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Newsletter Issue #19 - June 2014

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

CONTENTS

 

B’NAI B’RITH SYDNEY 2013 SZCUF PRIZE SPONSOR

 

Mrs Hetty Hardy with Prof Jonathan Stone


Having supported the Fund over many years through donations to its general work, 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 in Jerusalem to Prof Eran Meshorer of the Hebrew University. (See below for details.)

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

LATE NEWS

B'nai B'rith Lodge Sydney have also undertaken to sponsor the 2015 award of the Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Prize for Discovery in Medical Research which will be awarded in June 2015, in Jerusalem.

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

 

Mr Michael Dunkel with Prof Eran Meshorer

The 2013 SZCUF Prize was presented to Associate Professor Eran Meshorer at the prize-giving ceremony which is one of the highlights of the annual meeting of the Hebrew University’s Board of Governors in Jerusalem in June each year. The SZCUF Prize is one of several prestigious awards presented to scholars in a wide range of fields at this ceremony .

The award of $10,000 and a medal crafted by renowned Melbourne sculptor, Michael Meszaros, were presented to Prof Meshorer by SZCUF Trustee, Mr Michael Dunkel who is also a member of the HU Board of Governors.

A/Prof Meshorer, Dept of Genetics, Institute of Life Sciences, HU was selected for the award for his work on pluripotency - the ability of embryonic stem cells to both renew themselves, making more embryonic stem cells, as well as to differentiate to form the cells needed for other parts of the body, such as skin, bone, muscle.

Understanding the mechanism of this process is one of the great quests of modern biology. It is hoped this understanding when attained, will allow scientists to use the process to make the type of cell required 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 well as eliminating many of the questions currently associated with the harvesting of embryonic stem cells.

Established in 2005 to recognise the work of young scientists, the Prize is presented in alternate years at the University of Sydney (USYD) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU).

Further information about A/Prof Meshorer’s work can be found at http://meshorerlab.huji.ac.il

TWO UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY SCIENTISTS SHARE 2014 SZCUF PRIZE

 

Associate Professor Anthony Gill and Associate Professor Ostoja (Steve) Vucic are to share the 2014 Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Prize for Discovery in Medical Research.

Associate Professor Anthony Gill


A/ Prof Gill, Sydney Medical School, USYD and Royal North Shore Hospital was nominated for his contributions to our understanding of a number of gastrointestinal and renal cancers, including the discovery of hereditary components of some of these. The discovery has led to the establishment of a low cost, widely available screening program which has resulted in hundreds of individuals with a hereditary cancer syndrome being diagnosed early (before they develop cancer) and at a stage at which early intervention is highly likely to lead to a cure and new treatment strategies.







Associate Professor Ostoja (Steve) Vucic

A/Prof Ostoja (Steve) Vucic, Sydney Medical School, (Westmead) and Westmead Hospital, was nominated for his discovery of a unique mechanism underlying amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal neurodegenerative disorder. His pioneering research has resulted in a significant advance in understanding ALS and formulation of novel therapeutic approaches, which are being translated into clinical trials. A/Prof Vucic also co-invented a much needed diagnostic technique for ALS currently being commercialized under the trade name MAGXCITE with commercial partner Magstim. This invention may provide earlier and more definite diagnosis of ALS so that currently available neuroprotective therapies could be instituted earlier potentially improving survival and quality of life in this devastating disorder.

schwartz





The 2014 Award of the Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Prize for Discovery in Medical Research is sponsored by The Schwartz Foundation.

BLUE SKY SCIENTIFIC INITIATIVE – Scientists report their findings

 

With support from a special donation from the John Hammond Trust, this initiative was established in late 2011 to support development of novel scientific ideas and promote cooperative work between USYD and HU. Applications were open to scientists from both Universities and stated a preference for a joint project between scientists of both Universities. The quality and number of applications received for the Grant resulted in the Trustees’ decision to make two awards, each of $100,000 in the new scheme.

  • Prof John Rasko, USYD & RPA Hospital, for a collaboration with Prof Dan Gazit, HU

and

  • Prof Yehudit Bergman, HU, for a collaboration with Prof Jacob George, USYD


Prof Rasko’s project, Optimising stem cell growth in the laboratory for use in regenerative medicine, built on earlier work showing that blood-forming cells respond favourably to being grown on an elastic bed or “nano-mattress”.

Reporting on the awarded work, Prof Rasko wrote, “Tropoelastin has been shown to modulate biological pathways inside cells. This affects the ability of stem cells to differentiate to different mature cell types with different functions such as cartilage and bone. Through the use of tropoelastin and shorter derivatives, we demonstrated that signalling is mediated through at least two pathways: an elastin binding protein and a cell adhesion molecule. Our findings support the concept that tropoelastin participates in regulatory control. Collaborations have been established to further investigate the mechanisms involved in the control of cell differentiation by substrate elasticity.”

Prof Bergman’s project, Identifying novel factors for improving liver regeneration in the elderly also built on earlier work where it was shown, in mice models of human cancers, that pregnancy induces the rapid growth of liver cells, accelerating liver regeneration and reducing mortality.

Summing up new findings, Prof Bergman wrote, “ Our results shed light on the basic mechanisms of liver regeneration, helping identify potential therapeutic options for enhancing the regenerative capacity of the liver in the elderly. This is significant as age-induced impairment of liver regeneration prevents surgery for liver metastases in the elderly. We can now think about clinical trials aimed at improving the regenerative capacity of the liver in the elderly. This could dramatically alter their options regarding liver surgery. ”

One aim of establishing these grants was to provide an opportunity for novel ideas to gain sufficient momentum to be competitive in larger funding systems, and reach success more quickly than otherwise. The Trustees will follow these projects with interest to see where they lead.

PROJECT GRANTS

 

Following the success of grants previously awarded to infrastructure projects in the Bosch Institute (USYD), in December 2010 the Fund undertook to support two further projects during 2011- 2013. In the new projects the Fund supported salaries for officers to manage an Animal Behaviour Facility (ABF) and an Oxidative Stress Bioanalytical Facility (OSBF).

Final reports recently received from the Facilities highlighted steady growth in both equipment and user numbers, as well as wider and growing recognition of the Facilities and their officers. This recognition has been demonstrated by increasing numbers of requests from organisations outside the University to use the facilities; increasing mention of the Facilities as “ Core Facility” in several grant applications by staff of USYD and other Australian universities and research institutes; by invitations for the ABF Officer to present papers about the work of the Facility at international scientific conferences and meetings.

The Fund’s support was matched by the Bosch Institute to enable full-time, rather than half-time, officers to be employed. This has played a major role in what has been achieved. These achievements and the growth of the facilities well demonstrate the cumulative value of the Fund’s investment in such projects. The Trustees wish the members of the Bosch Institute every success with their future endeavours.



Professor Gershon Golomb


In a similar spirit, the Authority for Research and Development at HU will jointly fund with the SZCUF two scientific projects aimed at improving treatments for common conditions. One project headed by Prof Gershon Golomb, aims to produce a new anti-viral drug which uses a revolutionary drug delivery system that directly targets specific parts of the virus to block its effect compared to current therapies which only alleviate symptoms without providing a cure.






Professor Amnon Hoffman


The other project headed by Prof Amnon Hoffman & Prof Eli Breuer aims to improve the effectiveness of currently available oral therapy for cancer patients with metastases.

NEW GRANT TO FIND A THERAPY FOR ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE (AD)

 

In a further bid to support the development of novel scientific ideas and to promote cooperative work between USYD and HU, the Fund has initiated the SZCUF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE NOVEL APPROACHES TO THERAPY GRANT which will comprise an award of $250,000 over 2 years for a research project in the field of AD aimed at developing and/or assessing new treatments for this condition. Applicants must be members of staff of USYD or HU, with an appointment of appropriate duration. All else being equal regarding merit, joint applications for cooperative projects between members of staff of the two Universities will be given preference. Applications closed on 12 April.

SUPPORTING THE FUND

 
  • LESLIE RICH SCHOLARSHIP FOR DEMENTIA RESEARCH AWARDED TO PROJECT ASSESSING PROTECTIVE EFFECTS OF EDUCATION AMONG OLDER ABORIGINALS

In late 2011, the Fund became the beneficiary of a bequest made to USYD by Mrs Hermina Rich. The terms of the bequest of $200,000 prescribed that it be used to establish a research scholarship in the field of dementia research to honour her beloved husband who had suffered an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s Disease before he died and that it be named The Leslie Rich Scholarship and be administered by the SZCUF.

The inaugural recipient of the scholarship is Ms Cecilia Minogue, a doctoral candidate, in the School of Psychology, USYD. Her project is entitled, Cognitive decline in Older Aboriginal People: Is education protective?

Miss Minogue has worked for 3 years at Neuroscience Research Australia on the Koori Growing Old Well Study: a study investigating the prevalence of dementia in urban Aboriginal Australians and the factors that may protect against, or heighten, the risk of dementia. The current study is part of her doctoral research. She says, “Little is known about dementia in Australian Aboriginal people. In the first study (“the Kimberley study” or “KICA study”) undertaken in 2008 the prevalence of dementia among Aboriginal Australians was found to be 12.4%, 5.2 times greater than in the Australian population (2.4%) (Smith et al., 2010). That study found that older age, male gender and lack of education were the main risk factors for dementia in Aboriginal Australians.” While important, this study had limitations, which the new study seeks to address. It will involve Aboriginal Australians living in both urban and regional areas. “This is important,” Ms Minogue points out, “as, contrary to common perception, most Aboriginal Australians do not live remotely but in urban and regional areas, and hence are more likely to have been enrolled in formal education.” A special questionnaire developed for this study is likely to provide more reliable and measurable findings. The scholarship will assist with travel for Ms Minogue’s research and to present a paper at a Conference of the International Psychogeriatrics Association in Beijing .

  • YOUR CONTRIBUTION

However you wish to support the Fund, you will be making a valuable contribution to the Fund’s work.

You could consider a donation to the Fund:

  • in the name of a friend as a special gift
  • in lieu of gifts to you
  • targeted toward an area of your interest
  • to sponsor one of the Fund’s projects

Please contact the Fund Office to discuss these and other options. Ph: 9351 6558 or email:

OTHER FUND INITIATIVES

 
  • SZCUF ACADEMIC EXCHANGE PROGRAM
  • Prof Des Richardson, Faculty of Medicine, USYD visited HU in June 2013 following-up on work commenced in Sydney with Prof Avi Domb, Faculty of Medicine, HU in August 2012 when he visited the Richardson labs as a SZCUF Academic Exchange Fellow. Since then they have continued working together on a joint project to develop new anti-cancer agents. Prof Richardson also reported that an important outcome of the trip has been the continued collaboration and that it has recently led to a 2013 University of Sydney, International Research Collaboration Award which will cover salary, travel and accommodation expenses for Prof Domb’s return in 2014 to continue their project. Prof Richardson is now also preparing several grant applications, one to AUSiMED which specifically supports medical research initiatives between Australia and Israel that benefit both nations and the global community.
  • Prof Dan Gibson, The Institute for Drug Research, School of Pharmacy, HU visited the lab of Prof Trevor Hambly, School of Chemistry USYD in July-September 2013 to conduct work on the chemistry of platinum anticancer agents. Their aim was to gain a better understanding of the component chemicals they are interested in developing into potent anticancer agents. This work, done in conjunction with Catherine Chen, a PhD student in the Hambly group will continue when Catherine visits the Gibson Lab at the HU for a period of six months. Reporting on his visit, Prof Gibson said, “We hope to obtain sufficient preliminary results to submit a joint research proposal for funding to continue the work.”

(L to R) Professor Trevor Hambly with Professor Dan Gibson
  • Other visits during 2013:
  • Prof Ayal Kimhi, Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment HU visited the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, USYD in July 2013.
  • Prof Suzanne Rutland, Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies, USYD visited HU in July 2013, to attend the Sixteenth World Congress of Jewish Studies held at HU.

SZCUF STUDENT EXCHANGE PROGRAM

 
  • UNIVERSITY WIDE EXCHANGE
  • Yevgeniy Glider and Maayan Morali, two HU Masters Students in International Relations on exchange at USYD during 2013 both took courses at USYD’s Centre for International Security Studies. Reporting on his exchange, Yevgeniy wrote, “ The Centre is known for the depth of its security studies curriculum, for its expertise in the strategic dynamics of the Asia-Pacific region and for its practical, hands-on approach. For me, this was the perfect combination. My time in Sydney has given me a new critical understanding of the strategic dynamics and security challenges of states in the region.” He was also surprised to find that these insights extend far beyond the region. “For example,” he wrote, “ it is said that in the Asia-Pacific, economic interdependence increases the value of trading over the alternative of aggression. Consequently, peaceful trading becomes more rational than war. This may teach us a lot about alternate modes of conflict prevention in the Middle East as well.” Maayan undertook the same courses as Yevgeniy and expressed similar insights.

(L to R) Yevgeniy Glider with Maayan Morali
  • Yitzi Tuvel, a student in the Faculty of Arts, USYD was on exchange at HU in 2013 extending his studies in Psychology in which he is majoring at USYD.


  • USYD / HU LAW EXCHANGE

Dominic McNeil

Dominic McNeil, a final year student in the Juris Doctor (Law) Degree at USYD was the first, USYD law student to participate in the Exchange Program between the Law Faculties at the two Universities which has been made possible by HU establishing a number of law courses taught in English. As a student interested in a career in International Security “Israel, Jerusalem, and the Hebrew University were nothing less than perfect as locations for my exchange,” Dominic wrote in his report. “There I was able to experience a world totally dissimilar from Australia. One dissimilarity between the two nations in particular – the reality of Israel’s security situation – was eye-opening, and the corresponding study of the legal implications of a democracy trying to make its way in an incredibly difficult political-geography, was amazing. I felt far from home, but also as if I was at the centre of the world.”

Prior to commencing his semester of legal studies, Dominic undertook an Ulpan (modern Hebrew course) which, though not compulsory, is now also offered as an option covered by the SZCUF Student Exchange Fellowship. Of this experience Dominic wrote, “The Ulpan not only allowed me to develop some rudimentary language skills … but it also gave me a great insight into Israeli culture and thought.”

Subjects Dominic took at HU included, introductory Israeli; international; Corporate Criminal; and Counter-Terrorism law. “All were phenomenal both in content and quality. I wrote on topics as diverse as the legality of the Mossad under Israel’s own laws, to post-GFC corporate regulation, and the history of the freedom of the seas. I believe taking these subjects has not only helped shape my perception of Israel and some of the conflicts in the Middle East, but it has also cemented my interest in the area of international security. I hope to pursue a career in this area, and believe both my time in Israel generally, and my law subjects specifically, will be of great use to achieving this goal ... I will definitely visit Israel again and I have aspirations to work there.”

SZCUF ROGER SEBEL HEBREW UNIVERSITY MEDICAL ELECTIVE TERM FELLOWSHIPS

 

Hugh Caterson, Charlie Meares and Isabelle Kapterian were the USYD fourth Year Medical Students who undertook their Medical Elective Term at the HU’s Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem during December 2013 as SZCUF Roger Sebel Hebrew University Medical Elective Term Fellowship recipients.

Like the USYD Medical students who have gone to Hadassah previously, they 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. They also found extremely rewarding the relationships they made with HU medical students who willingly acted as guides to the hospital and the local health care system and provided insights into Israeli life and the experiences of young Israelis.

But in their reports each of them commented at length on some aspect of the experience that was particularly striking to them. Hugh and Charlie were both with the Cardiology Department. Both were very impressed by the Department’s duty to education. As Hugh put it, “Every morning the entire Cardiology Team (physicians, surgeons, registrars, interns, students and senior nurses) would meet for an hour to discuss the four or five most difficult patients of the day. These meetings were an inclusive and energetic hour of high impact learning. Each patient was discussed and examined from first principles. It was the task of the students to present the patients’ histories to the gathering after which each investigation was displayed to the team by the doctor on call and questions were fired out. The students were always required to make the initial analysis of all investigations, ECGs, echos and angiograms. The discussion would then proceed up the hierarchy and all would be privy to the consultants’ detailed and complex decision-making regarding the patients’ treatments. This system was a powerful treatment and teaching tool ... Students were exposed to how the cardiology team operates and were made to be an integral part of it .... The amount of information pored over and analysed in one hour was a priceless experience for students.”

Isabelle Kapterian’s 4 weeks were spent in the General Surgery Department which included transplant and trauma surgery. She found her experiences here were valuable and a very useful adjunct to her prior rotation in general surgery.

But the facet of her experience she found fascinating was observing how the Israel/Palestine conflict impacted healthcare delivery. “I was pleased to see that the Israeli and Palestinian doctors worked side by side with no hint of any racially driven prejudice ...” she wrote, “... there was no difference in the treatment patients received, the doctors would speak in Arabic to the Palestinian patients and in Russian to a few of the Russian immigrants who did not speak Hebrew, acutely aware that this small gesture did a lot to make the patients feel more comfortable. I had a lot of respect for the surgeons’ attitudes to the patients ... I felt like I could learn from the quiet compassion that they exhibited whilst simultaneously maintaining an air of professionalism.” Isabelle was also impressed to learn that many Palestinian doctors train at the large hospitals in Israel and then return to Palestine to work in the hospitals there. The skills they have acquired in the well-equipped Israeli hospitals are greatly valued and such doctors are in high demand both as consultants and as teachers.

All three students also greatly appreciated the opportunity to savour the ancient landscapes and the historical highlights that Jerusalem and Israel have to offer.

To read full reports from Dominic, Hugh, Charlie and Isabelle, visit the Fund’s website.

Hugh Caterson
Charlie Meares
Isabelle Kapterian