Israel’s president launches $10 million agreement for brain research between Hebrew University and institute in Switzerland


From left: co-director of the EPFL Brain Mind Institute Prof. Henry Markram, Prof. Idan Segev of ELSC, EPFL President Prof. Patrick Aebischer, President Shimon Peres, Catarina and Philippe Amon, Hebrew University President Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson and ELSC Acting Director Prof. Eilon Vaadia (photo: Mark Naiman)April 3, 2011: An agreement for collaborative research in neuroscience between the Edmond and Lilly Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland was signed last week in Switzerland in the presence of Israel’s President Shimon Peres.

The agreement calls for a combined investment of $10 million to be raised by the two institutions for the first five years of operations, which are to include joint laboratories and research projects and fellowships for graduate students. The fund constitutes the opening round in a strategic program spurred on by President Peres to establish Israel as a leading player in international brain research, as it has become in nanotechnology.

ELSC and EPFL are in the top five institutes in Europe in terms of the number of European Research Council grants awarded.

The agreement was signed at a festive event held on March 28 in Switzerland with the participation, in addition to President Peres, of Hebrew University President Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson and ELSC Acting Director Prof. Eilon Vaadia.

In his remarks, President Peres said, “This partnership between top Israeli scientists and their Swiss counterparts proves that science and innovation have no borders and no distances, and that the common denominator is the striving for a better future. Together as a global team, and with the right direction, we shall contribute to building an additional step on the way to helping shape a better future for mankind.” 

“The agreement reflects the strong commitment of the Hebrew University to the development of research, teaching and the future of science,” said Hebrew University President Ben-Sasson. “Our aspiration is that this cooperation will lead to brainstorming and scientific breakthroughs.” He added that this new scientific cooperation is symbolic of the great changes taking place in multidisciplinary research on the brain and in the search for cures for brain-related diseases. 

Ben-Sasson particularly praised the host of the dedication event, Phillippe Amon, who, said Ben-Sasson, is pursuing change within the tradition of his family, and  President Peres, who he said has created great changes in the state of Israel and in the institution of the presidency.

The Hebrew University and EPFL will work cooperatively to advance, among other things, research towards better understanding of brain mechanisms controlling behavior and cognition and to study effective methods for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Alzheimer’s  and autism.

“Cooperation with EPFL in brain research complements the multi-disciplinary approach of ELSC,” said Prof. Vaadia, who has directed joint projects with his colleagues in Switzerland. The ELSC Center is now seeking to enlist additional scientists who will play a role in this new cooperative project.

Source: Dept. Media Relations, Hebrew University