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Newsletter Issue # 15 May 2010

PRINTABLE VERSION (PDF)

2010 FUND PRIZE PRESENTED & NEW HUJ PRESIDENT WELCOMED AT FUNCTION JOINTLY HOSTED BY FUND AND FHU

SEEKING SPONSORS

BOSCH INSTITUTE NEWS

NEW DIRECTOR APPOINTED FOR BOSCH INSTITUTE

FIRST YEAR OUTCOMES AD GRANT

OTHER FUND INITIATIVES

2010 FUND PRIZE PRESENTED & NEW HUJ PRESIDENT WELCOMED AT FUNCTION JOINTLY HOSTED BY FUND AND FHU

 

A function jointly hosted by the Fund and NSW Friends of the Hebrew University on 5 May 2010 was the occasion for the presentation of the 2010 Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Prize for Discovery in Medical Research. It was also an opportunity to welcome the recently elected President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Prof Menahem Ben-Sasson who was visiting Australia for the first time. Also in attendance was the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Dr Michael Spence. Both university leaders spoke at the function about the growing bilateral relationship between the two Universities and the importance of the Fund’s contribution in fostering this growth.

A/Prof S. Rutland OAM, Prof M. Ben-Sasson, Mrs. S. Ehrlich, Dr. M. Spence

The Prize, an award of $10,000 and a medal crafted by renowned Melbourne sculptor, Michael Meszaros, is presented in alternate years at the University of Sydney and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The 2010 award was presented to Dr Rachel Codd, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, by Dr Jerry Schwartz of The Schwartz Foundation, sponsor of the 2010 award of the Prize.

Dr Rachel Codd receiving her Prize from Dr Jerry Schwartz of The Schwartz Foundation

Dr Codd was nominated for the development of a range of compounds that may be effective in treating iron overload disease which effects many of the 300,000 to 500,000 babies born each year with severe blood disorders, including sickle-cell anaemia and the thalassemias. To prevent these life-threatening anaemias, patients undergo blood transfusions every 2-4 weeks causing an excess of iron to accumulate in the body (iron overload disease). Since humans do not have an active iron excreting mechanism, they must undergo additional treatment to remove the iron (chelation therapy). Currently, this treatment is administered by intravenous infusion. To improve the quality of life of these patients, there is a need to develop iron chelation agents that are orally active.

(L to R) Mr R. Scheinberg, Prof M. Ben-Sasson, Mr Berel Ginges, Mr R. Simons OAM

Dr Codd has developed new compounds with potential for oral administration. In addition, they may have application in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, where irregular iron levels have been implicated as contributing factors.

Speaking at the ceremony, Dr Codd thanked her team of fellow scientists for their contributions to her work and her nominator Prof Judy Black. While thanking the Fund for the award, Dr Codd revealed that an added benefit of the award had been an expression of interest in her work from a major pharmaceutical company which had resulted from the exposure her work had received through the announcement of the award and its accompanying publicity.

(L to R) Prof J. Stone, Prof H. Gutfreund, Mr M. Dunkel

(L to R) Dr G. Angel-Lord, Mr S. Stux, Mrs K. Balla

This news was welcomed by the Trustees who see the Fund’s role as providing seeding funds to get projects to where larger funding bodies can recognize their potential and provide the more significant funds required to produce important outcomes.

The Trustees were pleased to meet the many Fund supporters and FHU members who attended along with dignitaries of the University of Sydney and of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

SEEKING SPONSORS

 

Since 2008, Sydney presentations of the SZCUF Prize for Discovery in Medical Research have been sponsored by The Schwartz Foundation.

Similar sponsorship from other organizations and individuals would be welcomed.

Projects which may be of interest to you or your organization could be:

  • The Prize when awarded in Jerusalem - every second year
  • Academic Exchange – contributing to travel and accommodation expenses for visiting academics
  • Student Exchange – contributing to accommodation costs for students on exchange in Sydney from HU or vice versa.
  • Research Grant – support a scientific research project in an area of interest to you, or nominated by the Fund

To discuss these and any of our other 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.

BOSCH INSTITUTE NEWS

 

BOSCH INSTITUTE INITIATIVE TO BUILD INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC COLLABORATIONS

Following the successful visit in 2008 by researchers from the Institute of Medical Research (IMR), at HU, Professors Des Richardson and Nick King travelled to Jerusalem in November 2009. They presented several lectures and spoke with a number of researchers at the IMR to progress existing joint studies and develop several new initiatives.

Prof Nick King

Prof Des Richardson

One major new proposal that came out of these discussions was a plan for a biennial symposium, primarily between University of Sydney and Hebrew University researchers, to include, in addition to medicine, other areas such as water management, robotics and alternative energy in which both universities have research strengths.

Further visits are planned in this project. This time they will possibly be for research students or post-doctoral fellows to enable them to gain skills or experience in particular areas that will aid the progress of joint-projects already under way between their respective laboratory heads.

Collaborative projects now underway as a result of these 4 exchange visits are:

  • Prof Des Richardson (USyd) & Prof Shulamit Katzav (HU) – iron chelators and cancer
  • Prof Des Richardson (USyd) & Prof Ron Dzikowski (HU) – anti-malaria compounds which inhibit the growth of the malaria parasite even at very low dosages
  • In planning, collaboration between Prof Nick King (USyd) and various HU scientists in the area of cellular detection of virus infection and host defences against viruses.

NEW DIRECTOR APPOINTED FOR BOSCH INSTITUTE

 

As reported in our last Newsletter, in April 2009, Prof Nick Hunt, stepped down from his role as Director of the Bosch Institute. He had held this position since the Bosch Institute’s inception in 2006. He had also been Director of Bosch’s predecessor, the Institute for Biomedical Research (IBR) 2003-2006.

Prof R. Mason

Prof J. Stone

From April 2009, Prof Rebecca Mason, Head, Department of Physiology (USyd), was Acting Director of Bosch till early in 2010 when Prof Jonathan Stone was appointed Director.

Prof Stone was Director of the Bosch Institute’s predecessor, the IBR from 2000-2003, and has served on the Institute's Board of Directors since 2003.

FIRST YEAR OUTCOMES AD GRANT

 

The Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Alzheimer's Disease (AD) Research Grant was established in 2008 as part of the Fund's 30th Anniversary celebrations. 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. In September 2008, the grant was awarded 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 focuses 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. It is proposed that they form transport blockades through which components required for synaptic function cannot pass. Loss of synapses underlies the memory loss central to the disease. Understanding this process is important for identifying and developing new ways to treat AD. The hypothesis upon which the project is based is that reduced energy metabolism in the brain initiates the formation of tau rods.

The project is being undertaken over 2 years. At the end of the first year, the scientists have made significant progress. In the second year, they aim to test how the rods impair the function of neurons and to identify potential ways to short-circuit the pathway between energy depletion and brain damage.

The project has been suspended during 2010 while Dr Goldsbury is on maternity leave. It will resume in early 2011. We look forward to reporting further on the project in 2012, after the report from the final year of the project has been submitted.

OTHER FUND INITIATIVES

 
Dr Smadar Gabrielli

SZCUF ACADEMIC EXCHANGE PROGRAM

Dr Smadar Gabrieli, Dept of Archaeology, University of Sydney focuses her research on domestic ceramics from the 13th-19th centuries as representations of local economy and social organisation in Cyprus. She is co-director of the University of Sydney’s excavations of the Hellenistic-Roman theatre at Nea Paphos.

During 2009, Dr Gabrieli spent 6 months as a SZCUF Academic Exchange Fellow working with a number of HU scholars on her project Daily Life in the Holy Land: Hand-Made Pottery (GPHW) of the 12th-16th Centuries. The aim of the project was to construct a chronologically-dependant typology* for the large body of hand made pottery with geometric decoration that dates to the Crusader and Mamluk periods.

Discussing the project, Dr Gabrieli said, “It has long been argued that understanding this range of objects is crucial for meaningful examination of the relations between the Crusader settlers and the local population, but research has been hindered by the absence of a framework of chronological development that would make it possible to understand the relationship between various sites in which GPHW has been found, its production and distribution, and the social networks surrounding it."

Dr Gabrieli carried out field work with the assistance of members of the Israeli Antiquities Authority who helped her to find the most appropriate sites for her needs. She collected materials across a number of sites in northern Israel. Her aim was to identify areas of production which she hopes eventually will lead to identification of specific workshops.

During her time as a SZCUF Fellow, Dr Gabrieli also formed a collaboration with Dr Bethany Walker, from the University of Missouri. Utilising Dr Gabrieli’s work as a SZCUF Fellow, they have applied for an ARC Discovery project grant to fund the joint work they hope to do.

In addition, as a result of work done during the SZCUF Fellowship, Dr Gabrieli has obtained a Lady Davis Post-Doctoral position at the Hebrew University, and commenced this fellowship in late 2009.

*typology – a systematic classification of types


Dr Naomi Tsafnat, Electron Microscope Unit, was a SZCUF Fellow in early 2009 visiting the laboratories of Prof Itai Bab at HU to follow-up on a joint-project commenced in 2006 on an earlier SZCUF Fellowship.

Dr N. Tsafnat (center) with Mrs E. Ryba (L) & Mrs K. Shand

During the earlier part of the project, Prof Bab and Dr Yankel Gabet from the Bone Research Lab at the Department of Dental Medicine (HU) had done extensive experimental work on the strength of titanium implants in bone. They used animal studies to determine the pull-out strength of dental implants in normal, osteoporotic, and drug-enhanced bone.

Dr Tsafnat used data they collected to create detailed numerical models of the bone and implant.

The follow-up trip allowed previously developed models to be validated against experimental data to provide a greater understanding of the effect of different drugs both on bone strength and on the bone’s attachment to the metal implant.

