Newsletter Issue # 14 May 2009
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AICC joins with Fund to Celebrate 30th Anniversary & Present 2008 Fund Prize
Award winner recognised for contribution to stem cell therapy in brain regeneration
Monetary value of SZCUF Prize to increase from 2010
Other sponsors sought
Bosch Institute projects
Bosch Institute Initiative to Build International Scientific Collaborations
Collaborative Malaria Research Project will test a new vaccination strategy to prevent some complications of currently available malaria treatments
New Grant for Alzheimer’s Disease Research
Further explorations in the field of Alzheimer's Disease
Other fund initiatives
In November, 2008 the Fund celebrated its 30th Anniversary at a function jointly hosted with the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC). This was also the occasion for the presentation of the 2008 award of the Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Prize for Discovery in Medical Research to Dr Catherine Leamey, Department of Physiology, University of Sydney. Dr Leamey received the award for identification of a gene, which plays an essential role in binocular vision and has important implications for the development of therapies for both vision and developmental brain disorders, such as autism and mental retardation. 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.
Guest of honour and speaker at the function, Mr Malcolm Turnbull MP, the honourable leader of the Federal Opposition, presented the Prize to Dr Leamey.
Dr Cathy Leamey receiving her award from Mr Malcolm Turnbull,MP
In light of the Fund's contributions to the promotion of innovation at the two Universities, the theme of the day was Innovation the key to our success. Mr Turnbull spoke about how Australia’s prosperity, economic strength and its ability to compete in the global economy, all depend on valuing innovation, harnessing its potential and putting it to work for the benefit of all Australians.
Professor Menachem Magidor, the President of the Hebrew University, was also a guest and speaker at the function. He provided many interesting insights on how Israel, a country of only 7 million with no natural resources, has established its entire economy on human capital and innovation.
Trustees of the Fund were pleased to meet the many Fund supporters who attended along with leading members of the Sydney business community, and dignitaries of the University of Sydney as well as the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Hebrew University, Mr Charles Goodman.
Dr Cathy Leamey (c) with Ms Kate Marie & Dr
(L-R) Prof David Celermajer, Fund Mr Eliyahu
Honig, Prof Merlin Crossley
Prof Chris Murphy, Dr John Cashman
Mr Anthony Hollis, Mr David Balkin,
Mr Vic Alhadeff, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, MP
Speaking about the Fund's achievements of the last 30 years, the Fund's Managing Trustee, Prof Jonathan Stone said, " I am sure John Hammond, the founder of the Fund, would be pleased with the Fund’s projects and priorities. They do much to realise his vision of targeted support for medical research at the two Universities, and the promotion of collaborative work and academic and student exchanges between them. During the last 30 years, the Fund has distributed over $ 5 million in research funding to the two Universities."
The success of the function was greatly enhanced by the venue and catering provided by Allens, Arthur, Robinson in their boardroom with its sweeping views of Sydney Harbour. We would like to express our gratitude for this generous contribution to the event and in particular to Mr Zeke Solomon.
Dr Adi Mizrachi
The 2009 SZCUF Prize has been awarded to Dr. Adi Mizrachi, Department of Neurobiology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem for his contribution to the understanding of the formation of synapses (nerve connections) in the central nervous system (CNS), and for the importance of his group's findings for the development of techniques of CNS repair.
Prof Yosef Yarom nominating Dr Mizrachi's work wrote, "Dr Mizrachi's novel work breaks new ground in understanding how neuronal stem cells integrate into adult neural circuits and are maintained there. It opens the way to uncover the physiological role of newborn neurones in mature circuits and improve understanding of the cues that allow stem cells to develop and regenerate injured tissues to restore function in the damaged brain. The possibility to image new stem cells in the intact brain, which has been opened up by Dr Mizrachi's work, will challenge new therapies that promote nerve regeneration in the central nervous system."
The Prize will be presented to Dr Mizrachi in Jerusalem at a special function during the Meeting of the Hebrew University's Board of Governors (BOG) in June 2009 by Fund Trustee, Mr Michael Dunkel who is also a BOG member.
Recognising the quality of work acknowledged by the Fund Prize over the past 4 years, the Trustees recently resolved to increase the monetary value of the award from $5,000 to $10,000 from 2010.
They were pleased to receive support for this move from Dr Jerry Schwartz of The Schwartz Foundation which sponsors the Sydney presentation of the award.
Sponsorship of the Fund Prize was offered by The Schwartz Foundation after Dr Schwartz attended one of the Fund's functions and was impressed to hear details of some of the work being supported.
Similar sponsorship from other organizations and individuals would be welcomed.
To discuss any of our current projects which you or your organization would like to sponsor or to suggest areas of potential mutual interest which could be explored as focuses for sponsorship, please contact the Fund Office, Ph: 9351 6558 or Email:
All sponsorship will be acknowledged through the Fund's literature and website.
