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Newsletter Issue #18 - June 2013 PLUS late breaking news

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE NEWSLETTER (PRINTABLE PDF - 1.8MB)

CONTENTS

 

CELEBRATING 35 YEARS OF SUPPORTING MEDICAL AND SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH

 
hammond - photo.

SZCUF founder
Mr John Hammond

We hope you will join us later in the year when we celebrate this landmark in the Fund’s history with a major event at which we will also announce some exciting new initiatives to continue this work with your support. We will be in touch soon with more details.

LATE BREAKING NEWS: B’NAI B’RITH SYDNEY SPONSORS 2013 AWARD OF SZCUF PRIZE

 

Having supported the work of the Fund over many years through donations to the general work of the Fund, in 2013 B'nai B'rith Lodge Sydney decided to target its donation to sponsor the 2013 award of the Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Prize for Discovery in Medical Research awarded this year in Jerusalem to Prof Eran Meshorer of the Hebrew University. (See below for details.)

This generous donation follows on from an earlier targeted donation from B'nai B'rith Lodge Sydney in 2010 which supported the Fund’s Academic & Student Exchange Programs contributing toward one student and one academic exchange. Those scholars were known as B’nai B’rith, Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Exchange Fellows in recognition of this generous support.

B’nai B’rith’s sponsorship of the SZCUF Prize will be acknowledged through all our publications about the 2013 award.

The sponsorship cheque for $10,000 was presented to Prof Jonathan Stone, Managing Trustee of the Fund by B’nai B’rith Executive Trust Member, Mrs Hetty Hardy.


Mrs Hetty Hardy presenting the cheque to Prof Jonathan Stone


Sponsorship of designated projects by individuals or groups like B'nai B'rith are greatly welcomed by the Fund (see below for other projects which may be of interest to you or your organisation).

HEADS OF RESEARCH JOIN THE FUND & FHU FOR AWARD OF 2012 SZCUF PRIZE

 

A luncheon co-hosted by the Fund and the Australian Friends of the Hebrew University was the occasion for the presentation of the 2012 award of the SZCUF Prize For Discovery In Medical Research to Associate Professor Barry Slobedman, Sydney Medical School and Westmead Millennium Institute. Professor Slobedman was nominated for discoveries which have profoundly changed our understanding of how the human cytomegalovirus (CMV) can persist in a dormant state for the life of the human host, despite the presence of a huge anti-viral immune response.

Professor Jill Trewhella, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), University of Sydney and Professor Shy Arkin, Head of the Authority for Research and Development, Hebrew University both attended the function and spoke about recent highlights in medical and scientific research at their universities, as well as providing perspectives on co-operative research between universities.

Professor Arkin emphasised the enormous benefits researchers and universities gain from strategic alliances between research groups of one university with those of another. “These alliances allow a reduction in costs and quicker outcomes as ideas and resources are shared rather than repetitively re-invented for sole use,” he said. “ It has been particularly pleasing to see such projects flourish, including those between scientists of HU and Sydney University such as the collaborations supported by the Fund’s Blue Sky Research Grant Program between Professors Yehudit Bergman (HU) and Jacob George (USYD).”

Professor Trewhella highlighted a number of ground breaking projects currently underway at the University of Sydney which, coincidentally, are being carried out by scientists who have received support from the Fund to assist them in, for instance, making the trips between universities sometimes needed to set-up and/or progress collaborative projects. One such project she referred to involves Professor Tony Weiss, who is developing ways to use his understanding of the properties of human tropoelastin protein to synthesise biomaterials that can augment and repair human tissues. His collaborators include researchers at HU.

Another project she spoke of involves Professor Nicholas King who also includes HU researchers among his collaborators. He is using nanotechnology as part of his research aimed at developing treatments for autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. These new treatments will work by attacking specific targets involved in the disease rather than by blanket immunosuppression which characterises current therapies.


(L to R)
Sr Wendy Morel (Schwartz Foundation), Professors Slobedman, Trewhella and Arkin

After receiving his award, Prof Slobedman gave the audience an overview of his work. He explained that he calls CMV the ‘Stealth Killer’ because it causes life-threatening disease even though most people have never heard of it. He said, “CMV can cause devastating disease in people with compromised immune systems such as solid organ and bone marrow transplant recipients and in "these circumstances the killer virus is extremely difficult to treat.”

“Moreover, CMV is an infectious disease which can occur in the developing foetus during pregnancy, usually without symptoms of infection in the pregnant woman. The infection can lead to still birth or babies with profound neurological defects such as mental retardation and hearing loss.”

