fields, among others, of computer science and oceanography. These research partnerships will shed light on some of the most pressing social issues of our day, from rising sea levels to the rising prescription of opioids, from using cellphones as remote health sensors to analyzing vast volumes of anonymized personal health data to improve health care systems. These partnerships have the potential to advance progress and benefit global society in the long term.

  • Using personal technology and big data to create more livable cities

    Many modern cities, ever larger and denser, have become complex systems within systems. The partnership between engineers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) and Stanford University on Smart Cities and Digital Living seeks to advance multidisciplinary basic and applied research in data science that enhance the quality of life, safety, and efficiency of cities. The challenges and potential of this program is collecting and analyzing massive volumes of urban user data from an ever-increasing range of sources and devices.

    TAU’s Fleishman Faculty of Engineering and Stanford together 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.” Both institutions already work closely on practical applications with corporate giants Google, Apple, IBM, Intel, Ford, Infosys, and Tata.

    As it happened, the lockdowns precipitated by the pandemic provided dramatic illustrations of the multi-faceted value of the overlap and integration of digital technologies with individual and collective physical activities. As direct physical contact, mass transit, large gatherings, and in-person shopping became suspects in virus transmission, more and more activities moved online. Some important projects that the TAU-Stanford research team was focused on prior to the pandemic leapfrogged to the fore: remote health sensors using cellphones and big data; early detection of infectious diseases; the future of the office-as-workplace; and epidemic modeling using AI. Such project collaborations will provide the basis for developing vital new infrastructure.

  • Diving deep on marine climate science and oceanography

    At the beginning of 2020, just weeks before the pandemic season arrived in full force, scientists at the University of Haifa’s Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies (UH) and UC San Diego’s Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology (SCMA)—two seafront institutions half a world apart—formalized a partnership to study the history of human societies in coastal communities. UH has been a pioneer in maritime archaeology, while SCMA specializes in shallow coastal deep-time studies and specifically on human societies in coastal zones, and how they have responded to changes in climate, environment, and culture. The two institutes’ missions complement each other in significant ways. The collaboration will analyze and dynamically document how earlier societies responded to changes in sea levels and other environmental shifts. The year’s activities were significant and highly collaborative, despite the impossibility of in-person scholar exchange.

    Israel’s protected coastal areas are uniquely rich in over 10,000 years of maritime history, from prehistoric to modern times. Last year, the joint team planned an excavation, both physical and virtual, of a Neolithic underwater settlement off Israel’s Carmel coast. The University of Haifa team carried out the excavation, uncovering the remains of well-preserved settlement walls as well as actual artifacts, including flint implements and pottery shards. The team took videos and gathered photogrammetric imagery to share with colleagues in California. The UC San Diego SCMA team processed the data collected in Israel to produce computer models of the underwater excavation site, high-definition maps, and also used 3D printers to build physical models of found objects for subsequent study.

    In April 2021, the partners inaugurated a new field station in the Mediterranean coastal town of Akko (formerly known as Acre) in northwestern Israel. The station will host annual field school sessions, publicize research findings, and be a hub for marine archaeology and paleo-environmental science.

  • Leveraging data science to improve public health

    A collaboration between Clalit Health Services, Israel’s largest healthcare organization, and the Stanford Center for Population Health Services has opened doors to studying a genetically and ethnically diverse population, including long-term follow up. Clalit Health Services insures and provides direct patient care to over half of the Israeli population, approximately four million individuals, including many among the country’s most underserved populations. For over fifteen years, Clalit has maintained detailed electronic records on this stably insured population, yielding a rich source of reliable, integrated data for population health experts.

    The Clalit Research Institute (Clalit) was created as a distinct entity in 2010. Its tagline—Real People. Real Data. Real Change—attests to its intense focus. The Stanford Center for Population Health Sciences (PHS) was established in 2015 to find novel ways to improve health at the individual and community levels. The Center participates in multidisciplinary collaborations using data and biologic samples derived from well-characterized large population groups. PHS builds on the expertise of Stanford faculty in several key areas, including the University’s  departments of statistics and computer sciences, bioinformatics, economics, and health services research. Since its launch, more than 750 Stanford scholars from a variety of disciplines have joined PHS as members interested in utilizing high-value datasets to answer challenging population health questions.

    The initial Clalit and Stanford collaboration, launched during Koret’s 2016 round of Higher Education grants, leveraged Clalit’s valuable dataset and the expertise of Stanford data scientists. Investigators conducted several comparative studies that sought to improve the early identification of at-risk populations, and to increase the quality and efficiency of healthcare delivery in both the U.S. and Israeli health systems. The Clalit dataset further brings a significant advantage in addressing questions in which U.S. data falls short for pursuing broad research to enhance data access and infrastructure capabilities for a global community of population health researchers interested in improving the health of Jewish populations.

    Investigators have had three papers accepted for publication in academic journals: “Why Is End-of-Life Spending so High? Evidence from Cancer Patients” in the Review of Economics and Statistics; “Supply-Side Variation in the Use of Emergency Departments” in The Journal of Health Economics; “Rising Opioid Prescription Fulfillment among Non-Cancer and Non-Elderly Patients—Israel’s Alarming Example” in Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine. Additionally, a research paper is under review on the impact of the increased use of telemedicine during the pandemic lockdowns.


The partnerships highlighted here illustrate the diversity of social innovations underway between key Israeli and Bay Area universities. A companion grantee story, US-Israel Partnerships: Accelerating medical innovation, provides details of Koret’s current support for Bay Area-Israeli partnerships focusing on medical research, from investigating neurodegenerative diseases to which Jewish populations seem disproportionately susceptible, to innovating major advances in patient care and personalized medicine.

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U.S.-Israel Bridge Building

US-Israel Partnerships: Accelerating medical innovation

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