Aleph Farms, which a Technion professor co-founded, continues to break more records in this latest development

The first company to grow steaks directly from the cells of cows has now received the first halachic ruling regarding the kosher status of cultivated meat.

Chief Rabbi of Israel, David Lau, made the announcement yesterday (Wednesday, January 18th), following an examination of the production methods in the company’s laboratory and speaking with experts in the field.

Rabbi Lau noted, however, that if it is marketed as meat or is “similar to meat in taste and smell”, it should not be mixed or consumed with dairy products.

Co-founded by Technion Professor, Shulamit Levenberg, from the Biomedical Engineering Faculty at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology and backed by Leonardo DiCaprio, Aleph Farms has – to date – raised $120 million in funding. It is awaiting marketing approval for its first product – Minute Steak – before it enters the market for the first time.

Other notable animal-free produce startups linked to the Technion include SavorEat, a company that produces 3D-printed burger patties via a robot chef using ingredient cartridges, SuperMeat, which takes cell cultures from chickens and Imagindairy, which develops real milk in the lab without harming animals.

Aleph Farms hopes to launch its Minute Steak in Israel this year, followed by other countries around the world next year.

Meanwhile, Professor Levenberg is working on a host of other exciting innovations, including genetically engineering muscle tissue to cure type-2 diabetes and treating spinal cord injury patients with exosome therapy, which contains three times the amount of growth factors of stem cells, is less invasive and doesn’t rely on human donors.

Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon spent time at the Israel Institute of Technology on an official visit to Israel

Minister of State for the Middle East is impressed by Technion visit
PHOTO: Professor Hossam Hayek showing Lord Ahmed his invention

The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology was delighted to welcome the Minister of State for the Middle East to its campus this week.

Lord Tariq Ahmad – a British Muslim politician – was impressed with the proportion of Arab students on campus. 30% of this years new students are from the Arab Community and benefit from the Technion Empowerment Programme which gives them individual attention, supervision and monitoring, particularly in their learning of Hebrew which is one of the biggest challenges for Arab students. 

This educational model has since been copied by other institutions throughout Israel, enabling a growth in Arab university students in Israel of 78% over seven years, according to research by Israel’s Council for Higher Education. 

Lord Ahmad – along with representatives from the British Embassy and the British Council – were welcomed to the campus by the President of the Technion, Uri Sivan, along with several members of the senior team. They learned that 5,000 out of 20,000 students live on campus – the highest number in Israel.

He asked about all the impressive high-tech companies he had driven past on his way to the campus, such as Google and Intel, and learned that they have all come to Haifa because of the Technion and to recruit graduates from the University.

He was also interested to learn that nearly 70% of the founders and CEOs of Israeli start-up companies are Technion graduates and that there are two campuses abroad – one in China and one in New York.

Taking to Twitter following his visit, he wrote: “Fantastic to visit Technion – Israel Institute of Technology University and learn more about the vibrant Israeli innovation scene. I met Professor Uri Sivan and with Professor Hossam Hayek, a BIRAX recipient who created the groundbreaking ‘Alzheimer’s breath test’.”

This invention. which is also used to detect cancer in a matter of seconds was shown to King Charles when he last visited Israel a few years ago. He said that this is a remarkable technological development and an ingenious invention.

Last month the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology synthetic biology team took off for theInternational Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, held in Paris. The students in the group were engineering special bacteria that will produce an industrial substance that deters hair loss, and which can be added to regular shampoos and other haircare products.

Illustrative: A chemotherapy patient lying in a hospital bed. (iStock via Getty Images) 

This year, the iGEM team from the Technion included 12 students from across the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering, the Henry and Marilyn Taub Faculty of Computer Science, the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering, and the Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine. The team recently received a special Impact grant given to only a small number of the teams participating in the global competition based on their projected benefits to humanity.

Every year, the team chooses an innovative project in the field of synthetic biology, and this year, it involves substances that inhibit hair loss caused by chemotherapy. One of the most common cancer treatments, chemotherapy causes damage to healthy, living tissues and oftentimes hair loss, among other severe side effects.

