Israel’s University of Haifa and Rambam Healthcare Campus, a government hospital that serves some 2 million residents in the north of the country, are joining forces to allow researchers to work jointly on life sciences projects in an effort to achieve new and significant medical breakthroughs.
“Collaboration among researchers has become increasingly common in the last decade,” Karen Berman, CEO at the American Society of the University of Haifa wrote in an email. The joint research facility “will enable people who approach similar problems, but from different perspectives, to work in close proximity. Doctors, nurses, researchers and even life science/biotech entrepreneurs will have an opportunity to work in the same building and share ideas in both formal and informal manners.”
Working together “brings new and different ideas to the table and allows teams of researchers to more quickly pursue promising paths, avoiding those that others have found ineffective — perhaps even before formal studies are published,” she said.
The joint effort, which will match clinical medical research with basic academic research in a variety of disciplines including biology, neurobiology, neuropsychology and the sociology of health, will be pursued in a new NIS 400 million, 20-story Medical Discovery Tower that will house some 40 joint labs. The facility aims to “create and foster an environment fueling investigation, discovery and innovation, advancing the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease,” the two institutions said in a joint statement last week at the announcement of the partnership.
“The idea is to join the research done at the hospital to the relevant basic research done at the university and to find multi-disciplinary solutions. To the best of my knowledge this is the first time a government hospital is joining forces on research with a university in Israel,” said Gustavo Mesch, professor of Sociology and the dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Haifa in a phone interview.
The university and the hospital are now starting a fundraising campaign for the new facility, which will be developed with the support of the Israeli government and built at Rambam’s campus in Haifa.
“We hope to have it up and running within three years,” Mesch said. “We believe it will be a source of attraction for researchers to the north,” he said, enhancing Haifa’s brand as a life sciences hub and enabling researchers to work outside the limits of their own institutions.
The initiative will focus both on pure academic research as well as the technology transfer of ideas that can become commercial products to benefit patients, he said.
“On a broader level — collaboration is a more effective use of institutional and philanthropic dollars. It avoids duplication of resources, infrastructure, and overhead expenses and allows an individual philanthropist to significantly increase the impact of her or his gift,” said Berman.
The two institutions have researchers who have worked together in the past. “Working in one building was a logical next step,” she said.
Six consecutive floors of the 20-story Medical Discovery Tower will be allocated to the university, where it will carry out a multitude of research projects in conjunction with Rambam Hospital, which will have a further six floors dedicated to its own activities. A further two floors will be assigned to the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.
The tower will also provide facilities to promote interactions between the biomedical and medical technology industries operating in Haifa, to enable drug and device development startups and established companies to hold scientific exchanges and to foster national and international collaborations.