A Rhode Island-based research team won a $1 million prize at the BrainTech
Israel Conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning for breakthrough research and
innovation in neurotechnology.
Out of 10 finalists, the prize went to the
Brain- Gate research team, headed by Dr. John Donoghue. BrainGate, which is
based at Brown University, aims to help disabled people around the globe by
creating robotic and prosthetic arms controlled by implanted neural
The team works in collaboration with Massachusetts General
Hospital, the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Providence, Rhode
Island, Case Western Reserve University and Stanford
President Shimon Peres joined Nobel Prize Laureate Prof. Bert
Sakmann in presenting the award, at the behest of Rafi Gidron, the founder of
conference sponsor Israel Brain Technologies.
Besides the check, the
award included a statuette of a red copper cranium.
Peres said it was a
privilege to present the prize to people who had invested a great deal of work
and devotion. Recalling the doubting Thomases when Israel had started to work in
nanotechnology, Peres took pride in the fact that Israel was now fourth in the
world in nanotechnology research and discoveries.
Israel, he said, must
do with neurotechnology and brain research what it did with
He forecast that the country could become a leading
start-up nation in brain research.
We have a brain that makes decisions,
but we don’t know how it functions, he commented.
“We are strangers to
Master of ceremonies Elliott Gotkine, Middle East editor for
Bloomberg Television, quipped at the start of what he called “a fireside chat”
with Peres that it was “a unique opportunity to pick the president’s brain.”
Speaking of the world’s transition from an agricultural age to a scientific age,
Peres observed that whereas there were boundaries of sorts attached to
agriculture, one could not put borders on science or conquer it with
When Gotkine turned to the subject of Israel’s brain drain, Peres
stated that it was essential to provide people with the necessary conditions for
“They go elsewhere because they can’t get the conditions
they need at home,” he said.
“We have the good characteristics for
research, but we have to add conditions and equipment.”
In that vein,
Peres stated that to have an educational deficit was a greater risk than having
a national deficit.
The conversation also touched briefly on
Peres reiterated his respect for US President Barack Obama, who had
succeeded in forming a coalition that Peres said the Chinese and the Russians
were still reluctant to join. Peres endorsed Obama’s decision to start with
nonmilitary measures and said that the sanctions imposed in Iran were working
and should continue.
Gotkine also asked Peres his secret for remaining
mentally alert at age 90, to which the president replied, “When you discover all
the secrets of the brain, I’ll know my own secret.”