The Technion team set to compete in iGEM worked on proving the feasibility of lab production of Decursin, a hair loss deterrent, and its possible incorporation into preparations including shampoo, cream, and more. Decursin is a major component of Angelica gigas Nakai (AGN) root extract. It has many beneficial properties including the abilities to suppress inflammation, repress cancer, and prevent apoptosis – or programmed cell death, which includes hair cells.

Today, the molecule is produced from a rare seasonal flower grown in Korea in an expensive and inefficient process. The student team is engineering bacteria that will produce Decursin industrially.

The prestigious iGEM competition was founded in 2004 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to give students, mainly undergraduates, a chance to experience scientific and applied research in the world of synthetic biology. Since its inception, the competition has been held in Boston. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was held online for the past two years.

This year, more than 300 teams from around the world will participate in the competition, including three Israeli teams – one from the Technion, one from Tel Aviv University, and one from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The first Israeli iGEM team was established at the Technion in 2012 under the guidance of Professor Roee Amit, a faculty member in the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering. He guides the Technion team to this day.

Over the years, teams from the Technion have won multiple gold medals in the competition. But according to Prof. Amit, “Beyond participation and winning, it is important to understand that some of the developments by the Technion teams have already been turned into applied and commercial tracks and have a real impact in the world. One of the most prominent examples is Koracell, which was founded on the basis of the technology developed by our students in preparation for a competition iGEM ​​in 2019. The group developed an innovative technology for the production of honey without bees using a genetically engineered bacterium. This technology allows the honey’s texture and taste to be precisely designed, and it is also a platform for simulating other natural metabolic processes.”

Technion Is Europe’s top university in the field of artificial at intelligence for the second year in a row calling to an international ranking of computer science institutions globally

The university also placed 16th in the world in the field of AI and 10th in the world in the subfield of learning systems.

The Technion continues to establish its position as the leading research institution in Israel and Europe in the core areas of artificial intelligence, thanks to the unique work environment that exists in this field at the Technion,” said Shie Mannor, a co-director of Tech.AI − Technion Artificial Intelligence Hub.

Around 150 Technion researchers are involved in Tech.AI, applying advanced AI practices to a variety of fields including data science, medical research, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, architecture and biology  

Solidifying the Technion‘s position as a pioneer and world leader in the field of AI and spreading the knowledge acquired in this process to the commercial world in all its aspects are very important national tasks,” said fellow Tech.Al Co-Director Assaf Schuster.

According to Shai Shen-Orr, who leads the biomed activity and AI solutions for the health sector within Tech.AI, the centre has used its advancements in the field of AI to create partnerships with companies such as Pfizer and IBM and leading medical institutions including the Rambam Health Care Campus in Israel and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre.

The Technion recently announced that it has established a new institute that will focus on applying AI research to create solutions in the field of human health and medicine.

And why H2Pro, set up by Technion Professors is the Israeli startup we all need to know about!

We are living through an exciting part of the global journey to reducing carbon emissions, thanks to a transition to clean energy that’s gaining serious momentum.

Between the ongoing economic recovery from Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine – highlighting the need for the Western world to become energy independent – investments in the global renewable energy market are expected to increase significantly. 

By 2040, around 10% of the world’s primary energy demand could be replaced by hydrogen, while the global hydrogen market is expected to more than double by 2050.

Israel, as one example, is currently aiming for 30% of its energy to be renewable by 2030 – a considerable increase on the 2020 total of 7%.

But its success relies on many factors, such as creating more storage, reducing the reliance on fossil fuels and making energy systems more flexible and resilient.

As the most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen is a portable, scalable fuel that can serve as a lifeline to sectors that are difficult and costly to electrify, such as long-haul trucking, maritime shipping and air travel.

As a zero-carbon duel, it is also an environmentally-friendly option for high-heat industrial processes, such as steel and cement.

The one to watch out for

While others are developing in the market, H2Pro is at the forefront of making these targets a reality, thanks to its revolutionary method for efficiently splitting water into its two components of hydrogen and oxygen.