Prof Slobedman also revealed that most of the world’s population is actually infected with this virus, without showing symptoms due to a healthy immune response. He explained that, the virus can lie dormant in humans for a lifetime, waiting for a chance to wake up and cause disease. What he and his team have discovered is that the virus in its dormant state remains active, making a protein which causes the infected cells to be invisible to the CMV-specific immune response. Till now this has made it indestructible. The discovery provides a new target for the development of drugs to eliminate CMV before it causes disease. It may also lead to the creation of a CMV vaccine. Its potential for clinical applications has led to an international patent sponsored by the University of Sydney’s Commercial Development and Industry Partnerships.

The 2012 award sponsored by The Schwartz Foundation was presented by Sr Wendy Morel.

2013 SZCUF PRIZE FOR DISCOVERY IN MEDICAL RESEARCH AWARDED TO HU SCIENTIST FOR STEM CELL RESEARCH

 

Associate Professor Eran Meshorer


Associate Professor Eran Meshorer, Dept of Genetics, Institute of Life Sciences, HU has been selected for the award of the 2013 SZCUF Prize. Professor Meshorer was nominated for his work on pluripotency which is the ability of embryonic stem cells to both renew themselves making more embryonic stem cells, as well as to differentiate - form the cells needed for other parts of the body, such as skin, bone, muscle etc. Understanding the mechanism of how this occurs, is one of the greatest quests of modern biology. It is hoped this understanding when attained will allow the process to be switched backwards and forwards making it possible to take say a skin cell, turn it back into an embryonic stem cell and then change it into the type of cell required, such as a brain cell to assist with currently incurable neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Being able to manipulate cells in this way would both speed up the process as wells eliminating many of the questions currently associated with the harvesting of embryonic stem cells.

Further information about Associate Professor Meshorer’s work can be found here.

B’nai B’rith Lodge

The 2013 Award has been sponsored by B’nai B’rith Lodge Sydney.

ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE RESEARCH GRANT

 

This grant of $100,000 over 2 years was awarded in 2008 to Dr Claire Goldsbury, Brain & Mind Research Institute, USYD and Dr Karen Cullen, Discipline of Anatomy & Histology, USYD for their project entitled, Energy deficiency as a cause of neuritic pathology in Alzheimer’s Disease.

Work commenced on the joint project in 2009 and was briefly interrupted by a period of maternity leave for Dr Goldsbury. The final report was submitted in late 2012 .

The project set out to achieve a better understanding of the process that causes the accumulation of a protein called tau in the brains of AD sufferers. An accumulation of tau is one of the diagnostic abnormalities of the damaged nerve cells in AD. It may contribute to nerve cell dysfunction by blocking trafficking of important components to synapses. Loss of synapses underlies the memory loss central to the disease.

Reporting on the project, Dr Goldsbury said, “The grant was made at a crucial time as I was a new research group leader having just established my laboratory and team at the then new Brain and Mind Research Institute (BMRI). The project funding allowed me to establish AD research in the lab. The work that we performed with the SZCUF grant resulted in 4 publications in highly ranked international journals (3 published, and 1 soon to be submitted) demonstrating a significant contribution to the AD research field.

The work has uncovered new avenues for future focus as we continue the international effort to understand mechanisms of this disease. Further, the grant helped enable our successful later application to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for project grant funding which has now started. In the longer term, this has secured funding for ongoing research on AD.”


Drs Claire Goldsbury & Karen Cullen

This report bears out the Trustees’ belief in the value of supporting early stage researchers, who need to establish the potential of their projects.

OTHER FUND INITIATIVES

 
  • SZCUF ACADEMIC EXCHANGE PROGRAM

Dr Nissim Otmazgin

Dr Nissim Otmazgin, Lecturer, Dept of East Asian Studies, HU visited Sydney during August-September 2012 to work with colleagues in the Depts of Japanese Studies and Asian Studies on a project on historical memory focused on the recent emergence of Japan’s comic industry as a medium for political debate and especially its role in propagating new perceptions regarding Japan’s wartime history. Dr Otmazgin is interested in evaluating if current representations constitute a revisionist shift away from Japan’s mainstream thinking about its wartime misdeeds and a break away from what many Japanese see as an apologetic diplomacy towards its Asian neighbours.

During his visit Dr Otmazgin was the B’nai B’rith SZCUF Academic Exchange Fellow. His visit was supported by a targeted donation from B’nai B’rith Lodge Sydney.

An international workshop organised at the University of Sydney by Dr Otmazgina and his USYD colleagues Drs Lionel Babicz and Rebecca Suter attracted much interest and may lead to a continuous workshop in Jerusalem in the near future.

