Grapevine: A national crisis

Grapevine A national cr

November 8, 2009 13:16
2 minute read.

n TEL AVIV University's new president, Prof. Yossi Klepter, doesn't hesitate to hit a little below the belt if it's for the good of academia. Thus when Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz was the guest of TAU's Business Club, Klepter had no hesitation in reminding him that as someone who had come to politics from the sphere of academia, he could not fail to be aware of the critical situation in which Israel's institutes of higher learning find themselves today. It's not just a university crisis, he said, it's a national crisis. Klepter warned that unless more funds are funneled into Israel's universities they would lose the edge they have over many other universities in the world in R&D, arts and the humanities. n NEWS OF an impending academic boycott against Israel by Trondheim university - the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), prompted Prof. Yossi Ben-Artzi, the Rector of the University of Haifa, to contact his Norwegian counterpart Rector Torbjørn Digernes to ask that the motion be withdrawn. The motion is scheduled to be put to the vote at the Norwegian institution's upcoming meeting of the Board of Governors. Inclusion of such a motion offends university values, said Ben-Artzi. "Israel is an enlightened country and the move for a boycott of Israel is clearly based on misinformation and misrepresentation," he added. "Israel's universities are among the most active in international research and shared academic endeavors - the results of which are renowned. The University of Haifa, in particular, is carrying out innovative research in conjunction with Norwegian scientists in various fields. I hope that NTNU will promptly reconsider the boycott motion." n IN OTHER University of Haifa news, Carmel Haifa University Economic Corporation Ltd., the technology transfer organization of the University, has established Carmel Biotech Ltd. - for the commercialization of intellectual property emanating from research conducted at the University's Institute of Evolution. The Institute's research includes genetic cloning of wheat and barley for crop improvement; understanding the blind mole rat's respiratory adaptation to life in a hypoxic underground environment; use of fungi in the fight against cancer; and more. Carmel Biotech Ltd. was founded this year by a group of private entrepreneurs and Carmel Haifa University Economic Corp. Heading the company's scientific advisory board is Prof. Eviatar Nevo, who is the founder of the Institute of Evolution at the University of Haifa and was its director for many years. CEO of Carmel Biotech, Ron Mahler, says that Biotech has already been approached by many companies and agents interested in scientific and business collaboration. Research at the Institute of Evolution has yielded, among others: development of food additives based on fungi with medicinal properties, for the treatment of cancer and AIDS; use of genes of the blind mole rat, which lives in low-oxygen environments, for the treatment of cancer and heart disease; production of bio-ethanol from agro-industrial waste for efficient, low cost and environmental friendly production of biofuel; cultivation of algae to cleanse wastewater for use in irrigation for farmland and parks without environmental pollution. n IT'S A recorded fact that Nobel Prize literature laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer was not happy with the film version of his short story about Yentl, the girl who wanted so desperately to be a yeshiva student. He did not like the performance of Barbra Streisand who starred in the title role. However when his son Israel Zamir saw the Hebrew stage production of Yentl at the Haifa Municipal Theater, he said that he enjoyed it and even posed for pictures with lead performers Olla Shor-Selector and Yehezkiel Lazarov.

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