Five young researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will receive Kaye
Innovation Awards on Wednesday for their research into type 1 diabetes,
anti-inflammatory drugs, increasing wheat yields, activation of cannabinoid
receptors in the immune system and treatment to halt over-immune
The prizes, to be presented at the university’s board of
governors meeting, have been given annually since 1994. British pharmaceutical
magnate Isaac Kaye established the awards to encourage HU faculty, staff and
students to develop innovative methods and inventions with good commercial
potential that will benefit the university and society.
Dr. Chamutal Gur,
who is studying at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada and is a
physician at the Hadassah University Medical Center, will be cited for her work
on natural killer cells in autoimmune diseases, specifically the function of the
NKp46 killer receptor in this type of diabetes, which is treated by daily
injections of insulin.
She has shown the importance of the NKp46 receptor
in diabetes development and the therapeutic potential of an anti-NKp46
monoclonal antibody (mAb) as a new treatment modality for it. Based on these
results, a patent was filed and licensed to BioLineRx to develop a blocking
anti-NKp46 mAb for the treatment of type 1 diabetes.
Prof. Saul Yedgar,
who conducts research at the same institute, has developed an anti-inflammatory
and anti-allergic family of drugs to combat a variety of illnesses while
avoiding detrimental side effects.
The most common drugs currently used
to treat these numerous diseases are steroids, which are potent but associated
with severe side effects include metabolic changes (weight gain, increased blood
pressure, diabetes), organ-specific effects (glaucoma, cataracts, bone
fragility) and even psychotrophic side effects (depression,
For decades, alternatives such as biological non-steroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) have been the focus of the pharmaceutical
industry. The resulting drugs have been commercially successful but have not
produced genuine alternatives to steroids due to their limitations. Synthetic
NSAIDs are less potent and have their own serious side effects, while the
biological drugs are expensive, must be injected and have rare but very severe
All the diseases share biochemical mechanisms. A key among
them is the action of an enzyme family (PLA), which initiates the production of
a cascade of pro-inflammatory mediators involved in the induction and
propagation of the diverse inflammatory diseases.
Yedgar and his team
have designed and constructed an entirely novel synthetic generation of drugs
that control the PLA activity and the subsequent cascade of pro-inflammatory
mediators, thereby providing multi-functional anti-inflammatory drugs. In two
clinical studies, the drugs, which has been licensed through Yissum, proved to
be safe and efficient in treating contact dermatitis when incorporated into skin
cream and allergic rhinitis as a nasal spray.
The development by
horticulture Prof. Raphael Goren at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture,
Food and Environmental Quality Sciences of a new, water-soluble material that
can prevent huge financial losses in agriculture will earn him first prize in
the Kaye competition.
Ethylene is a gas that functions as a plant hormone
and is usually associated with stimulation of fruit ripening and flower
shedding. It thus reduces agriculture yields and is a scourge to farmers
Antagonists of ethylene action, which block the hormone’s
receptor site, protect the tissues from ethylene action are thus are sought
after for agriculture use. Inhibition of the effects of ethylene may prolong the
shelf life of fruits and vegetables and prolong the vase-life of cut flowers.
But existing solutions have very limited use in open spaces.
this problem, a water-soluble inhibitor of ethylene action was synthesized in a
highly purified, solid form.
Unlike the gaseous ethylene antagonists, it
can be sprayed as a water solution in the field, plantation or greenhouse or
dip-loaded into cut flowers, and is effective as both a pre and post-harvest
Since it is a non-toxic and odorless inhibitor of ethylene
action, it is a promising candidate for pre and post-harvest application in a
wide range of open growing environments, with a sales potential in the billion-
dollar range, the university said. Yissum arranged for its development and
Dr. Lital Magid, a young immigrant from Russia and a
registered nurse, will get her award for her work on cannabinoid receptors, of
which two types, CB1 and CB2, have been identified in mammals. CB1 receptor is
distributed in the central nervous system, activation of which has been found to
induce the familiar marijuana- related behavioral effects, whereas selective
activation of the CB2 receptor, which is mainly expressed in the peripheral
immune system, lacks psychoactivity.
Recent studies have demonstrated
anti-inflammatory effects mediated by the CB2 receptor in a multitude of
pathological conditions, ranging from neurodegenerative disorders and
inflammatory pain to atherosclerosis, cerebral injury and liver inflammation and
fibrosis. Magid designed and synthesized cannabinoidlike chemical compounds,
which were able to bind and activate the human CB2 receptor.
was inhibition of pro-inflammatory activity, which in turn creates conditions
for easing pain and promoting healing.
Dr. Idit Sagiv-Barfi will receive
her award for the synthesis of a highly potent, small molecule that specifically
inhibits production of T-cells, a type of white blood cell that is of key
importance to the immune system and is at the core of the system that tailors
the body’s immune response to specific pathogens. But when this response loses
control, it can lead to autoimmune diseases in which the body mistakenly
perceives its own tissues for foreign tissues.
inflammatory disorders involving uncontrolled T cell proliferation affect up to
seven percent of the world’s population, and treatments cost over $20 billion
per year. A common autoimmune skin disease is psoriasis. Transplanted organ
transplants are also rejected without special treatment because are rejected
when the recipient’s immune system attacks them.