Professor Daniella Raveh became dean of the Technion’s Faculty of Aerospace Engineering on January 1, 2024. She is the first woman to have obtained this position at the University. An alumna of the Faculty, she graduated with honors and went on to earn both a master’s and Ph.D. degree at the Technion. She became a prominent researcher and a popular lecturer in the Faculty.
“I’m honored to become the dean of the Faculty where I once studied, and where I have spent many years conducting research and teaching,” said Prof. Raveh.
“Aerospace engineering is a field suitable for both men and women, and every skilled engineer who graduates from the Faculty is assured of engaging work in the field. As an aerospace engineer, I have been fortunate to work with captivating subjects daily,” she added.
Prof. Raveh’s field of expertise is aeroelasticity, which concerns the interaction of aerodynamic forces and flexible structures. Today, as lighter and more flexible aircraft are being designed globally, a thorough study of aeroelastic phenomena is essential to understanding their flight performance. Prof. Raveh’s team researches high-fidelity models for aeroelastic analysis and conducts wind tunnel and flight tests to explore all aspects of this field.
For decades, the Technion has made a concerted effort to recruit women into STEM fields. This year’s freshman class is nearly 50% female, and more women are pursuing graduate and postgraduate degrees. Additionally, Prof. Raveh’s appointment is a testament to the Technion’s commitment to nurturing and developing talent within its ranks. Her journey in the Faculty reflects the University’s continuous efforts to train outstanding alumni to contribute significantly to aerospace science.
“I’m very proud that this Faculty is now headed by a female dean who will inspire and serve as a role model for young women,” said Professor Uri Sivan, president of the Technion.
As dean, Prof. Raveh is responsible for implementing the Faculty’s academic program, fostering interdisciplinary collaborations and research, upholding high standards of research and teaching, and advancing the Faculty’s world-renown reputation and accomplishments. Her perspective as an alumna is advantageous for the Faculty’s continuous endeavor to offer students and researchers an optimal environment for their studies and research.
Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan says his university could play a critical role in helping Israel rebuild after the war because of the unique talent it offers. He spoke with Israel Hayom.
In December, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology will celebrate 100 years. Looking at the list of achievements over the years makes you realize how significant its contribution to the state’s development has been – and still is.
“For many years we were essentially the only engineering school in the country, and to this day we are the only technological university,” the Technion president, Prof. Uri Sivan, tells Israel Hayom in a special interview. “To a large extent, we shouldered the burden of founding the state on our shoulders, and over the years we have all reaped the rewards for this. Most of the civilian infrastructure in Israel today – roads, railways, water, desalination, agriculture – is the work of Technion faculty and alumni over the generations.”
The Israeli aerospace industry, still highly relevant today, has also developed over the years on the Technion’s shoulders, as have the various security systems. The four Nobel Prize laureates in chemistry and the 41 Israel Prize winners among Technion graduates attest to the quality of its education. “Engineers who graduated from the Technion were responsible for the development and production of the armored vehicles used by the IDF today, as well as all missile defense systems. To this day, 80% of the engineers working on the Iron Dome are our graduates. The microelectronics industry also started here, and this is just a partial list,” he says.
But beyond the technological feats, the Technion president makes sure to emphasize other no less important aspects promoted by the university under his leadership.
“After I was appointed president in 2019 I went on visits to different countries, and everywhere I went I was asked, ‘Tell me, what’s special about you?’ There are many very good technological universities – MIT, Stanford – but people feel that we have something different here and it took me some time to fully understand what they were talking about. Of course, we try to do the best science and give our students the best training – and a Technion degree is considered top tier in the world.
“But over time I realized another thing that makes this place unique, and that’s the fact that the security of the State of Israel, the economy of the State of Israel, and Israeli society are part of our mission, just like our mission is to do the best science and provide the best education. When I sit down in my office in the morning, those three things – security, economy, and society – comprise a major part of my considerations.”
President Sivan is keen to shed light on the Technion’s role in supporting Israeli society, which has been part and parcel of the place since its early days, as has been evident during the war.
“The Technion has a long tradition as an inclusive university, and this started with the founding fathers. In that sense, this is a place that welcomes everyone, and believes in equal rights, and ‘diversity’, it’s part of the principles, it appears in our constitution, which goes back many years. Another aspect of Technion pluralism is the increase in the percentage of female students over the years. That has been hard to do – in the first Technion classroom there were 16 men and one woman – but today the situation is one of parity.”
