Researcher: Israel needs $100m., NIH-like body

World-acclaimed Israeli immunologist Prof. Ruth Arnon: Public money needed to propel Israeli biomedical research.

June 3, 2010 03:21
2 minute read.
Professor Ruth Arnon

Prof.RuthArnon311. (photo credit: Judy Siegel Itzkovich)


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Some $100 million a year in public money is needed to finance original Israeli clinical and translational research in the biomedical sciences, and an American-style, independent National Institutes of Health must be established here to allocate funds and coordinate this work, world-acclaimed Israeli immunologist Prof. Ruth Arnon said on Wednesday.

Arnon, the vice president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, who co-developed at the Weizmann Institute of Science the multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, was speaking at a research day at Hadassah University Medical Center to mark the 50th anniversary of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine.

Dozens of the school’s graduates, both young and old, were present for the all-day jubilee event, which was led by school of public health dean Prof. Orly Manor.

Arnon said she and academy colleagues have already raised the matter with the Finance Ministry, the Council for Higher Education’s Planning and Budgeting Committee and the Israel National Science Foundation.

Arnon, who sat for years on the board of directors of the Hadassah Medical Organization, said that an NIH-like institution is urgently needed to promote clinical biomedical and biotech research and work to develop new drugs that translate from the lab to the bedside.

She headed a steering committee appointed in 2006 by the president of the academy, Prof. Menachem Ya’ari, to learn what was needed to promote biomedical research, and 16 leading scientists and physicians spent four years doing so. Leading experts from abroad helped prepare recommendations.

The Weizmann professor said that Israel is doing quite well in basic research in biology-related sciences, but “in clinical research, we are below average, and it is very worrisome.”

She noted that one reason is that almost all postdoctoral students go abroad, mostly to the US, for fellowships in leading labs rather than doing them in Israel under the supervision of veteran physicians and scientists.

The National Science Foundation provides money for basic research, but it’s not enough for biomedical fields, said Arnon, who added that hospitals that do not adequately encourage suitable physicians to do research should give them time off for this.

The science academy has taken upon itself to monitor where advances are made in biomedicine and biotech around the world and suggest what should be done in Israeli institutions, she concluded.

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