Using electricity, the elements are generated separately, unlike conventional electrolysis, enabling a 95% system efficiency.

Founded by Professors Gideon Grader and Avner Rothschild and Drs. Hen Dotan and Avigail Landman of the Grand Technion Energy Programme in 2019, the company, which counts Bill Gates as an investor, has laid the cornerstone of its first production facility, which, when completed, will produce affordable green renewable energy at scale.

The increased demand for sustainable energy sources prompted research groups to focus on battery research in order to store large-scale grid energy in a manageable and reliable manner. In addition, the rising demand of the electric vehicle industry, which mainly relies on current Li-ion battery technology, is expected to strain the current lithium production and divert it from more widespread use as portable consumer electronics. Currently, no technology has proven to be competitive enough to displace Li-ion Batteries.

Now, a team of researchers from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology has developed a proof-of-concept for a novel rechargeable silicon (Si) battery, as well as its design and architecture that enables Si to be reversibly discharged and charged.

The research was led by Professor Yair Ein-Eli of the Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering. The team proved via systematic experimental works of the graduate student Alon Epstein and theoretical studies of Dr. Igor Baskin that silicon is dissolved during the battery discharge process, and elemental silicon is deposited upon charging. Several discharge-charge cycles were achieved, utilizing heavy doped n-type Si wafer anodes and specially designed hybrid-based ionic liquid electrolytes, tailored with halides (Bromine and Iodine), functioning as conversion cathodes.

This breakthrough could pave the way towards the enrichment of the battery technologies available in the energy storage market, with the technology potentially easing stress on the ever-growing market and serving the increasing demand for rechargeable batteries.

Silicon, as the second most abundant element on earth’s crust, was left relatively unexplored despite a high energy density of 8.4 kWh kg-1 on par with metallic Li 11.2 kWh kg-1. Silicon possesses stable surface passivation and low conductivity (dependent on the doping levels). Until now, no established rechargeable cell chemistry comprising elemental Si as an active anode has been reported outside LIB alloying anode.

In the past decade, several publications reported the incorporation of active silicon anodes in primary, non-rechargeable air-battery designs. Thus despite its high abundance and ease of production, the possibility of using Si as an active multivalent rechargeable anode was never explored until the team’s recent breakthrough.

A team of researchers from the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology has developed a proof-of-concept for a novel rechargeable silicon (Si) battery, as well as its design and architecture that enables Si to be reversibly discharged and charged.

Led by Professor Yair Ein-Eli of the Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering, the team proved via systematic experimental works of the graduate student, Alon Epstein and theoretical studies of Dr. Igor Baskin, that Si is dissolved during the battery discharge process, and upon charging, elemental Si is deposited. Several discharge-charge cycles were achieved, utilizing heavy doped n-type Si wafer anodes and specially designed hybrid based ionic liquid electrolytes, tailored with halides (Bromine and Iodine), functioning as conversion cathodes.

This breakthrough could pave the way towards an enrichment of the battery technologies available on the energy storage “super-market” technology, providing an ease on the ever-growing market and demand for rechargeable batteries.

Developments leading to this breakthrough

The increased demand for sustainable energy sources prompted the scientific community to focus on battery research capable of storing large scale grid energy in a manageable and reliable manner. Moreover, the rising demand of the EV industry, which mainly relies on current Li-ion batteries (LIBs) technology is expected to strain current Li production and divert it from more widespread use as portable consumer electronics. Currently, no technology has proven to be competitive enough to displace LIBs. Metals and elements capable of delivering multi-electrons during their oxidation process have been the focus of the research community for a long time due to their associated high specific energy densities.

Magnesium, calcium, aluminum and zinc received much attention as potential anode materials with varied levels of progress; yet none has managed to revolutionize the energy storage industry beyond LIBs, as all of these systems suffer from poor kinetic performance to lack of cell stability, and therefore, much is left to be explored. Silicon (Si), as the second most abundant element on earth’s crust (after oxygen) was left relatively unexplored despite a high energy density of 8.4 kWh kg-1 on par with metallic Li 11.2 kWh kg-1; Si possesses a stable surface passivation, low conductivity (dependent on the doping levels) and until now no established rechargeable cell chemistry comprising elemental Si as an active anode has been reported, outside LIB alloying anode.