The fact that the Technion was established in Haifa, a city that is a symbol of tolerance and coexistence, is no coincidence and reflects the spirit of the academic institution since its founding. “Back when they were talking about establishing the Technion, in 1906, representatives of ‘Ezra’, a German organization that set up many schools in the country, came to Israel to look for a place for a technological university. There were two possible locations – Jerusalem, which was the largest Jewish settlement in the country, and Haifa, which had 20,000 residents, 2,000 of them Jewish. The organization’s people explained something that still holds true today – Jerusalem has too much ‘baggage’ because of its history, too much internal infighting among Jewish power brokers; so they chose Haifa, which has always been a very communal place, as it still is today. During the British Mandate, Jewish and Arab mayors of Haifa would alternate, and it was also very close to various industries, it is a very innovative city.”
Academia and industry – together
When Prof. Sivan talks about security and the economy as central components in the Technion’s mission (alongside the social issue), he also means the national challenge of rebuilding after the war.
“We need to think about how to move on from here, how to boost the economy and industry again,” he says. “It’s important to remember that the Technion is the main source of engineers, scientists, doctors, and architects, and we’re already looking ahead, thinking about how to really get this whole big system going after everything we’ve been through.
“The Technion has a very large role to play in emerging out of the crisis, beyond the security aspects. The engineers graduating from here are the ones pushing the industry forward, so we have a role in workforce training. Second – each year about 15 new companies are created at the Technion; one out of every 30 new companies founded in Israel is by Technion people, and it’s all ‘deep-tech’. The companies are founded by faculty members or students based on knowledge developed in labs here, and they raise funding from outside investors. We also have a tech transfer office – which is an entire system that allows the establishment of companies, including a licensing agreement whereby the technology is granted to the company for certain applications, and from there it continues on its own.
“The extensive system we have built here to enable all this starts with the entrepreneurship training we provide to our students with their studies. We have a center here called T-HUB (The TEchnion Hub for Entrepreneurship and Innovation), which is responsible for all entrepreneurship education and mentoring, including a lot of mentoring by our graduates.
“Afterwards, anyone who has an idea they want to develop can get help through several channels where they also receive guidance from successful mentors who have gone down this path. For example, we have a branch called T3 – Technion Technological Transfer – which assists researchers from the idea stage, with patents, support, investor search, and even strategy writing, and from there, it goes out into the world.
“In addition to the Technion’s role in driving the system forward in terms of human resources, ideas, training, and entrepreneurship, there is a very extensive system here of infrastructure worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s not just the machines that we have and industries can use; for example, we have a very advanced microelectronics center. Companies send people here and we give them the resources, and together we work and enable them to develop. This is very important for start-up companies that sometimes lack the relevant infrastructure needed to move forward.
“In light of everything I have mentioned, I have a very important message: The government must support this matter. I know the country has many needs, but looking forward, we have to figure out how we get out of here, how we go back to who we were, how we revive the start-up scene, and so on. The answer: Only through investing in universities. We still don’t know how the new budget will impact things, but the message is that it’s vital – ideas are born here, human capital comes from here, start-ups rely on us, as do the companies that spawned from us and other companies, it’s an insane powerhouse. Look at what’s happening around the Technion – very few universities have created an ecosystem around them like there is here, with MATAM high-tech park in Haifa, industrial zones in Yokneam and Migdal HaEmek, and collaborations with schools in the region. All this must continue in order to help us all rebuild.”
As an institution that is one of the important pillars of the Israeli industries in all its diversity, the Technion also ensures cooperation with various sectors through knowledge transfer and research agreements. Prof. Sivan noted that when he took office as president, he built a 10-year strategic plan whose central component is strengthening ties with manufacturers.
“If you look at where academia is going today, you can identify two main focal points – one in everything related to digital communication that is completely changing the way students receive knowledge and learn, and the second is the connection with industries. Once there was a separation – basic research in academia and applied research in the industries. That belongs to the past, and we are formulating new models for interaction between the two.
“So, for example, we created an entirely new academic position here of an industry research fellow. These are people who have been very successful and come here a few days a week, meet with students, engage in research, and teach; this is really a fusion of industry and academia. In fact, we expose students to the field, to what is happening outside, already during their studies.” Just as the Technion has set Israeli society throughout the years as an integral part of its activities, so it has been since its very first moments of the war. “On October 7, at around 10 am, we opened a situation room,” says Prof. Sivan about the contribution to civilians who found themselves refugees in their own country.
