Technion Congratulates Emmanuel Macron, French President-Elect

On September 6, 2015, when serving as the French Minister of Economy, Industry, and Digital Affairs, Macron visited Technion. He headed a delegation, which included the French Ambassador

Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie with Emmanuel Macron, French President-Elect

Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie with Emmanuel Macron, French President-Elect

to Israel, the President of the École Polytechnique, and a delegation of industry and high-tech leaders.

During the visit, Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie awarded Macron a Technion medallion. They toured laboratories; and met with researchers, graduates, and students.

In his remarks, Macron said, “I came here to be inspired and to learn how to promote cooperation between entrepreneurs, engineers, researchers, and investors.” He continued, “In France, there are outstanding researchers and excellent entrepreneurs, but the transition from scientific research to products is often lacking, and this is our bottleneck; we will be happy to learn how to make this transition more successful.”

It turns out that sometimes, the road to the Élysée Palace passes through Technion Israel.

A study from the lab of Prof. Noam Adir of the Schulich Faculty of Chemistry at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology: natural evolutionary processes prevent the presence of dangerous and potentially lethal molecular interactions by avoiding the presence of specific protein sequences in microorganisms. They found these sequences by a novel method – looking for what is missing in biological data sets. The group then experimentally showed that when these sequences are present in a protein, bacterial growth is indeed inhibited. The study was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA.

Evolution is an ongoing process, whereby those individuals of species that are the most fit for their environment have more offspring and thus out-compete less fit individuals. The individual’s fitness is a product of the quality of its cellular biochemistry, made possible by the thousands of enzymes that allow its physiology to perform all of the necessary chemical reactions that allow the cell to live. Deficiency in these molecular functions can lead to disease, loss of adaptability to environmental changes, or weakness against other organisms. The molecular machines that make life possible are large polymers made up of linear sequences of building blocks that contain different chemical functions: proteins, DNA, and RNA. Biological variety is a result of the evolutionary changes in these polymers, first and foremost the result of the astronomic number of possible permutations in the order of the 20 naturally occurring amino acid (AA) residues that are the building blocks of proteins. There are 8,000 possible sequences of three AAs, 160,000 sequences of four AAs, over 3 million sequences of five AAs and so on. Since proteins can contain between hundreds to thousands of AAs, the possibilities are endless.

The millions of different protein sequences found in all organisms determine the three-dimensional structures that give proteins the ability to function correctly. Proteins in cells can work alone or associate correctly with other cellular components, while avoiding incorrect and harmful associations with other components. Changes to the sequences naturally occur due to mutations (single site, or larger changes due to more dramatic sequence shuffling) of an organism’s DNA – the genetic material. Changes due to mutations can lead to new positive characteristics, or they may have negative consequences to the organism’s viability. A mutation that has a negative effect may prevent the organism from competing with other organisms in its environment, eventually leading to its demise. One could predict that over time, evolutionary pressure would work against the presence of organisms containing these internally lethal sequences and they would disappear.

Over the past few years, there has been a world-wide effort to obtain the entire DNA sequences (the entire genomes) of many organisms. These data have given us the ability to predict all of the possible protein sequences (the proteome) that might exist in organisms as simple as bacteria or as complicated as humans. Prof. Adir and his students, Dr. Sharon Penias-Navon and Ms. Tali Schwartzman, hypothesized that the huge amount of data made available by modern genomics would allow them to look for short sequences that occur less often than expected or are completely missing in the organism’s proteome. They developed a computer program that searched the many existing data sets to identify short sequences that are underrepresented (URSs). While they found that most of the sequences of three or four AAs indeed do exist at their expected frequency in the proteins of different organisms, URSs do exist. They used the program to search for URSs in the proteomes of many different organisms (especially pathogenic microorganisms) and found that different organisms have different URSs.  Adir and Penias-Navon wanted to prove that these URSs are indeed harmful, and they hypothesized that protein synthesis (translation) by the ribosome is the function that URSs might harm.

They embedded bacterial URSs (identified in the proteome of the gut bacterium E. coli) comprised of three or four AAs in a normal protein sequence, and showed that no matter where they put the URS, protein translation was inhibited. They showed that these same E. coli URSs had no effect on protein translation in human cells, showing that the effect is species specific. They further showed that one four-AA URS was powerful enough to inhibit translation completely to the point where the growth of the bacterial cells was significantly reduced: these are indeed lethal sequences. Adir and Navon suggested that URSs could be used as highly specific anti-microbial agents, and a patent, together with the Technion, was submitted.