In the past decade several publications (initiated originally in 2009 by Prof. Ein-Eli) reported the incorporation of active Si anodes in primary, non-rechargeable air-battery designs. Thus, despite its high abundance and ease of production, the possibility of using Si as an active multivalent rechargeable anode was never explored, until the team’s recent breakthrough.

The Formula Student competition in Europe this summer is a platform for new technological developments.  

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Formula racecar team unveiled the first-ever autonomous electric vehicle in the team’s history since 2012.

They designed and built it for the Formula Student International Design Competition in Europe next month.

The Technion team placed first at the Formula Student competition in the Czech Republic in 2019, and first place in the first Formula Student Race held in Israel last year. This team also holds the title for the lightest car in the history of the European competition (132 kg).

Team leader Muans Omari, a master’s student in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, explained that the car world is shifting to electric and autonomous vehicles, and the Formula Student competitions have embraced this trend.

Nevertheless, the transition from an internal combustion engine to an electric propulsion system “took a lot of work and learning,” Omari added.

The Formula Technion team’s autonomous electric vehicle (A-EV) is no longer red and black as in past years, but blue, white and gray to symbolize electric propulsion.

The Formula Student competition is a platform for new technological developments. Each team’s performance is rated on a combination of engineering challenges plus driving skills demonstrated on the track.

The goal of the project is to enable students to acquire practical knowledge in planning as well as manufacturing vehicles.

“We are considered a good team,” Omari said. “We’re not as good as the German teams that are being supported by the largest car manufacturers and their engineers, but we already proved ourselves.”

If thinking you’re sick can make you feel sick, is there a way to train your brain — and your body — to reverse that process and restore you to health?

That’s the central question that Tamar Koren, an MD-PhD candidate at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa focused on psychosomatic illness, is researching.

Professor Shai Shen-Orr, head of the school’s Systems Immunology & Precision Medicine Laboratory, is mapping how the immune system ages as people age — to the point of being able to calculate the age of someone’s immune system based on cellular data.

Professor Ron Kimmel, founder of the Geometric Image Processing Lab in the Technion’s Henry and Marilyn Taub Faculty of Computer Science, is using artificial intelligence and machine learning to train computers to analyze biopsy images of human tissue in order to determine not only whether a tissue is cancerous, but also what type of mutation it is and how much it has metastasized.

All three projects are examples of the kind of research being cultivated under the Technion’s new Human Health Initiative (THHI) — a recently announced effort to bring together teaching hospitals, different Technion departments and commercial companies to focus on solving specific health-related challenges. 

“This initiative addresses world challenges that require multidisciplinary solutions,” said Shen-Orr, who is also the cofounder of CytoReason, a pharmaceutical artificial intelligence company. “We’re moving from research based on departments and faculties to being goal oriented. In addressing problems of human health, it doesn’t matter where people sit. They need to work together.”

The THHI is focused on six areas: staff and student engagement, new undergraduate and graduate educational programs, recruitment of top-notch researchers, funding, shared office and lab space for “essential meeting of minds,” and acquisition of cutting-edge lab equipment and other research infrastructure.

The new initiative dovetails with other Technion projects with outside partners, such as the university’s Bridge to Next-Generation Medicine program with Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center. That project aims to revolutionize pediatric medicine by combining the Technion’s technological prowess, including world-renowned expertise in computational science and artificial intelligence, with doctors and scientists focused on understanding and treating childhood diseases.

“The Technion believes that the time is ripe for taking the next quantum leap: addressing human health in a comprehensive, institute-wide manner,” Technion President Uri Sivan said. “The THHI represents a major intellectual and cultural undertaking in this direction. No other university in the country, and only a handful around the world, are positioned so well to take this leap.”

The idea behind the THHI is to pull people out of their comfort zones and create collaborations across units and disciplines. 

“Rather than telling our investigators what they should be doing, the best way is bringing them together, and the magic is guaranteed to happen,” said Noam Ziv, who is spearheading the THHI project. 

