Council for Higher Education, philanthropies set $4m for coronavirus research
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Council for Higher Education, philanthropies set $4m for coronavirus research

Some 30 projects will be funded $50,000-$200,000 apiece; researchers will share their findings in a bid to tackle the deadly pandemic

A lab technician carries out a coronavirus test at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa on March 30, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
A lab technician carries out a coronavirus test at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa on March 30, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Israel’s Council for Higher Education has approved a $4 million research grant program to tackle the deadly coronavirus pandemic and generate a better understanding of the disease it causes.

The grant framework, coordinated by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF), is a joint venture between the Council for Higher Education and philanthropic foundations including Yad Hanadiv, the Klarman Family Foundation, The Russell Berrie Foundation and the Wolfson Family Charitable Trust, a statement released on Sunday said.

“The rapid global diffusion of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), including in Israel, has created an urgent need to quickly advance research — both basic and applied — that will help slow down the pandemic outbreak and improve our understanding of COVID-19,” the statement said.

To tackle the problem, the Council of Higher Education will allocate up to $2 million to fund the grants, which will be matched by the philanthropic foundations.

Projects can be part of a wide variety of fields and methods, including immunology, virology, pharmacology, molecular and cell biology, epidemiology, artificial intelligence, robotics, engineering and combinations thereof, the statement said.

Projects will be selected on the basis of scientific excellence and potential for applicability in the short and medium term. Because there is a huge importance to global sharing and collaboration to fight the pandemic, the winners of the grants will be required to make their research results, and any other relevant information, fully and immediately available to the scientific community in Israel and abroad, the statement added.

The idea is to fund some 30 projects ranging $50,000-$200,000 per project for a duration of 6-12 months, or, when required, up to 24 months.

“We are witnessing a surge of groundbreaking, collaborative and cross-disciplinary research that has the potential to change the course of COVID-19,” said Prof. Yuval Dor, head of the Life Sciences and Medical Sciences Division at the Israel Science Foundation in the statement.

Examples of research projects may include:
• Development of new methods for detecting the spread of the virus across a population
• Understanding and inhibiting SARS-Cov-2 infection
• Identification of the immunological characteristics related to COVID-19
• COVID-19 serological research
• Development of an active or passive vaccine against COVID-19
• Development of robust COVID-19 models (lab animals or tissue culture)
• Identification of existing drugs that may restrain COVID-19
• Development of new therapies against COVID-19
• Research on genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors that influence infection and the course of the disease, and predicting future outbreaks
• COVID-19 epidemiological research with implications for public health policy

(Full disclosure: The Klarman Foundation’s Seth Klarman is the chairman and capital partner of The Times of Israel.)

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