The first fruits of cooperation between Israeli and U.S. researchers on neuroscience research were harvested this week, as a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between several U.S. and Israeli institutions. Signers of the MOU included the Feinstein Institute in Manhasset, Cold Spring Harbor Lab in Cold Spring Harbor, Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, Temple University in Philadelphia, and Israel Brain Technologies (IBT) in Ramat Hasharon. Research will center on discovering novel ways to treat illness – especially Alzheimer’s Disease – using brain research techniques.
The MOU’s signing was announced by Congressmen Steve Israel (D-NY) and Chaka Fattah (D-PA), after a visit by Fattah to Israel earlier this year to deliver the keynote address at the first-ever International Brain Technology Conference, Braintech 2013. Fattah, a Congressional champion of research and funding for brain-related diseases, spoke at the October event where U.S. brain research firm BrainsGate was awarded Israel’s first annual B.R.A.I.N. (Breakthrough Research And Innovation in Neurotechnology) prize to BrainsGate.
The company, led by Dr. John Donoghue of Brown University, has developed a system that reads brain signals and transmits them to limbs, enabling patients with degenerative physical diseases like ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) to move their arms and hands, and manipulate objects.
In an interview, Fattah told the Times of Israel that “the White House has made it abundantly clear that brain research will be a superior among equals when it comes to research dollars. We are going to spend $5 billion to gain an understanding into how brain research can help those with neurological diseases, like Alzheimer’s.” $5 billion sounds like a lot of money to dedicate to a research project, said Fattah, “but we already spend annually $500 billion on care for mobility challenged people, $205 billion on Alzheimer’s-related care, and so on.” Spending $5 billion on brain research is, he quipped, “a no-brainer for a society that wants healthier citizens, and a healthier economy.”
Speaking Monday, Fattah acclaimed the MoU signed between IBT and the U.S. institutions. “Understanding that significant advancements in neuroscience requires a sharing of resources, research, and strengthened communication. Rep. Israel and I are thrilled to see such a partnership formalized today. This is an international challenge that one organization or one country cannot solve on its own—rather it calls for global commitment, and most importantly, collaboration. Together these leading institutions from our districts, and Israel, will build extraordinary teams of researchers and doctors dedicated to discovering new treatments and cures.”
Israel is already a leading research venue for neurological and brain-related issues, said Dr. Rafi Gidron, chairman of IBT. In a recent interview with Times of Israel, Gidron said that “the next wave of technology development is going to be brain technology – understanding how it operates, building devices that will interface with the brain, and understand diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. We believe that Israel has all the ingredients needed to make great strides in this industry – signal processing, computing, medical devices, networking, video, and much more. Dealing with the brain is an interdisciplinary affair, because so many technologies are involved in what the brain controls and is capable of.”
Speaking Monday, Gidron said “we are very excited to be joining forces with Congressmen Chaka Fattah and Steve Israel and with such distinguished U.S. institutions to work together to tackle some of the world’s most pressing healthcare issues. Inspired by the vision of Israel’s President Shimon Peres, IBT has made it a top priority to foster collaboration between Israeli scientists and entrepreneurs and their counterparts in the U.S. in the fields of neuroscience and neurotechnology. This collaboration represents an important first step in a long-term partnership between Israel and the U.S. Together, we can make a major impact on the lives of millions throughout the world.”