By Avigayil Kadesh
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJ) recently unveiled "Innovators Way," a permanent photo exhibition showcasing 27 university researchers whose genius is behind commercial products that have revolutionized the fields of health, safety, environment, agriculture, computer science and nutrition.
They include such trailblazers as Dr. Yonatan Elkind, head of a team that developed a hardy strain of ecologically adaptable hybrid peppers whose seeds are sold worldwide; and Prof. Simon Benita, developer of the nanotech dry-eye treatment Cationorm, manufactured by Novagali Pharma in France and owned by Santen Pharmaceuticals in Japan.
"If Israel is the start-up nation, then the Hebrew University is the start-up of the start-up nation,” said HUJ president Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson at the opening. “So far, the university has registered approximately 7,000 patents protecting roughly 2,000 developments and inventions, and founded 72 companies based on some of those inventions."
The oldest university in Israel, HUJ was founded in 1918 and opened officially in 1925 on Mount Scopus, which is where the exhibition is displayed. It also has a larger Jerusalem campus at Givat Ram and an agricultural campus in Rehovot.
Innovators Way celebrates the researchers whose creative concepts reached an advanced enough stage to allow Yissum Research Development
, the university’s technology transfer company, to patent, commercialize and market their inventions to Israeli and international companies.
Yissum was among the first companies of its kind in the world when it was established in 1964 and is today ranked among the world’s 15 leading companies in this field. It generates more revenue than its counterparts at MIT, Harvard or NYU.
"Establishing the Innovators Way is the university's way of saying thank you to some of the many researchers working with us,” said Vice-president and Director General Billy Shapira. “We look forward to expanding this exhibition to include additional Hebrew University innovators and their creations."
The pictures were all taken by Flash90 Israeli photography agency founder Nati Shohat. His work has been featured in many venues and in publications such as Stern Magazine, Paris Match, Le Monde and Time.
Snapshots of creativity
Among those featured in the display:
• Prof. Amnon Shashua of the Rachel and Selim Benin School of Engineering and Computer Science, inventor of Mobileye
, a system designed to prevent accidents by warning the driver in real time about dangerous situations and conditions. The system is original equipment in cars built by major automotive manufacturers worldwide, and is manufactured by Jerusalem-based Mobileye Vision Technologies, a company co-founded by Shashua and others in 1999.
• Prof. Oded Shoseyov
of the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, innovator of a technology that alters tobacco plants to produce human recombinant collagen. Collagen is in great demand for hundreds of medical products used in orthopedics, cardiology, diabetes and wound healing. The specialized plants are grown in Israel by CollPlant, which also extracts and purifies the collagen and manufactures the Vergenics product line of orthopedic and wound-healing medical implants.
• Medicinal Chemistry Prof. Avi Domb of the School of Pharmacy, who developed the MAZE Water Purification System
, a filter for portable water purification systems to knock out organic and inorganic toxic residues as well as bacteria and viruses. The filter and water purification system are both manufactured by Strauss-Haier in China.
• Psychopharmacology Prof. Marta Weinstock-Rosin, whose work resulted in Exelon
, a drug prescribed for people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. Exelon slows the progression of the disease in many patients and often improves their cognitive function as well. Exelon is manufactured by Novartis in Switzerland.
• Prof. Jaap van Rijn, whose Grow Fish Anywhere (GFA) product
is based on a proprietary “zero-discharge” recirculation system for raising freshwater and marine fish anywhere, without generating environmental pollution or water wastage. The technology is marketed by G.F.A. Advanced Systems in Israel.
• Prof. Itamar Gati, an educational psychologist who developed the Future Directions website in 1996 to facilitate career decision-making. Future Directions, a joint project with Prof. Aviva Shimoni of Beit Berl Academic College, was one of the first websites of its kind, and is marketed by Yoram Limudim, a subsidiary of Walla! Israel.
• Floriculture Prof. Alexander Vainstein, whose MemoGene technology enables the creation of new traits in plants and the enhancement of agricultural crops through genetic modification. MemoGene is a groundbreaking process patented jointly by Yissum and Danziger Innovations (Israel), and is applicable to all types of plants.