“We established the ‘Mutual Guarantee’ center for the Technion community and their families as well as to assist residents of the south and north and IDF soldiers. As part of this, dozens of initiatives are still active today, in addition to the extensive activity of hundreds of student volunteers. Since the beginning of the campaign, dozens of families and individuals who have evacuated from their homes in the north and south have been staying on campus – the dormitories, which were empty at the beginning of the war, were converted into housing for the evacuees who received everything they needed – from clothes to laptops.”
Among other things, the Mo’ed B – second-hand equipment store at the Technion – stepped up to the plate to help the students and evacuees and equipped them with everything they needed, free of charge. Students in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering cleared and arranged shelters in nearby Nesher, as part of the “Shelter City” project, and graduate students in the Faculty of Chemical Engineering also went out with the faculty dean to clear shelters in Haifa. This is just a partial list of the assistance provided by Technion people due to the security situation.
But the aid did not stop at the country’s borders, and in light of the rise in antisemitic manifestations and anti-Israeli rhetoric on campuses worldwide, students, alumni, and academic faculty studying abroad were invited to come and conduct research, teach, and study at Technion campuses in Haifa.
“We saw in many countries a wave of anti-Israeli and antisemitic protests, and unfortunately faculty members at many leading universities in the West, student organizations, and trade unions joined this wave,” says Prof. Sivan. “In light of the weak responses from a considerable number of presidents of leading universities in North America, Europe, and Australia, we realized that many Jewish and Israeli students and researchers were subjected to physical and verbal threats that interfered with their academic activities at those institutions. Against this background, and recognizing the Technion’s historic role in the history of the Jewish people, we announced a program for the rapid onboarding of students and faculty from around the world looking for academic refuge.”
A warm embrace for fighters
A significant contribution from the Technion is in IDF reserves, with about 2,500 of the 15,000 students enlisted as early as October 7, along with about 500 faculty and teaching staff. “I assume we still have over 1,000 who are still called up, and it’s important to understand how we cope with this fact and how we assist them when they return. There are a lot of officers here, a lot of combat unit veterans, it has always been like that. Many female students were also drafted, and a very high percentage of the women staffing the Iron Dome crews are reserve soldiers from the Technion, including those serving in key positions.
“It is important for us that each of our reservists know that the entire Technion has joined the cause and committed to supporting them. Thus, for example, together with friends of the Technion in Israel and around the world, we set up a special relief fund that allowed us to transfer an immediate grant of 6,000 shekels to each of them. Along with a series of support measures we have already taken, they receive an economic support package and some peace of mind. We have also prepared academically to make their return to on-campus studies as easy as possible. The Technion also published an updated payment schedule for dormitory fees, which will ease the burden on students, especially those serving in the reserves.”
About 80 faculty members and students at the Technion lost family members who were murdered on October 7 or killed during the war, some still have family members among the captives. Two Technion students fell in the Gaza battles – Staff Sergeant (Res.) Master Sgt. (res.) Dov Moshe Kogan and Captain (res.) Denis Krokhmalov Veksler. Kogan, a Shaldag fighter, was 32 when he fell. He completed his degree at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and was a graduate student at the faculty, as well as a third generation at the Technion – his late father, Meir, was a graduate of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering and was involved in developing the Iron Dome, and his late grandfather, Avraham, was one of the founders of the faculty. Kogan left behind his wife Shaked and three children. Krokhmalov Veksler, who was 32 when he fell, was about to start his first year of studies at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. He was killed while serving as an officer in the Yahalom combat engineering unit.
“Many reservists from the Technion were injured, and we make sure to accompany and support them,” says Prof. Sivan. “For example, there is a student who is recuperating, and we send a taxi every day to bring him to campus and take him back so he doesn’t miss classes. Since the beginning of the war until now we have been in touch with many military units, assisting however we can. One of the interesting units is the Carmeli Brigade. This is a brigade established in 1948 during the War of Independence whose core was Technion students and faculty. We have remained in contact with them over the years, we mark Memorial Day together every year and adopted them in the early days of the war.
“Many units needed food at the first stages of the war, and the Technion became a logistics hub for that. The student union also rallied wonderfully, as did the academic and administrative staff. Copious amounts of food, military equipment, and medical supplies were shipped from here. The volunteering spirit of everyone has been amazing and inspiring, people simply came to help. As soon as others saw our extensive activity, more and more requests for assistance began to arrive and we addressed their needs, each and every one of them.”
An Israeli startup that uses artificial intelligence to diagnose cancer has unveiled a new solution that will help pathologists detect the specific treatments that will benefit breast cancer patients most.
Ibex Medical Analytics’ Galen Breast HER2 platform can accurately determine the expression in cancer slides of the protein HER2, which is responsible for the proliferation of breast cancer cells.