Professor
Wayne Horowitz

Prof Wayne Horowitz, Institute of Archaeology, HU was in Sydney in August 2012, to complete a collaborative project with Dr Russell Hobson from the Dept of Hebrew, Jewish and Biblical Studies underway since 2011, when Dr Hobson, also as a SZCUF Academic Exchange Fellow, visited the HU and Prof Horowitz to work on this project.

Outcomes of the project will include a new publication of an important Persian period text last published in 1924.

While in Sydney, Prof Horowitz gave a number of public lectures including one for the Honours Club of the NSW Friends of the Hebrew University to which Fund supporters were also invited. Here Prof Horowitz, an expert in cuneiform writing, fascinated the audience with his demonstration of how archaeologists use fragments of this writing to work out many things about the life and times of the authors of the texts from which these pieces remain. Prof Horowitz also reported that his visit has led to plans to conduct a joint research project on a number of yet unpublished cuneiform tablets held in Australian collections.

Ms Carmia Shoval

Ms Carmia Shoval, Rothberg International School, HU also visited the Dept of Hebrew, Jewish and Biblical Studies, USYD in Semester II, 2012. Ms Shoval specialises in advanced-level Modern Hebrew pedagogy. During her visit she worked closely with the USYD faculty in further developing their advanced-level Modern Hebrew curricula. This work paves the way for offering previously unavailable advanced Hebrew strands in the Department.

In addition, the visit provided this HU scholar the opportunity to see in practice some local teaching methodologies which she felt could be implemented at the Rothberg School. It has also led to a collaborative research project between the two universities. Co-presentations for some international conferences are now also under consideration.

Prof Avi Dom

Prof Avi Dom, Faculty of Medicine, HU visited Prof Des Richardson, Dept of Pathology USYD in September 2012 to work on a joint project to develop new anticancer agents. The focus of the project is a new class of anticancer agents developed over the past two decades in Prof Richardson’s lab. These agents are based on the concept that metal ions such as iron and copper are essential for cell survival, particularly for fast dividing cancerous cells. It is believed that using molecules known as metal ion chelators which are capable of capturing iron and copper ions, should affect the tumors and lead to the cancer being cured. This concept has been demonstrated in a range of animal studies and some of these molecules are now being considered for clinical development as anticancer drugs.

During his visit, Prof Dom worked with the Richardson Lab to produce a number of new anti-cancer agents combining the expertise of the two labs. This work will be continued through a collaboration established between the two groups.

Professor
Sasha Klistorner

Prof Sasha Klistorner, Faculty of Medicine, USYD aims to establish a better understanding of what causes the death of brain cells which underly the irreversible neurological disability in multiple sclerosis (MS). He believes one cause may be trans-neuronal neurodegeneration - transmission of damage from one cell to another via cell connections. To investigate this process, he uses the visual system as a model and looks at the relationship between two neighboring cell groups: retinal cells and brain cells. As in Australia there is little experience with the technique required to analyse this data, to learn the technique Prof Klistorner visited HU where he spent some time with Dr Netta Levin in the Dept of Neurology at Hadassah Hospital where the technique is widely used.

Prof Klistorner has now set up analyzing facilities at the Save Sight Institute, USYD and has data from more than 60 MS patients which confirm his initial hypothesis. This finding has important implications for understanding the mechanism of disease progression and may result in significant re-thinking of treatment strategies. He plans to continue the study for at least 5 years.

  • SZCUF STUDENT EXCHANGE PROGRAM

During 2012 three students from HU came to Sydney as part of the Student Exchange Program between the two universities which is supported by the Fund. As well as expanding their horizons generally, these three students were all strongly focused on how the experiences and studies undertaken on this exchange could inform their future careers. Each of them found their own very particular way of fulfilling this goal.

Aviv Eliav

Aviv Eliav, a third year student in Cognitive Science and Economics was very impressed with the variety of opportunities the university offered not only via the classroom, but also through its many clubs and societies. Having come with an aim of exploring possibilities for employment with a multi-national company, he found The Trading Society of great interest as their program included weekly meetings with leaders of industry. The Macro Economics course he took provided an opportunity to learn about Australian economic policy and helped Aviv realize he wanted to pursue a career in policy-making. In addition, the sculpture class he took just for interest, gave him insights into design which he felt would serve him well in the future given the role played by advertising and marketing in business.



Ohad Fried

Like Aviv, Ohad Fried also found inspiration in unlikely places while on exchange in Sydney. Ohad is an MSc student in Computer Science. His Masters Thesis focuses on the problem of texture synthesis which is important in computer gaming, maps, CAD and 3D modeling. A course he took in Digital Arts proved very helpful to his thesis as it provided the opportunity to explore the boundaries between the arts, computer science, and engineering.