Final Report from Prof Nick Hunt on Fund supported Bosch Institute Activities
In April 2009 Prof Nick Hunt stepped down from his position as Executive Director of the Bosch Institute, a role he had held since the inception of the Institute in 2006. Previously the Institute had been known as the Institute for Biomedical Research (IBR) and Prof Hunt was Director from 2003.
As head of these Institutes, Prof Hunt has regularly reported on Fund–supported Institute projects:
- 2001 - 2005 the Molecular Biology Facility;
- 2006 – 2008 a Flow Cytometry Facility.
Both facilities have given Institute members access to state of the art equipment essential in current biological research and they have formed the model for the establishment of further joint facilities within the Institute. By demonstrating the value of such facilities, they have been instrumental in raising further funds from major granting bodies to establish more, and maintain all these facilities.
In his final report to the Fund, Prof Hunt highlighted many of the new developments in the work of the Flow Cytometry Facility which have ensued during 2008. They include:
- a partnering with the Centenary Institute Flow Cytometry Facility into the Advanced Cytometry Facility (ACF) to provide high-level expertise, training and access to cutting-edge instruments to not only the University, but beyond.
- recognition of the work of the ACF through a grant of AUD$500,000 to support purchase of more equipment.
- a programme of training workshops in flow cytometry providing general formal training in this area that was previously unavailable in New South Wales
- numerous publications and successful research grant applications which were critically dependent on the Flow Cytometry Facility.
In 2008 the Fund undertook support for a new Bosch Institute initiative to promote scientific collaborations between Bosch and the Institute for Medical Research at the Hebrew University by funding 5 – 6 short-term academic visits between the Institutes (some in each direction) to facilitate the establishment of collaborations.
The first two visitors from HU to the Bosch Institute were Prof Shulamit Katzav and Dr Ron Dzikowski in August 2008.
(LR) Prof Jonathan Stone, Dr Ron Dzikowski, Prof Shulamit Katzav
Their programme of meetings and presentation resulted in the commencement of several research interactions.
The next stage is for a reciprocal visit by Bosch researchers to the Hebrew University later in 2009.
In a further and unanticipated outcome of this initiative, due to the raised profile provided to HU by the visit of its representatives in August 2008, Prof Rebecca Mason now represents the Bosch Institute as a member of the University of Sydney’s Middle East Expert Group.
Through the International Office of the University of Sydney, the Institute has also been made aware of European and Australian sources of funds to facilitate research and student exchange between European institutions and external countries. Some of these funding bodies consider Israeli institutions as European and so will fund Australia-Israel collaborations.
Hence the Fund's support has again been instrumental in opening the way to further avenues of funding new ventures for the Institute.
Concluding his final report to the Trustees, Prof Hunt wrote, " I would like to add my personal appreciation of the invaluable support that the SZCUF has given to medical research in general and the Bosch Institute specifically. I hope that you will long continue in your commitment to advancing knowledge and building bridges between these two universities – institutions of character and intellectual strength."
During 2007 - 2008, the Fund supported a collaborative project between Prof Nick Hunt (University of Sydney) and Prof Jacob Golenser (HU) entitled, Immunomodulation of malaria: the path to better treatment. This project has yielded many publications, supported the training of two PhD students, (one at each university) and has facilitated significant technology transfer between the two institutions.
Building on the results from this project, Profs Hunt and Golenser have proposed a follow-on project in which they will use new adjunctive treatments, develop better ways to deliver these compounds and investigate the possibility of vaccinating against the disease complications of malaria rather than against the parasite itself.
As part of the Fund's 30th Anniversary celebrations, in April 2008, the Fund established the Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Alzheimer's Disease (AD) Research Grant and called for applications from scientists of both the University of Sydney and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Joint applications for cooperative projects were also encouraged.
Valued at $100,000, the grant is for a research project in the field of Alzheimer’s disease, aimed at developing and/or assessing new treatments for this condition. This follows interest in the field of AD research developed by the Fund through its Alzheimer's Disease and Inflammation Initiative established in 1996.
Dr Claire Goldsbury
Dr Karen Cullen
In September 2008, the Trustees were pleased to announce the Award of the grant to University of Sydney scientists Dr Claire Goldsbury, Brain & Mind Research Institute and Dr Karen Cullen, Discipline of Anatomy & Histology for their project: Energy deficiency as a cause of neuritic pathology in Alzheimer's Disease.
The project will focus on the process that causes the accumulation of tau, one of the two diagnostic abnormalities exhibited by the damaged nerve cells which characterise AD-affected brains. The researchers believe that understanding this process is important for identifying and developing new ways to treat AD. They say that, "Decline in energy metabolism, visible in AD brain scans, occurs in the same areas as the damaged nerve cells. The hypothesis on which this project is based is that reduced energy metabolism in the brain initiates the accumulation of tau. Using a multi-pronged approach, our study aims to determine ways to short-circuit the pathway between energy depletion and brain damage by revealing the sequence of events that explains the abnormal accumulation of tau."
Fund Trustee, Prof David Celermajer, Scandrett Professor of Cardiology at the University of Sydney, oversaw the grant process. Speaking on behalf of the Trustees he said, " We were very pleased with the level of interest generated by the Grant and the standard of the proposals submitted. Eleven outstanding applications were received, 5 from the University of Sydney and 6 from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
They were all of a very high standard and the job of the Grant Assessment Committee, in choosing an awardee, was indeed a difficult one." The Assessment Committee was convened and chaired by Prof Glenda Halliday, Conjoint Professor, School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales, an eminent Alzheimer's disease researcher in her own right.
The project will be undertaken over the next 2 years. We look forward to reporting on the outcomes of this important work.
Revisiting a project commenced in 2005, Professors Jonathan Stone (U Sydney) and Eli Keshet (HU) have been successful in their application to the Trustees requesting two additional years of support for their collaborative project now titled, How Senile Plaques Form In The Aging And Demented Brain: The Roles Of Haemorrhage And Macrophages.
In its initial years (2005 – 06) in collaboration with Dr Karen Cullen, the project established the concept that senile plaques form at the site of cerebral microhaemorrhages.
Speaking about the project, recently, Prof Stone said, "Initially much resisted, this idea is increasingly accepted, but the question of ‘which (plaque or haemorrhage) comes first?’ remains.
The new project postulates that macrophages (specific cells that appear at the site of tissue damage such as stroke, to clean-up debris of dying cells), actively form plaques. If confirmed, this outcome will tip the "which-comes-first" debate firmly to haemorrhage-comes-first. It will accelerate acceptance of the critical issue, that age-related dementia is a vascular disease, for which prevention, treatment and relief of symptoms will be found in the stabilization of blood vessels, the reduction of vascular risk factors and the treatment of the thousands of mini-strokes which threaten the aging brain".
SZCUF ACADEMIC EXCHANGE PROGRAM
Mr Yitzhak Shai, Lecturer in Modern Hebrew at the Rothberg School for International Studies and a "master teacher" visited the Department of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies at the University of Sydney during Semester I, 2008.
During his visit, Mr Shai taught in both the graduate and undergraduate Modern Hebrew programs and assisted Ms Yona Gilead, coordinator of the course with research for her doctorate in which she is examining factors affecting language learning as opposed to language teaching.
Prof Dan Gibson, Dept of Medicinal Chemistry and Natural Products, Faculty of Medicine, HU visited the laboratories of Prof Trevor Hambley, in the School of Chemistry, U Sydney in September 2008. The aim of the visit was to work on a project which would combine the unique expertise of their respective laboratories in the development of new platinum based anticancer agents.
Since his visit, one specific project has already commenced and will include visits by graduate students from Sydney to Jerusalem to learn some new techniques which are a speciality of Prof Gibson's lab.
SZCUF STUDENT EXCHANGE PROGRAM
Michael Nash a student in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Sydney, participated in the One Year Program for Undergraduate Students from Overseas at the Rothberg School, HU during the 2007-08 Academic Year, with the assistance of the Fund.
During his stay courses he undertook included: Talmud As Cultural Adventure; Issues in the Study of the Holocaust and The Role of International Law in Formulating Foreign Policy.
Reporting on his experience, Michael said, " The academic year I spent at the Hebrew University gave me new perspectives on a variety of issues facing Israel and the Jewish World. Of equal significance was the widening of my perspectives on Jewish communal education – both formal and informal – from other Diaspora communities."
Lydia Lee also a student in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Sydney undertook exchange to the Hebrew University in Semester II, 2008 to focus further attention on her University of Sydney majors in Biblical Studies and Classical Hebrew.
Reporting on her exchange she said," Through the courses I undertook, I was able to widen my perspectives on how my fields were studied, taught and practiced elsewhere."
Lydia also found it enriching to compete and learn with students from all around the world (USA, Korea, Ukraine, France, China, Mexico) who shared her passion for Biblical Studies, Hebrew language and the history of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Enabled by the Fund's support to live in the student village a short distance from the Hebrew University and its facilities allowed Lydia to devote more time and energy to study. "As a result," she says, "I have improved in my grades achieving a total grade average of 98% (A+) and obtaining 100% (A+) in 3 of the courses I took."
Lydia expressed appreciation to the Fund for helping to bring her closer to her ultimate goal of pursuing a career as an academic in Biblical Studies and Classical Hebrew.