The platform uses AI to analyze the slides, identify the tumor cells and rapidly calculate the HER2 score of the tissue. The results are highlighted for the pathologist, who can review them and make a final decision as to what cancer treatment is best for each patient.
Traditionally, pathologists evaluate HER2 in tumor samples visually, which may result in varied interpretations. The Galen Breast HER2 scoring system quantifies the sample’s expression of the protein into four standard categories to help the pathologist make a more accurate decision.
The technology was developed and validated by Ibex in collaboration with AstraZeneca, the British-Swedish multinational biotechnology company, and Daiichi Sankyo, a Japanese pharma company.
“We are committed to providing pathologists with the most comprehensive AI platform as they implement digital pathology,” said Issar Yazbin, VP Product Management at Ibex Medical Analytics.
“In addition to HER2, we are now able to support full review of breast biopsies and excisions, distinguish between multiple types of invasive and non-invasive cancer, detect more than 50 malignant and non-malignant morphological features, and provide the underlying technology for automated quantification of additional prognostic and predictive breast biomarkers such as Ki-67, ER and PR.”
Advanced technology identifies pairs of drugs that can fight disease together, in microscopic doses.
Researchers have developed a pioneering AI “matchmaker” that pairs together existing cancer drugs for use in nanomedicine.
Prescribing a combination of two or more medications is already an established practice – known as combination therapy — that can prove highly effective.
But a team at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa, has gone beyond simply identifying separate medications that will work well together.
These scientists have developed technology that singles out drug pairs whose molecular structure allows them to join together chemically as nanoparticles, measuring just a millionth of a millimeter. Their findings are published in the Journal of Controlled Release.
Administering medicines as nanoparticles – or nanomedicines – has many advantages, allowing doctors to use lower doses, target specific cells and minimize side effects.
The artificial intelligence tool developed at the Technion trawls published articles on existing cancer treatments, gathering information that allows it to predict pairs of drugs that will work well together and, crucially, that are able to chemically assemble into combined nanoparticles.
Prof. Yosi Shamay describes the new approach as a “synergy of synergies” or a “meta-synergy.”
The first synergy is the combination of two drugs so that their combined effect is greater than using each of them in isolation.
The second synergy is identifying which of these drugs pairs can be used in nanomedicine, bringing a whole array of new benefits.
The AI tool has so far proposed 1,985 possible nanomedicine drug combinations to treat 70 types of cancer.
One example is combining Bortezomib (a blood cancer drug) and Cabozantinib (a liver, kidney and thyroid cancer drug) as treatment for head and neck cancer. This combination has proven effective and caused fewer side effects than using either of the drugs individually.
Standard drug combinations combat a tumour more effectively than they would do individually and may prevent the tumour from developing resistance to treatment.
Above and beyond
Nanomedicine combinations go above and beyond. They target cancer cells more precisely, are more successful at fighting tumors, require smaller doses, are less toxic, and minimize side effects.
“The development of meta-synergy on the nanometric level is a very complex challenge,” said Shamay.
“It necessitates the introduction of [at least] two drugs simultaneously into the same delivery system that would lead them to the desired destination in the body,” he said.
“Our research has shown, both in a computational demonstration and in live experiments, that the combination we proposed indeed leads the drugs to the tumor and releases them there — and that this therapy is very effective in treating the disease.”
The study, conducted at the Shamay Lab for Cancer Nanomedicine and Nanoinformatics, was led by PhD student Dana Meron Azagury, whose focus was on the biology and chemistry side of the research, and master’s student Ben Friedmann, who developed the AI model.
News arrives from Israel’s Technion Institute that they have developed a stable catalyst that can split water at extravagantly low energy-levels – and haven’t ruled out being able to split water with energy levels obtainable from the sun.
In fact, the hope of rapid transformation in the field is one of the reasons that AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals and Gasunie New Energy have partnered in a project aiming at “large scale conversion of sustainable electricity into green hydrogen via the electrolysis of water.”
Intended for Delfzijl in the Netherlands, the installation would use a 20MW water electrolysis unit, the largest in Europe, to convert sustainably produced electricity into 3,000 tons of green hydrogen a year – enough to fuel 300 hydrogen buses. A final decision on the project is expected in 2019.
Why — and why now — is green hydrogen such a big, big deal? Two reasons, really.
One, you’d solve the energy-storage problem of solar power, in a snap — you’d just split water to make hydrogen. (Don’t worry, when you use the hydrogen to, for example, power a car, the water re-forms out of the tailpipe. This isn’t a Water vs Fuel situation.)