The main results showed that it is not necessarily the amount of bone at the interface of the implant which affects the strength of the entire structure; rather it is the density of the trabecular* bone which has the most effect. This significant finding implies the surface coating of the Titanium implant is of negligible value, and could potentially reduce the cost of implants dramatically if it is shown that the expensive surface treatments are not needed. Given the global market for dental implants in 2008 was 3.2 billion USD, and the market is growing as the populations of western countries age, this is a very significant finding.

trabecular*- internal support structure


Prof Shalom Sabar was a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies, (USyd) as a SZCUF Fellow during Semester II, 2009 consulting and running seminars in the Department during his visit and teaching 2 units of study in the Jewish Civilisation Program : Babylonian Jewery and The Expulsion of Sephardi Jewry and the development of the Sephardi Diaspora.

Prof Sabar also gave a number of public lectures during his visit. These drew on his research interest which joins together the disciplines of art history and folklore highlighting Jewish art and Jewish material culture and the evidence these provide about the relationships between Jewish minorities and the societies that hosted them in Christian Europe and the Islamic East. One lecture given at Mandelbaum House was titled Bride & Heroine - Images of the Jewish Woman in Renaissance Italy.


Prof Yitzhak Reiter, Professor of Islam and Middle East Studies, The Truman Institute (HU) visited Sydney in early 2010 as a SZCUF Fellow to present a lecture titled How Jewish Israel Views the Other: The 100 Terms Educational Program at the Australian Association of Jewish Studies Annual Conference. He also lectured at Sydney University on his new book on Jewish-Arab Relations in Israel National Minority, Regional Majority: Palestinian Arabs Versus Jews in Israel and gave a number of public lectures in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

At the Sydney lecture, jointly hosted by the Fund and the Friends of the Hebrew University, we were pleased to meet many Fund supporters. Prof Reiter spoke on the topic of Barriers and Prospects for Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations. We would like to thank Shaw Stockbroking Ltd for kindly providing the function venue.


Ms Neta Steigrad, a teacher of Classical Hebrew & Judaism Curriculum in the Master of Teaching course in the Faculty of Arts USyd, visited HU in January 2010 meeting teachers/ researchers involved in the teaching of Modern Hebrew, Biblical Hebrew and Jewish Studies to explore common issues and opportunities for cooperation.
She reported that the visit provided useful insights into strategies for raising the profile of ongoing Jewish Studies teacher development, as well as for working outwards to the community from within the University framework. She is planning some cohesive, on-going teacher development with these ideas in mind. She also made valuable contacts with researchers and laid foundations for future collaborations.


Ayelet Batist

SZCUF STUDENT EXCHANGE PROGRAM

Ayelet Batist, a Bachelor of Science student majoring in Biology and Cognitive studies at HU undertook exchange to Sydney during Semester I, 2009. Courses she took included Bioethics and Moral Psychology which are not taught at HU. These subjects proved to be of great interest and she now hopes to study them in more depth in the future.

Also opening new horizons for Ayelet was the need to study and present in English. She moved from struggling to write her first essay in English, to leading debates in Bioethics tutorials by semester’s end and scoring a high distinction for an essay in Moral Psychology.

Through these experiences she now feels the confidence to consider undertaking postgraduate studies in an English-speaking environment.


Hillel Fried

Hillel Fried was also in Sydney on exchange, Semester I, 2009. A student in the Faculty of Humanities at HU majoring in History and International Relations, Hillel also has extensive youth leadership experience. He was keen to understand more about different methods of teaching and activities for engaging youth. Hence, one course he took was Outdoor Education. Reporting on this course he wrote, “Understanding gained from this course about the importance of the outdoor environment and the variety of educational theories that can be applied when a person leaves his comfort zone, will help me reach out in a more effective way to participants in groups I lead and will make me a better counsellor in those educational programs.”

Hillel lived off-campus in Bondi. This allowed him to attend local synagogues and together with his history of involvement in youth activities, led to him becoming involved in a variety of activities in the Sydney Jewish Community, particularly, in the informal education courses run by BJE (Board of Jewish Education) in public high schools.

“However, the most special thing about my experience,” he wrote, “was meeting people from all around the world and being exposed to different views from all these regions. It was very interesting to see how much people have in common. It made me more optimistic about the world.”


Jessica Noyes a student in the Bachelor of Economics and Social Sciences degree course (USyd) participated in the exchange program to HU in Semester I, 2009. “This,” she says, “enabled me to take classes which I would not have been able to do in Sydney like the one on the Israel-Palestine conflict in which many guest speakers were directly involved in different aspects of the peace-building and conflict resolution process.”

Another class Natural Resources Policy in Israel and the Middle East has directly informed the topic of her honours thesis which she is now undertaking in Sydney. Her thesis is focused on the concept of virtual water and its potential in addressing water scarcity. She says the course provided valuable insights which form the crux of her current thesis and possibly future research.

Also on exchange at HU during Semester I, 2009 were Scott Mc Dougall and Niccolo Tofoni. Shahar Orion from HU Faculty of Social Science was in Sydney, Semester II, 2009.