For a group of Palestinian and Israeli researchers investigating methods to
completely purify water from medicinal materials, working together is nothing
short of critical.
“It is a must,” Dr. Rafik Karaman, of Al-Quds
University’s College of Pharmacy in Abu Dis, told The Jerusalem Post on
The joint Palestinian-Israeli research team from Al-Quds
University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is working to assess
the use of advanced membrane and bio-degradation technologies for eradicating
pharmaceutical materials from treated waste-water. Organized by the Peres Center
for Peace and sponsored by the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, the two-year
project aims to investigate the degradation and removal processes of certain
drugs found in aquatic environments that come from both domestic and industrial
“In order to facilitate and progress with the research, we need
the expertise of the Israeli side,” said Karaman, who is the principal
researcher on the Palestinian side. “We can learn from them and they can learn
from us, and this way you can do good research in Palestine.”
research mechanisms consist of a variety of different removal method studies,
examining biological treatments, advanced membrane filtration and absorption
Over the course of the collaborative project, both leading researchers and graduate students from each institution are to meet regularly to
discuss their findings.
These forums, the Peres Center explained, are
designed “to facilitate increased cooperation between the Israeli and
Palestinian research participants and further advance the academic and
peace-building elements of the project.”
The project has entered its
second of the two years and will conclude in March, according to the
From the Palestinian side, the team members at Al-Quds are
using a series of micelleclay complex membranes to remove byproducts of certain
drugs and then test the membranes’ removal success rates.
Thus far, the
researchers have achieved a 100-percent success rate and have been able to
complete removal of all traces of paracetamol, cortisone, ibuprofen, diazepam
(known by the common brand name Valium) and cholesterol-lowering statins (such
as Lipitor), Karaman explained.
The Al-Quds team has already written
three papers on the success of its work, and it will soon begin work on a joint
paper with the Technion team, he said.
“We are continuing with some other
pharmaceuticals and hopefully we publish another two papers, with the Technion,”
“The second year will be a complete
While the work together is critical, Karaman stressed
that it is nothing new, as Al-Quds researchers have been working with Technion
researchers for around a decade on various wastewater projects.
the second such project under the auspices of the Peres Center, he explained,
crediting the center for enabling them to pursue the research
“You learn from the relationship,” Karaman said. “I learn a lot
and I also give a lot.”
From the Israeli side, the Technion research team
is led by Prof. Carlos Dosoretz, head of the environmental, water and
agricultural engineering division at the Technion’s Faculty of Civil and
The Dosoretz lab members have divided their
experimentation into two – testing the capabilities of reverse osmosis membranes
to remove the drugs as well as biodegradation performance of certain bacteria,
explained Sofia Lerman, an engineer in the lab.
“We also had similar
results in the membrane system,” Lerman said. “Most of the compounds were
completely removed to 100%.”
Biodegradation was a bit less successful,
although more than half of the medicinal materials were still eradicated, she
explained. In Lerman’s mind, a solution that combines both the use of membranes
and biodegradation technologies would be ideal.
Like the Al-Quds lab, the
Technion researchers are testing their technologies with paracetamol and
ibuprofen, but they are also using carbamazepine (an epilepsy drug), iopromide
(a radiography contrast medium), dexamethasone (a steroid), ketoprofen (an
anti-inflammatory drug), clopidogrel (a blood thinner) and spiramycin (an
This week, Lerman and the Technion team are hosting some of
the Al-Quds students to teach them a new method for using membrane
This, she explained, is a great testament to the fruits of
the two institutions’ work together.
“We can compare results and think
together, so it’s definitely good for brainstorming,” Lerman added.
Emeritus Josef Hagin, of the Technion’s Faculty of Civil and Environmental
Engineering, is responsible for coordinating the entire cooperative project, and
he has been working on Israeli- Palestinian-Jordanian wastewater research
collaborations for years.
Hagin described the fact that Al-Quds students
are spending time in the Technion working with researchers there as “real
Over the course of the project, the teams have had several
meetings, including a large one in Cyprus a few months ago, he explained. There,
for two days, senior researchers and graduate students presented all of the work
that had been accomplished thus far in both places.
another seminar will occur at the Technion.
“They are not so different
really – that’s the point,” Hagin said. “They speak the same language. They are
scientists in the same field of science. Personally, we have very good contact
and even friendship.”
To Karaman, the cooperation taking place here is an
indicator that scientists – and the logical personalities they embody – have the
potential to be a bridge between peoples.
“They can think about
solutions, problems, understand different cultures,” he said.
project concludes in March, Karaman said he hopes that the process of working
together with the Technion researchers will continue.
“We work very, very
hard in doing this kind of collaboration,” he said.