Two, you’d have an affordable, biobased (hydrogen fuel) fuel you could make anywhere, in quantities exceeding the petroleum industry.
Scientists have not been able to crack the problem, in part because the catalyst that Nature evolved is complex, and has been described as the “the strongest biological oxidizing agent yet discovered”.
It comes down to controlling manganese, which is abundant and cheap, but the manganese catalysts yet developed never last and consume way too much energy.
Consequently, though Toyota has been working very hard on hydrogen vehicles, hydrogen as currently obtained via natural gas reforming is not green, nor competitively affordable. So, there might be a hundred hydrogen refueling stations in the US, about half of them in California.
In an article published in Nature Catalysis, Assistant Professor Galia Maayan of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology presents a molecular complex (also called an artificial molecular cluster) that dramatically improves the efficiency of water oxidation. It does so by biomimicry – a field of engineering inspired by nature (bio=life, mimetics=imitation). In this specific case, the inspiration comes from the process of photosynthesis in nature.
The molecular complex developed by Maayan is expected to change this situation. This cluster, which is actually a complex molecule called Mn12DH, has unique characteristics that are advantageous when splitting water.
Experiments conducted with this complex demonstrate that it produces a large quantity of electrons (electric current) and a significant amount of oxygen and hydrogen, despite a relatively low energetic investment. No less important, it is stable – meaning that it is not easily demolished, like other Mn-based catalysts.
An improved plasma thruster using Israeli technology can steer satellites out of harm’s way while using less power than chemical forms of propulsion.
Space is getting crowded.
In addition to the thousands of satellites already orbiting Earth, about 14,000 new satellites are expected to be launched by the end of the decade.
That translates into about 9,000 tons of space debris, says Igal Kronhaus, Technion professor-turned-space-tech startup entrepreneur.
It’s gotten so bad that the United States issued new regulations in 2022 that “won’t allow the launch of a satellite unless it has a convincing capability to move out of the way after five years from the end of the mission,” Kronhaus says.
Kronhaus started his company, Space Plasmatics, in 2021 to address the space junk problem while also improving satellite propulsion in general.
Space Plasmatics is developing plasma thrusters designed to navigate satellites to a different orbit or even back to Earth, using ionized gas in an electric field rather than the traditional propulsion method of chemical reactions.
The thrusters get their power from solar cells that are already mounted on the satellites. Solar-powered electric propulsion is now used in almost every satellite. High-powered versions could even propel manned spacecraft for missions to the Moon and Mars.
Electric propulsion was originally conceived in the 1950s as a way to get people to Mars – long before Elon Musk popularized the concept for the 21st century.
“Back then, there were no envisioned applications, other than human space travel,” Kronhaus tells ISRAEL21c.
Now, with satellites handling everything from GPS navigation to cell phone communication to spying on enemy nations, the use case has arrived.
Kronhaus was an assistant professor of aerospace engineering at the Technion for seven years. The technology for Space Plasmatics, he says, has been “incubating in my lab for the past decade.”
“It’s very unusual for a professor to start a company,” Kronhaus says. “I’m paving a unique path here.”
Space Plasmatics cofounder Andrew Pearlman is a serial entrepreneur who has raised more than $150 million for 10 Israeli companies since his arrival here from the United States in 1981. He describes his role in Space Plasmatics as Kronhaus’s “coach, copilot and righthand man.”
“We’re exclusively space hardware,” Kronhaus says. “We can’t re-use our engines in cars or planes. We’re making a real, physical product, not just writing code. That makes it more difficult to convince investors to come in.”
But some have.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) took an interest in Space Plasmatics and invited the company to participate in the Astra incubator, co-run by the accelerator Starburst and IAI. The Israel Innovation Authority has also helped fund Kronhaus’s vision.
The Knesset last year pledged to invest the shekel equivalent of $180 million in the civilian space industry over the next five years. Start-Up Nation Central estimates the worldwide space economy is worth $400 billion.
In June, Kronhaus signed a deal to develop its plasma thrusters for IAI’s satellites. This deal points to a shift in the industry.
For much of the past decade, tiny nanosatellites (CubeSats), just a few tens of kilograms in weight, were assumed to be the future of the industry.
Israel excelled at these small satellites.
“It’s no secret that we can’t launch over neighboring Arab states. And we don’t build huge rockets. So, we build smaller rockets with a smaller payload that are launched in the wrong direction!” Kronhaus says.