Noa Weiss

Noa Weiss a third year BA student with majors in Psychology and Cognitve Science found the course Learning in Outdoor Education had most impact for her. “In that class I was first introduced to Adventure Therapy, which works through taking troubled youth into outdoor environments and teaching them to build themselves through overcoming difficulties,” she reported. “Though it seems to have a firm base in Australia, it is not practiced, to my knowledge, in Israel. As I intend to go into Clinical Psychology, I consider myself very lucky to have encountered it. I feel this therapy could benefit many people. I hope it is something I can bring into the field in Israel.”




Madeleine Finn

Madeleine Finn is a USYD student in a Bachelor of International and Global Studies with majors in Jewish Civilization, Thought and Culture and Government and International Relations. During her exchange at HU Madeleine undertook three courses - Modern Hebrew; Hassidism: From Mystic Fraternity to Reactionary Movement; Antisemitism: From the nineteenth century to the present; The Role of International Law in Formulating Foreign Policy. Madeleine found that the courses, while of interest in themselves, also had unanticipated resonances when studied in situ. For instance, “ Undertaking a course in Hassidism while in Jerusalem where the presence of the Hassidim is acutely felt, I believe enabled me to better understand their customs, beliefs and way of life,” she said.

She also reported that the course on international law provided insights into the ways international law governs and influences state behaviour and how it has effected the current situation in Israel. She concluded saying, “Being in Israel taught me many things that cannot be learnt in the classroom. In particular, I believe it is only now through hearing what Israel means to various students that I can grasp the nature of the Jewish connection to the land of Israel.”


ROGER SEBEL HEBREW UNIVERSITY MEDICAL ELECTIVE TERM FELLOWSHIP

 

As an addition to the Student Exchange Fellowships, in 2006, the Fund established these fellowships to support 4th Year Sydney University Medical Students to undertake their Medical Elective Term at the Hebrew University’s Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. The Trustees felt that encouraging students to do their Elective Term at Hadassah would lay good foundations for the Fund’s aims of encourage co-operative work between USYD and HU as well as providing students the opportunity to gain an appreciation of Israel’s advanced status in clinical medicine and its high standards of biomedical research.

In 2012 three USYD students, Simon Reid, Darren Rom and Tamsea Sefa undertook their elective term at Hadassah. What they wrote of their term bears out much of what the Trustees hoped would be outcomes of these experiences. On their return all three spoke highly about their experience at Hadassah. They had all more than satisfied their goals.

All three students were greatly impressed by the quality of care and medical practice they found in the hospital and the way everyone from students to top surgeons helped them, with doctors in clinics and ward rounds translating or conducting the proceedings in English for their benefit. Also extremely rewarding were the relationships they made with HU medical students who willingly acted as guides to the hospital and the local health care system and provided an understanding of Israeli life and the experiences of young Israelis.

In his report, Simon expressed a qualm which all three had shared before going to Hadassah. “With Jerusalem being a holy city for Christianity, Islam and Judaism, I had expected some degree of discrimination to be prevalent in the hospital. To my relief, I didn’t notice a single form of discrimination and found that every culture is treated equally. I was also happy to hear that patients who were Palestinian could get good quality health care in Israel at Hadassah.” In fact while there, they were all amazed to discovered how adamant the staff were about the principle of “treating the patient in front of you” and that, in a city where your patients could include suicide bombers, the approach was, as Darren was told, “No matter who comes through those doors, you treat. You don’t ask questions.”

Tamsea also wrote about how impressed she was by the ways in which Hadassah worked to bridge the divides which exist in Israeli society both between the Jewish and non-Jewish members of society, as well as between the various Jewish factions. She wrote, “As an international visitor to the hospital, it was humbling to see the efforts made to promote collaboration. Even small gestures, such as answering simple questions in the patient’s own language can go a long way.”

All the students were keen to recommend the Hadassah Elective to future Year 4 Medical Students.

Simon Reid
Tamsea Sefa
Darren Rom

SUPPORTING THE FUND

 

Your contribution could be:

  • a direct donation
  • a donation in the name of a friend, relative or associate as a special gift
    sharing the joy of your special event by requesting a donation to the Fund as a gift to you for your celebration
  • a donation targeted towards your own area of interest
  • sponsoring one of the Fund’s projects
  • making a more substantial gift over time
  • a gift through your will
To make your tax-deductible 35th Anniversary Donation
mail your cheque, Visa or Mastercard details to:
The Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund
University of Sydney F13 NSW 2006


To discuss these and any other forms of contribution to the Fund’s work, or to suggest areas of potential mutual interest which could be explored as focuses for sponsorship, please contact the Fund Office, Ph: (02) 9351 6558 or Email: