30th Anniversary Issue
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VISION SCIENTIST AWARDED SZCUF PRIZE FOR GENE DISCOVERY
SZCUF PRIZE FOR 2007 PRESENTED AT THE HEBREW UNIVERSITY JERUSALEM
FUND SUPPORTED CENTRALISED FACILITY BECOMES MODEL FOR BOSCH INSTITUTE INFRASTRUCTURE BUILDING
OTHER FUND INITIATIVES
SZCUF ACADEMIC EXCHANGE PROGRAM
SZCUF STUDENT EXCHANGE PROGRAM
LUNCHEON SHOWCASES FUND’S WORK
Dr Catherine Leamey, from the Discipline of Physiology, School of Medical Sciences, University of Sydney is the winner of the 2008 award of the Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Prize for Discovery in Medical Research. Established
in 2005 to recognise the work of young scientists, the Prize is presented in alternate years at the University of Sydney and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The inaugural Prize was awarded in 2006 in Sydney to Mr Mark Elkins, for a groundbreaking treatment for cystic fibrosis. In 2007 it was
awarded to Professor Nir Friedman, the first recipient of the Prize at the Hebrew University, for his pioneering work in the field of bioinformatics.
Dr Leamey was nominated for the identification of a gene, Ten_m3, which is essential for binocular vision. In its absence the projections from the two eyes which see the same part of visual space are not aligned with each other in the brain. This has devastating functional consequences - animals that lack the
gene behave as if blind. Most remarkably, Dr Leamey has shown that the acute blockade of all activity in one eye of these animals can rescue vision in the other eye. The restoration of vision indicates that the “blindness” results from suppression, which arises as a consequence of the interocular mismatch. This is the first time pharmacological blockade of a neural pathway has been shown to cause a gain in visual ability. This has important implications for the development of therapies for both visual and developmental brain disorders such as autism and mental retardation because Ten_m proteins, key players in neural development, are associated with both of these disorders.
Dr Catherine Leamey and some members of her team
The award to Dr Leamey recognises the potential of her findings to aid in the development of new approaches in the treatment of these conditions. The significance of Dr Leamey’s work has been acknowledged by its publication in a number of international journals including Cerebral Cortex and PloS Biology.
In June 2007, the SZCUF Prize for Discovery in Medical Research was presented to 2007 award inner, bio-informatics pioneer Professor Nir Friedman at the Hebrew University Board of Governors’ Meeting, in Jerusalem.
Mr Dunkel presenting the Prize to Prof Friedman
Fund Trustee, Mr Michael Dunkel, who is also a member of the Board of Governors of the Hebrew University, presented the Prize to Professor Friedman, from the School of Engineering and Computer Sciences at HU for his work developing the computational basis for the analysis of the very large bodies of data emerging in the field of genomics.
Professor Friedman’s work was selected for its broad application to many fields of medicine. He is the first recipient of the Prize at the Hebrew University.
Since 2001, the Fund has supported the work of the 65 laboratories which now make up the Bosch Institute, (until 2006, known as as the Institute for Biomedical Research) at the University of Sydney. Initially, the Fund assisted with the establishment of a centralised Molecular Biology Facility which makes available to Institute members, state of the art equipment for molecular
Following the successful establishment of this facility, in 2006 the Fund commenced support for the establishment of a cytometry facility which houses the latest equipment available to enable scientists to count and sort cell populations.
Dr Sabita Rana
Dr Sabita Rana, has been appointed as the Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Flow Cytometry Officer to maintain, develop and instruct others in the use of this highly specialised equipment.
In a recent report Bosch director, Professor Nick Hunt advised the Trustees that, “ The Facility has become irreplaceable in the work of the Institute in projects spanning the complete range of its activities, in particular research in cancer, transplantation biology, and infectious diseases.”