Ziv said the Technion’s prime advantage is that it’s one of the world’s few technical universities that also has a medical school.   

“I don’t think you have to convince anybody that human health is a huge challenge,” Ziv said. “Our population is expanding, average age is increasing and the number of challenges associated with human health seems to be growing all the time. The coronavirus is a prime example of how things that affect one part of the world quickly affect other parts.”

During the height of the pandemic, for instance, Technion data scientists raced to improve the efficiency of PCR tests using algorithms. Biologists worked to create rapid testing kits that wouldn’t need sophisticated machines to yield quick results. Still others aimed to devised a sticker, which when placed on a mask, neutralizes viruses on contact.

The THHI extends to researching mind/body interactions. 

To prove their hypothesis about psychosomatic illness, Koren and her team induced colitis in lab mice and waited for them to recover. Researchers then artificially stimulated the neurons in the brain that had become active during the bout of colitis. Inflammation re-emerged in the exact same location even though there was no infection. Likewise, suppressing memory neurons reduced the inflammation in mice who were sick with colitis.

“If, for example, you receive a text message from your friend that he has COVID and you just saw him last night, you immediately start to envision that you’re also sick. And you start to manifest physical presentations of a very similar disease: your throat itches, you start coughing, you feel weaker,” Koren said. “Studies have shown that stress or emotional triggers can initiate disease, or sometimes exacerbate a disease that’s already been diagnosed.”

Koren’s research represents a joint effort among neurosurgeons, neurologists and immunologists — the kind of collaboration THHI seeks to cultivate and which is different from traditional approaches to research.

“These kinds of collaborations have already started to develop,” Koren said. “The fact that it’s both basic science and clinical research is a novelty.”

Eventually, Koren said, her team’s work could lead to a variety of new therapies for diseases that currently have no cure, in the form of magnetic stimulation or other non-invasive therapies for patients with rheumatic arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and other disorders.

“What we’re suggesting is not drugs, which also have adverse effects,” she said, “but regulation of brain activity that can alleviate their symptoms and improve their quality of life.”

Wireless V2X technology developed in Israel alerts motorists and two-wheel vehicle riders to each other’s presence.

An affordable device that alerts cyclists and scooter riders to the danger of unseen motorists could prevent many accidents globally, says Israel-based Autotalks.

The company uses V2X (vehicle-to-everything) technology to connect two-wheelers with other road users and warn them of each other’s presence.

The device, called ZooZ 2, gives a visual warning to two-wheel riders if a vehicle is approaching an intersection and could hit them. It also alerts them to drivers indicating a right turn who may be in their blind spot, and cars that jump a red light.

Drivers who have the device are likewise alerted to the two-wheeler. ZooZ 2 uses wireless technology so it can reliably detect two-wheelers even if the line of sight is obstructed.

The company says three quarters of bike and scooter accidents are caused by drivers failing to notice the two-wheeler – and it’s almost always the two-wheeler that comes off worse.

“Autotalks regards all road accidents as preventable, and those accidents involving bikes and scooters deserve special attention,” said founder and CTO Onn Haran.

“We’re committed to making our new micromobility safety device available immediately in order to save the lives of two-wheeler riders around the globe.”

Cyclists and scooter riders fit the device to their handlebars at a cost of $50 to $100 or it can come integrated on high-end models. ZooZ 2 currently communicates only with the 10% of cars that are V2X-enabled, but the technology is to be included in most new vehicles launched in 2025/26.

The first version of the ZooZ micromobility device was launched in September 2021. Autotalks says the updated version is undergoing validation tests by four manufacturers of bikes or their components, and by two vehicle manufacturers.

Autotalks showcased the ZooZ 2 device last week at the Velo-City Conference, the world cycling summit, in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

The plug-and-play device uses software provided by US-based V2X specialist Commsignia and has been tested successfully by the European consortium Project SECUR (Safety Enhancement through Connected Users on the Road).

Autotalks has already produced similar technology for motorcycles and says the first motorcycle manufacturer will incorporate it into mass-produced models in Europe in 2024.