Israel-UK relations received a boost with the announcement this week of two initiatives: the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange partnership, and a new financial technology challenge sponsored by TeXchange, the UK-Israel Tech Exchange program.
The BIRAX partnership, a joint initiative of the British Embassy and the British Council in Israel, is a bilateral research program that promotes regenerative medicine research, a biomedical approach to curing and restoring the functions of the human body, often using the body’s own tissues.
Now in its third year, BIRAX will be funding eight projects on stem cell research to develop therapies for diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease and Multiple Sclerosis.
“The United Kingdom is proud to be Israel’s partner in science,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron this week, announcing the latest £3.2 million ($4.8 million) of funding for eight joint medical research projects by British and Israeli scientists. “In so many areas our scientists are working together and engaged in some of the most significant projects of our age.”
Funding will be awarded to 11 leading universities in Britain and Israel where the research will take place, including Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford, Hadassah Hospital, Hebrew University, MIGAL (Galilee Research Institute), the Technion and the Weizmann Institute. Part of the £3.2 million funding for the projects will be provided by four leading UK medical research charities, including the British Heart Foundation, type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, the MS Society and Parkinson’s UK.
Among the projects: Regenerating the liver using a patient’s own stem cells (University of Edinburgh/Hebrew University); using a breath test for diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease (University of Cambridge/Technion); regenerating immune cells to treat diabetes (Cardiff University/MIGAL); and using heart cells to restore damaged heart muscle (University of Oxford/Weizmann Institute).
BIRAX, said Cameron, was about “our world-class scientists and foundations collaborating to tackle some of the most challenging health conditions facing the world today, from heart disease to Parkinson’s and diabetes. Their research has the potential to change the lives of hundreds of millions of people.”
Echoing Cameron’s comments, Matthew Gould, British Ambassador to Israel, said that science is right at the heart of the UK-Israel relationship.
“Top British and Israeli scientists are already collaborating to develop cures to some of the most awful diseases. I am delighted that so many medical research powerhouses have now given their support to this collaboration,” he said.
“The new projects we are announcing today have the potential to make a real difference to the lives of people who suffer from diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.”
Madi Jacobson, CEO of JDRF Israel said that the group “is excited to take part in the Birax initiative, and proud of the leading Israeli researchers involved. It is truly inspiring to be part of a team which holds investing and promoting innovative medical research in high priority. We trust this collaboration of brilliant scientific minds from Israel and UK will improve the lives of millions affected by type 1 diabetes around the world.”
Meanwhile, the participants in the third edition of the TeXchange FinTech Challenge, which will see 15 Israeli start-ups travel to London in March to meet investors, potential partners and financial industry executives, were announced this week. The companies have developed solutions for the burning issues in today’s online business environment, including online/mobile banking platforms, cybersecurity and anti- fraud systems, payment solutions and predictive modeling.
TeXchange is an annual program of the UK-Israel Hub, a team at the British Embassy in Israel which promotes technology partnerships between the two countries. Each year, up to 15 innovative Israeli start-ups in a sector with high potential for UK-Israel collaboration are selected to travel to the UK on a targeted business delegation. They are introduced to potential strategic partners, customers and investors, and offered networking opportunities with business leaders, start-ups and government officials in Europe’s financial center and fastest growing tech cluster.
The Israeli start-ups will visit London between March 2-5, and showcase their solutions to senior executives at leading banks and financial institutions. It will also take part in exclusive networking opportunities with UK businesses and technology counterparts. The delegation will be led by Haim Shani, the Hub’s Chairman and General Partner at Israel Growth Partners, and joined by Avi Zeevi, General Partner and co-founder of Carmel Ventures and a veteran fintech entrepreneur and investor.
The past two TeXchange programs have led to numerous business and technology partnerships between British and Israeli companies, such as the one between major British online retailer Shop Direct and Israeli company Cimagine, which uses augmented reality technology to show how objects and products customers see on-line will look in their homes.
The TeXchange FinTech 2015 program is expected to result in similar partnerships, accelerating economic growth for both countries, said Hub spokesperson Avi Cohen.
“There are massive commercial opportunities” for Israeli fintech companies “in Europe’s largest banking centers and particularly in London, a leading global fintech hub, to grow through partnering with the UK’s financial sector,” said Cohen. “The UK-Israel Tech Hub is proud to create the platform for those partnerships.”