The country's first interdisciplinary center for developing drugs will be opened this week by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on the Ein Kerem campus of its School of Pharmacy - thereby utilizing the talents and ideas of a wide variety of campus scientists and attracting financial support from donors and the pharmaceutical industry.
A conference to mark the founding of the HU Institute for Drug Research (IDR) will be held on Wednesday and Thursday at the capital's Inbal Hotel. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat; HU president Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson; medical faculty dean Prof. Eran Leitersdorf and representatives of the major Israeli pharmaceutical companies will participate in the event.
Prof. Israel Ringel, head of the pharmacy school and new head of the IDR, told The Jerusalem Post that he has reorganized the school to accommodate the interdisciplinary approach of the institute, which will target medical problems and work to solve them by developing specific drugs and other treatments.
"It was established to meet the complexity and versatility facing drug research and development today," he said.
"We believe that training the new generation of leading scientists in the field of drug research is a national mission," said Ringel.
"The IDR will also partner with the pharmaceutical industry in new initiatives, contributing its unique and invaluable experience and knowledge. We also intend that IDR will become part of the effort of the city of Jerusalem to attract young and talented academic individuals to Jerusalem."
As teams and individuals, the institute's researchers have already discovered new drugs and invented novel drug-delivery platforms for the treatment of a variety of disorders, including allergies, cancer, age-related and neurological diseases, brain trauma, diabetes and drug addiction.
Over the years, 13 start-up companies have been established based on research of the institute's current research staff. The institute's scientists have registered more than 200 patents, more than a quarter of HU's approved patent applications.
Four novel drugs developed by the institute's researchers and commercialized by Yissum, the university research and development company, are currently on the market. The most well-known is Exelon, which delays the onset of the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease; last year alone, income from this drug - which is marketed worldwide by Novartis, totaled $815 million.
Several other drugs are currently in various stages of development, including clinical and preclinical trials.