UK sets up £5m fund for collaboration with Israel on aging process

Project will address challenges posed by growth of elderly population worldwide; Israeli senior citizens expected to reach 14.3% by 2040

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

UK's Science Minister Sam Gyimah announcing the launch of BIRAX Ageing on March 6, 2018 (Courtesy)
UK's Science Minister Sam Gyimah announcing the launch of BIRAX Ageing on March 6, 2018 (Courtesy)

The UK has launched a new £5m fund to promote scientific collaboration and research between Israel and the UK into the aging process and its effect on human health.

The new fund, called Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange (BIRAX) Ageing, will also promote research that into aging-related diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and diabetes, which afflict millions of people worldwide.

The program marks the continuation of an existing BIRAX partnership, which within six years has grown into one of the most innovative bilateral science collaborations between two countries anywhere in the world, the British Council Israel said in a statement on Wednesday.

The initiative creates a community of British and Israeli researchers and academics, fosters new ties between universities and supports scientific research into urgent global healthcare issues. The new fund was officially launched Tuesday night by UK Science Minister Sam Gyimah at a reception in London to mark UK Israel Science day.

UK Israel Science Week round table discussion, March 2018 (Courtesy)

In the UK, 18% of the population is over 65 years of age. Israel’s elderly population is expected to reach 14.3% by 2040, and elderly populations worldwide are set to double in the next 30 years, the statement said.  To meet the challenges and opportunities presented by the aging population globally, the UK government has decided to harness the power of innovation and bring together industry and academia to tackle the issues.

BIRAX Ageing will officially open its first call for research proposals in April. The call will focus on two broad themes: research into the impact of aging processes on human health and studies that use precision medicine and big data to identify biomarkers, algorithms and computational techniques to help prevent the harmful effects associated with aging.

“The BIRAX Ageing program will bring “together our brightest and best scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs to help with one of our greatest challenges – aging populations,” said Science Minister Gyimah at the event. “We are living longer than ever before. In fact, the UK government’s Industrial Strategy highlights that one in three children born in the UK today can expect to live to 100. While our aging population poses new demands, it also comes with new opportunities to develop new treatments, enhance existing ones and diagnose diseases more quickly.”

Focusing on early stage collaboration, the existing BIRAX program has so far brought together more than 1,000 scientists, including PhD and postdoctoral students, from 120 institutions, and resulted in breakthrough research published in 30 leading scientific publications.

“BIRAX is a partnership that celebrates scientific excellence, promotes collaboration and ultimately brings people and countries closer together,” said British Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey at the event.

The program is a joint initiative of the British Council, the UK Science and Innovation network (SIN), the British Embassy in Israel, the Pears Foundation and the United Jewish Israel Appeal.

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