That “wrong direction” requires more fuel, “so we have to reduce the payload we’re carrying even further.”
But now, the main market seems to be in bigger satellites that weigh several hundred kilograms, Kronhaus says. It makes economic sense – bigger satellites carry bigger payloads, which results in faster ROI.
Larger satellites are also what IAI specializes in.
The IAI arrangement is positioned as a trial to see if Space Plasmatics can scale up to IAI’s needs. Kronhaus is convinced they can and that IAI will become a paying customer.
How it works
For any rocket scientists reading this, here are a few technical details.
Kronhaus’s plasma thrusters are essentially a better version of a Hall thruster, a model developed in the former Soviet Union in the 1960s.
The thruster does need some fuel but uses nonflammable, noncombustible gases such as xenon and krypton.
“The inert gas is in the propellant tank on the satellite,” Kronhaus says. “The Hall thruster feeds a certain amount of it to the engine at a constant rate. The electric field gives the gas the energy to ionize. There’s a nice blue plasma flame as the ions are accelerated. This acceleration is what produces thrust.”
Kronhaus says that Space Plasmatics’ tech also reduces the weight of the satellite, because normally it’s the fuel tank that contributes the most weight to the device.
Hall thrusters, however, are not for every space application. Landing on the Moon or shooting missiles require the higher power of chemical propulsion.
Space Plasmatics is still developing its thrusters. Assuming the company continues with IAI and/or raises more money, Kronhaus and Pearlman say a full working version of the company’s product should be ready by Q2 2025.
Space Plasmatics has plenty of competitors: Austria-based Enpulsion; Thrustme and Exotrail from France; Astra and Rafael from Israel.
However, Kronhaus is banking on Space Plasmatics’ high thrust and high fuel economy. “We improve the performance of a Hall engine at low power,” he says.
It doesn’t hurt that Kronhaus has a PhD in electric propulsion and is considered an expert in the field – in Israel and beyond.
Will Kronhaus’s technology and Pearlman’s business savvy be enough for this four-person company in Haifa to make a dent in the space-tech space? We’ll be watching.
Bacteria can be found everywhere, and some are bad and cause illnesses, but some do more good more than harm.
There are thousands of kinds of bacteria – microscopic, single-celled organisms that are among the earliest known life forms on earth and live in every possible environment all over the world. They might be airborne or found in water, plants, soil, animals and even humans, where some cause dangerous diseases such as salmonella, pneumonia, meningitis, tuberculosis, anthrax, tetanus and botulism.
However, many bacteria, including the ones that comprise the human gut microbiome, do good rather than harm. Bacteria can even be turned into tiny factories that manufacture needed products.
Now, researchers at the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa have developed “bionic bacteria” that have many potential applications in industry.
Among those applications are the targeted release of biological drugs in the body using external light and other precise medical uses, sensing hazardous substances in the environment and the production of better fuels and other compounds.
The study was led by Assistant Prof. Omer Yehezkeli and doctoral student Oren Bachar, and co-authored by doctoral student Matan Meirovich and master’s student Yara Zeibaq. Their work has just appeared in the international edition of Angewandte Chemie under the title “Protein-Mediated Biosynthesis of Semiconductor Nanocrystals for Photocatalytic NADPH Regeneration and Chiral Amine Production.” The journal, which is published by the German Chemical Society, officially described it as a “hot paper.”
“My research group deals with the interface between engineering and biotechnology at the nanoscale level,” said Yehezkeli. “Our goal is to blur the current boundaries between the different disciplines, and mostly between nanometer materials and biological systems such as bacteria. In our research, we use the unique properties of nanoscale particles on the one hand, and the tremendous selectivity of biological systems on the other, to create bionic systems that perform synergistically.”
Nanoscale semiconductor particles are usually produced in chemical processes that demand high temperatures and organic solvents. In the new Technion study, the researchers were able to create – using engineered proteins – an environment that makes possible the growth of nanometer particles under biological conditions and at room temperature. In turn, the grown nanoparticles can lead to light-induced processes of biological components.
“The use of engineered proteins for the self-growth of nanomaterials is a promising strategy that opens up new scientific horizons for combining inanimate and living matter,” added Yehezkeli. In the current study, the researchers demonstrated the use of engineered proteins to grow cadmium sulfide (CdS) nanoparticles that are capable of recycling nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) with light radiation.
“This is an essential electron donor in all organisms that provides the reducing power to drive numerous reactions, including those responsible for the biosynthesis of all major cell components and many products in biotechnology with light radiation. NADPH is crucial in many enzymatic processes and therefore its generation is desired,” Yehezkeli explained.
CdS nanoparticles have applications as an excellent photographic developer for the detection of cancers and other diseases, and in the treatment of cancer cells. The antibacterial and antifungal biological activity on various foodborne bacteria and fungi can also be studied with the use of CdS nanoparticles.
Enzymes are a common biological component involved in all living cell functions. Billions of years of evolution have led to the development of a broad spectrum of enzymes responsible for the many and varied functions in the cell, said Yehezkeli.
In their study, the researchers showed that NADPH could be produced (recycled) using the genetically modified protein made up of 12 repeating subunits that form a donut-like structure with a three-nanometer “hole” (three-billionths of a meter in diameter).
“This is a preliminary demonstration of the direct connection of inanimate matter [abiotic] with living matter [biotic] and a platform for its operation in a way that does not exist in nature,” concluded Yehezkeli.
“The technology we have developed enables the creation of hybrid components that connect these two types of materials into one unit, and we are already working on fully integrated living cells with promising initial results.
We believe that beyond the specific technological success in the production of NADPH and [various other] materials, there is evidence of the feasibility of a new paradigm that may contribute greatly to improving performance in many areas including energy, medicine, and the environment.”
“There is evidence of the feasibility of a new paradigm that may contribute greatly to improving performance in many areas including energy, medicine, and the environment.”
Israeli food-tech startup More Foods has announced a new partnership with Tivall, a vegetarian frozen food brand owned by food giant Osem-Nestlé.
More Foods makes high-protein, high-fiber meat alternatives from pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Its products are served in over 100 Israeli restaurants as well as restaurants in the UK and France.
The startup says its high-protein product uses the seeds in a way that allows for textures and flavors that are not usually found in meat substitutes, mimicking the variety available for meat eaters.
The collaboration with Tivall, which is based on Kibbutz Lohamei HaGeta’ot in northern Israel, will allow More Foods to expand its distribution to meet the growing demand for clean, plant-based products.
This partnership marks Tivall’s first time working with a food-tech startup.
“We are proud to partner with the Osem-Nestlé Group and combine our unique product offering with their market accessibility,” said Leonardo Marcovitz, founder of More Foods.
“This collaboration represents an important milestone in our journey to broaden our market presence, reach a larger customer base, and further our mission to make nutritious meaty center-plate plant-based products more accessible to consumers worldwide,” he said.
More Foods was founded in 2019 and is headquartered in Tel Aviv.
A startup that generates detailed 3D maps of underground utilities without the need for excavation is expanding into the UK as part of a project with one of the country’s largest railway infrastructure companies.
Tel Aviv-based Exodigo helps companies carry out construction projects by combining 3D imaging and AI technologies with GPR (ground penetrating radar) and electromagnetic sensors to give a clear picture of what’s underground.
Coles Rail used Exodigo’s technology to scan and map a project in Birmingham for part of a light rail expansion that will connect to the city’s Curzon Street Station.
The UK-based company encountered “uncharted services” that were not noted on any existing records. Using Exodigo, Coles Rail was able to detect over 280 below ground utility lines (including 51 additional lines that no other locator or records had detected), providing invaluable data that reduced redesigns and delays.
Exodigo’s tech can identify water and gas pipes, electricity cables, water sources, and other buried obstacles that could cause leaks, explosions or unexpected delays. Actual excavations are time consuming, inaccurate, expensive, and can cause leaks, explosions, or unexpected delays.
“Redesigns and service strikes as a result of incomplete or inaccurate subsurface mapping continue to be a problem in the UK,” said Trevor Moore, UK Director of Exodigo.
“In my time in the industry, I have seen these issues cause costly delays to critical projects and it puts lives at risk. Exodigo’s technology has the potential to mitigate many of the risks associated with large infrastructure projects by providing comprehensive information about what lies beneath the surface.”
Hamish Falconer, Project Manager on the rail extension for Coles Rail, said: “Excavating around buried services is one of our biggest risks, and the stat plans provided by statutory undertakers are in large part inaccurate.
“Exodigo’s surveys provide us with much more reliable data that can then be used to select safer excavation techniques around known services.”
In a 1931 essay, Winston Churchill wrote about how he sees the future of food production: “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium,” he wrote.
Fast forward some 90 years, and Churchill’s prediction is coming true, thanks in part to Israeli food-tech company Aleph Farms, which has developed a unique method to cultivate steak meat from isolated cow cells.
First to develop cultured steak
“We’re the first company that has managed to develop cultured steak. Not ground beef or nuggets — an actual steak,” says Aleph Farms’ Senior Manager of Marketing Communication Yoav Peer.