In addition, in April 2008 a second Molecular Biology Facility, located in the Blackburn Building, was opened by the Governor- General of NSW, Professor Marie Bashir. The new laboratory was developed in partnership with a number of organisations which have contributed to sharing the costs of setting up the facility. Seed-funding from the SZCUF was instrumental in allowing the Bosch Institute to develop the facilities essential in contemporary biomedical research. It was similarly important in obtaining over $600,000 from granting bodies to purchase a cutting-edge Zeiss Confocal microscope for the Institute’s Advanced Imaging Facility.
The collaboration will focus on the following activities:
- staff exchanges and Visiting Fellowships between the institutions
- research student exchanges, including Cotutelle arrangements whereby a student could obtain a research degree jointly badged by the two Universities
- research intensive graduate teaching programs delivered by staff from both institutions
- joint research conferences
- development of internationally-funded research collaborations.
To assist establishment of the program, the Fund will support a number of short-term academic visits between the Institutes in each direction. The first three visitors from HU will visit Sydney in August 2008.
We look forward to reporting on some exciting scientific collaborations which the Fund believes will be made possible by this initiative.
The past 12 months have indeed seen a great deal of activity in the Academic and Student Exchange Programs supported by a targeted donation from the John Hammond Trust.
Professor Mark Spigelman, from the Kuvin Center for the Study of Infectious and Tropical Diseases at HU, visited Sydney in May 2007 to further study and sample bone from biblical Jericho currently stored at the Nicholson Museum at Sydney University. The bones form the basis of a tri national microbiological study of the people and diseases of the Dead Sea Valley over the millennia. With Jericho being the pivotal original population, the Fund supported visit enabled the gathering of suffi cient samples for the project to commence. It is as a joint venture between the Hebrew University, Al Quds University and the Munich University.
Prof Spigelman with Prof Dong Hoon Shin of Seoul National University, one of many international collaborations he is involved in
Professor Spigelman, is originally from Sydney. After 25 years as a consulting surgeon in Sydney he turned his attention to archaeology and anthropology. Currently, he researches the history and development of microbial diseases applying microbiological techniques to ancient human remains. The
aim of his research is to gather information from disease in individuals from the past to help understand modern disease trends and therapies.
Dr Dirk Moses, Department of History, University of Sydney visited HU as a SZCUF Academic Exchange Fellow during Semester I, 2007 to complete a number of writing projects on Holocaust and genocide related issues utilising the specialist resources of the Hebrew University’s libraries. In addition, he gave a named lecture at the University of Tel Aviv as well as at the Lebanese American University in Beirut and participated at high level seminars and conferences at the Van Leer Institution.
Russell Hobson, a PhD candidate in the Department of Hebrew Jewish and Biblical Studies at the University of Sydney visited HU as a SZCUF Student Exchange Fellow during Semester I, 2007. His chosen area of research is on the history of the text of the Hebrew Bible, in the light of the surrounding literary culture in the Ancient Near East, with special attention given to the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Russell began his visit with a 4 week intensive Modern Hebrew language course which provided a very stable base for his six months in a Hebrew-speaking environment. He audited classes on Akkadian epic literature and in Deuteronomistic Redaction, held by renowned experts in the field who also gave generously of their time to discuss Russell’s research with him and to help him to establish contacts with other academics both in Israel and elsewhere.
Further enriching Russell’s experience at HU, was the opportunity to present his research at the monthly ‘Coffee Hour’ presentations at the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls where he shared his preliminary findings with many of the academics upon whose work he relied to build the methodology for his research.
Summing up his exchange Russell wrote, “I anticipate that my exchange experience will have long lasting and positive ramifications, both to me as a student and future scholar, and hopefully to the exchange relationship between the two Universities. For me this was an enormously constructive and
(L to R) Natasha Wheatley and Russell Hobson with Simon Nothman, a 2007 SZCUF HU Medical Elective Term Fellow at a recent function
Natasha Wheatley, an Honours student in History at the University of Sydney was also a SZCUF student Exchange Fellow at HU during Semester I, 2007. She undertook courses at the Rothberg School as part of her Honours seminar program and completed the primary archival research for her Honours thesis utilising the resources of a number of highly specialised archival collections housed in Jerusalem.
