(photo credit: Israel21C)
An unusually large delegation of 60 British experts in the field of regenerative
medicine have arrived to meet on Tuesday and Wednesday with around 150 Israeli
counterparts to launch a groundbreaking program for promoting collaboration
between the two countries.
Many millions of people suffering from major
physical trauma; cardiovascular, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases; severe
burns; birth defects; and numerous other disorders and conditions will
eventually benefit from this first-ever UK-Israel Regenerative Medicine
Conference at Ben- Gurion University of the Negev in
Regenerative medicine is an interdisciplinary field of
research focused on the development of therapies to restore impaired function of
cells, tissues or organs in the human body. It uses a combination of biomedical
approaches including, but not limited to, medical devices, stem cells, tissue
engineering, genetic engineering, biomaterials, gene and cellular
Scientists believe it holds the promise of regenerating
damaged tissues and organs in the body by replacing damaged tissue and/or by
stimulating the body’s own repair mechanisms to heal previously irreparable
tissues or organs.
It was estimated that the potential patient
populations for stem cell-based therapies in the US alone include more than 100
million people and that regenerative medicine therapies will result in direct
health care cost savings in the range of $250 billion per
Regenerative medicine could also be applied towards improving
health in developing countries, as 80 percent of global chronic disease deaths,
more than 95% of infectious disease deaths, and almost 90% of deaths due to
injury and trauma occur in low- and middle-income countries.
biotechnology companies are involved in the current regenerative medicine
market. Currently marketed therapies include a bone graft and artificial skin to
heal chronic wounds. A number of industry- funded clinical trials of stem
cell-based treatments for conditions such as heart failure, spinal cord injury,
cerebrovascular accident, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Crohn’s disease are
also being carried out.
Other regenerative medicine therapies currently
being developed include heart valves; a nerve tissue/electrical interface to
integrate between the nervous system and electromechanical devices such as
artificial limbs; and an artificial trachea.
Both Israel and the UK are
recognized as world leaders in this cutting-edge area of medicine.
conference is the inaugural event of the BIRAX – Regenerative Medicine
Initiative, a five-year program that hopes to raise £10 million and support 15
high-quality joint UK-Israel research projects that will be selected by experts
and approved by the UK-Israel Life Sciences Council.
BIRAX was originally
launched in 2008 by the British and Israeli prime ministers and is managed by
British Council Israel. It aims to enhance research and academic cooperation,
creating new institutional links for the future and strengthening academic links
between universities in the UK.
British Ambassador to Israel Matthew
Gould said: “Britain and Israel are natural partners in regenerative medicine.
The UK is a world leader in science – we have four of the world’s top 10
universities – and Israel is a scientific powerhouse. We can achieve much more
together than we can apart.
My hope is that this conference leads to a
surge of collaborations between British and Israeli scientists, with the
UKIsrael Regenerative Medicine program stimulating groundbreaking research
Dr Simon Kay, director at the British Council’s Israel office,
said: “We believe this project has the potential to make real scientific
breakthroughs. Science is an incredibly strong tool for celebrating and sharing
the immense intellectual prowess of both our countries and is one of the
cornerstones of our work here in Israel.”
The UK-Israel Life Sciences
Council – a group of 19 top scientists from both countries which met for the
first time in Jerusalem in January 2011– decided that the BIRAX program should
focus on the area of regenerative medicine. This senior group of scientists
includes four Nobel prize winners, three members of the House of Lords,
presidents of universities and some of the most distinguished scientists in the
The Pears Foundation and the United Jewish Israel Appeal, as well
as the British and Israeli governments, are among the program’s supporters. The
conference’s expert committee will be jointly chaired by Lord Naren Patel
(University of Dundee) and Prof. Benjamin Geiger (Weizmann Institute of
Science), with Prof Smadar Cohen (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev) and Prof.
Chris Mason (University College London).
Conference sessions will include
cell therapy, stem cell biology, tissue engineering, biomedical engineering and
gene therapy, giving British and Israeli researchers the opportunity to develop