The company’s primary vision is not dissimilar to that of Churchill — to advance food security through the ability to produce meat independent of climate change and dwindling natural resources.
The company grows only the edible parts of cows, using stem cells to generate meat. The focus is solely on beef for now, because of the taxing environmental impact of cattle-raising and because beef is considered the highest quality type of meat.
The Rehovot-based startup, established in 2017, now boasts 150 employees, the majority of whom work in R&D.
And it shows. In Aleph Farms’ offices, biologists and biochemists pop from room to room in white coats, giving a sense that you are inside one giant medical lab.
“Aleph Farms was established as an initiative of Strauss Group [one of the largest food manufacturers in Israel] and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, with the cooperation of private investors and the government,” Peer tells ISRAEL21c.
Cultured steaks in supermarkets by 2026
Aleph Farms has been generating quite a buzz recently. It became the first to cultivate beef in space in 2019, and even boasts Hollywood star and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio as one of its investors.
The company is also part of a social-action campaign that works to integrate Israeli Arabs into the country’s high-tech sector.
The actual product is expected to hit the market by the end of this year, starting with select restaurants once Aleph Farms receives regulatory approvals from Israeli Health Ministry and Singapore’s Health Agency.
Why those two countries?
“Israel and Singapore share a lot of challenges related to food security,” says Peer.
“They don’t have enough resources to feed the local population, so they’re looking at cultivated meat that could be produced anywhere without taking up land and water needed for cattle.”
In the initial stages, Aleph Farms will produce roughly 10 tons of cultured steak per year, and in the future establish additional production facilities. “The goal is to get to supermarkets by 2026,” Peer says.
One of the biggest challenges is to produce at a reasonable cost.
“It requires innovation in production to make the process more efficient. So, in the beginning it is going to be priced similarly to premium beef. But we hope to reduce the cost within a few years from our launch, until we reach price parity with the broader beef market,” says Peer.
From a fertilized egg to a steak
The first batch of cells the company worked with came from a fertilized egg of a cow named Lucy from California. Lucy apparently was extremely fertile and genetically superior compared to “average” cows.
“Lucy has children all around the world,” Peer says. He adds that picking a donor is extremely important in order not to end up with “a full tank of problematic cells” from which the meat would be cultivated.
But how does a fertilized egg from a living cow end up as a beefsteak? To answer that question, we turn to Director of Differentiation at Aleph Farms Natali Molotski.
“To undergo that process, cells need to take on specialized roles, not just multiply. We start working with cells when they are pluripotent,” she says.
Most of us know pluripotent cells by their “mainstream” name — stem cells. Stem cells can become any type of cell, under the right guidance.
“You take an embryonic cell and guide it to be whatever you want — muscle, connective tissue or fat cells. Getting the cells to differentiate in the right way is what my team focuses on,” Molotski tells ISRAEL21c.
“We know how this process happens in the cow’s body, but it takes nine months or so. We need to replicate that process in a few days to reduce production cost. We had to learn to mimic the natural process of cell development, while dealing with regulatory constraints because at the end of the day people are going to eat it. It’s a huge challenge.”
The trickiest aspect in the development of cultured meat is recreating the texture, such as tissue and blood vessels. “You need to feed the cells the right food in order for them to have the same taste as animal meat.”
The cells are fed an “animal cell culture media” developed exclusively by Aleph Farms — and it is, well, also cultured.
“The common media consists of serum that is derived from cows. So we developed unique media at this company that is without serum, and later we got rid of all animal components [in cell food],” says Molotski.
“When you work in tissue culture with cells, you don’t even think about it. But when you’re producing it for cultured meat, you can’t feed the cells something that comes — although indirectly — from animal slaughter.”
Even with the most exclusive and expensive food, some cells will not grow up to be steaks.
“We have a machine here that was used for PCR coronavirus tests,” says Molotski. “It helps us extract the DNA and see which cells are more suitable for muscle tissue, for example, and which will not make it to the next round of development.”
Why not simply extract grown cells from a specific body part of an animal and cultivate the meat that way, saving time that it takes to grow a cell from scratch?
“That would be quicker and cheaper,” she concedes. “But, these cells die very quickly. Our cells can be in use forever, so you don’t have to go each time and extract new ones. You also need to take into consideration the issue of genetic stability.”
Although the company now is hyper focused on cultured meat, Aleph Farms’ ultimate vision is lab cultivation of all animal products “from leather to collagen,” adds Peer.