Courses Natasha undertook were entitled ‘Zionist Positions on the Arab-Jewish Conflict’, and ‘Imagining Jerusalem’, which examined visions of Jerusalem in Hebrew literature from the Bible on. One of the seminar papers written by Natasha as part of her course work, examined the recently published memoir of Israeli writer Amos Oz. Subsequently it won Natasha the University of Sydney’s Beauchamp Prize for best essay ‘on some literary subject.’
Natasha’s thesis focused on an investigation of ordinary German Jews who fled Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1939 and immigrated to Palestine. Her archival research included work at the Central Archive for the History of the Jewish People, where she read letters sent between Jews still in Germany, and those in Palestine. She wrote, “As my first real archival experience, it was a unique opportunity that I enjoyed immensely. It was a challenge working in German, but a gratifying and rewarding one. The knowledge I gained through the University seminars fed directly into my understanding of the sources I was uncovering.”
Natasha concluded her report saying, “My time as a SZCUF Student Exchange Fellow has had a dramatic impact on my undergraduate degree, and, I’m sure, on my academic future, too. The exchange has added an international dimension to my degree, provided me with the opportunity to do primary
research, and educated me in an area of history I knew very little about before I went. And beyond all this – how does one quantify the amount you learn living in a place like Israel? The experience has shaped the scholarly and personal outlook I will take with me as I apply for postgraduate programs in History in the USA. I am immensely grateful to the Fund for their support in what has been a deeply enriching year.”
As a forerunner to the 30th Anniversary celebrations of the Fund’s work to be held in 2008, the Trustees of the Fund hosted a luncheon at the University of Sydney in September 2007.They were delighted to meet many long-time supporters of the Fund and to introduce the work of the Fund to many new faces.
Mrs Sabina Van der Linden with Fund Trustee, Mr Michael Dunkel
Mr Peter Ryba & Mr Berel Ginges
Mrs Edith Ryba, Dr Naomi Tsafnat, Mrs Kathy Shand
Drs Louise & Don Tindal
Dr Barry Abeshouse & Mr Sam Linz
Mr Mervyn Chipkin & Mr Robert Gavshon
Mr David Gordon & Mr Berel Ginges
Prof David Richmond & Mr Sam Linz
Dr Suzanne Rutland, HOD Hebrew Jewish & Biblical Studies & Biblical Studies
Dr Issac Shariv, Director Sydnovate & Bosch Inst Director, Prof Nick Hunt
Professor Jonathan Stone, Managing Trustee, provided an overview of the Fund’s history and work. This was then well illustrated by the speakers who followed, each representing a focus of work the Fund supports.
Professor Nick Hunt, Director of the Bosch Institute, spoke of the invaluable contribution Fund support has made to the development of this Institute. Its seed-funding of joint facilities having provided a base from which larger grants could be attracted. In a similar vein, Dr Suzanne Rutland, Head, Dept of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies, outlined the contribution made to the development of teaching and research in her Department by visits from leading academics of the Hebrew University supported by the Fund’s Academic Exchange Fellowships. Dr Naomi Tsafnat, Research Associate Electron Microscope Unit, demonstrated the role played by her Fund supported exchange to the Hebrew University in facilitating an international collaboration which will help to improve currently available methods for tooth implantation.
Students who had participated in the Fund supported exchange program between the University of Sydney and the HU, spoke about how their time at HU had enriched both their academic experience and them as individuals.
Drawing together these threads of the Fund’s many activities was Dr Isaac Shariv, Managing Director of Sydnovate, the commercial arm of the University of Sydney, responsible for research and development. Dr Shariv expressed appreciation for the invaluable role played by organizations like the Fund and it supporters in facilitating the research required for the innovations that develop into cures
or the new technologies that can help to find those cures.
In our forthcoming Anniversary Supplement, we hope you will enjoy reading about the work you have helped support over the last 30 years. We invite you to celebrate these achievements with us through the supplement and at the special function to be held later in the 2008. An invitation and the upplement will be on their way to you soon.