In order to obtain even more precise molecular details on the action of the URS, they initiated a collaboration with Prof. Joseph Puglisi and his student Dr. Guy Kornberg of Stanford University, who are experts in following protein translation in single ribosomes, thereby obtaining direct information on the translation reaction mechanism. Using these single molecule methods, the inhibitory effect of the existence of a URS on translation was confirmed. Their methods enabled a precise determination of the site of inhibition. They found that as soon as the URS AAs enter the entrance to the ribosomal nascent protein exit tunnel, translation is inhibited.

Technion scientists measure and record thermal motion in a water droplet; new kind of medical sensor may result

Graduate student Shai Maayani (Left) and Professor Tal Carmon

According to scientists from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, measuring a water droplet with a resolution comparable with the scale of a single atom will reveal that the droplet interface behaves like a miniature stormy sea. The waves in this ocean are generally referred to as “thermal capillary waves” and they exist even if the droplet is seen, to the naked eye, as being at rest.

Using that knowledge, the researchers developed technology to analyze the thermal capillary dynamics in a drop of water. The advancement could one day lead to a new generation of medical sensors that are able to identify abnormal cells.

The findings by graduate student Shai Maayani and Professor Tal Carmon of the Technion Faculty of Mechanical Engineering were published in recent issue of Optica, available on-line at:

The measurement of thermal capillary waves, performed by Mr. Maayani was made possible by turning the water droplet into a device the researchers called an “opto-capillary resonator.” The device was used to introduce light into a water droplet to record the thermal capillary motion inside it. Being able to accurately measure this activity means that it could also be possible to support a controlled energy exchange between light and capillary waves in the drop.

“The surface of a water drop is constantly moving, due to what is called ‘Brownian motion,’ or ‘thermal motion,’” said Prof. Carmon. “Thermal motion on the outer surface of a water droplet impacts many processes including breaking of a single drop into many smaller droplets.”

The researchers experimented with what are called “capillary oscillations” in a water droplet. These motions are governed by water‘s surface tension, the force that gives a drop of water its shape. Water droplets are a fundamental structure of self-contained liquid bounded almost completely by surfaces

In their experiment, photons (particles of light) were confined to circulate along the equatorial line of the droplet, at a depth of 180 billionth of a meter.  Being so close to the drop interface, which host the thermal capillary waves, enabled recording this thermal motion of water.

According to the researchers, once inside the water droplet, light circulates up to 1,000 times around the circumference of the droplet, which helps in measuring the capillary waves. The number of times that light circulates is called ‘optical finesse’ and can be used to monitor the movements down to the size of 1/1000th of the very small wavelength of light.

“Optocapillary cavities can support a controlled energy exchange between light and capillaries,” explained the researchers.

When light waves and water waves co-resonate in certain ways – when they pass through one another – there can be an exchange of energy between the two types of waves. The data from that interaction could be used to develop a new type of sensor. For example, if a biological cell is placed into a water drop the cell’s reaction to waves – whether waves of light, water or sound – can reveal information about the nature of the cell.

“Based on a cell’s reaction to light, water and/or sound waves, it may one day be possible with the optocapillary resonator to determine whether a cell is normal or a malignant cancer cell,” concluded the researchers.

Improves potential of solar to become a major energy source

HAIFA, ISRAEL (February 18th, 2016) – A patented breakthrough by researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology improves the efficiency of organic photovoltaic cells by 50 percent, and could someday provide a huge boost for the viability of solar power as a major source of energy. The researchers recently published their findings in the Journal of Applied Physics.

Organic photovoltaic cells convert solar energy into electric power through organic molecules. One of their advantages over “traditional” solar cells made of silicon is that they can be mounted on lightweight, flexible, and easy-to-replace sheets, which can be spread on roofs and buildings like wallpaper, converting solar energy into electrical current. In the future, they could also be used to provide a cost-efficient and reliable source of electricity in isolated regions.

Despite the advantages of organic cells, their conversion potential to this point has not been fully utilized, according to lead researcher Professor Nir Tessler, of the Technion Faculty of Electrical Engineering, and director of the Wolfson Microelectronic Center and of the Sarah and Moshe Zisapel Nanoelectronics Center at the Technion.

“In our study, we found that the organic photovoltaic cell’s efficiency and electricity production are limited by structural aspects,” he explains. “We have proved that the limitations are related not to the material, but to the device structure. We have developed an addition to the existing systems, improving the efficiency of converting solar energy into electric current inside the cell from 10% (a level considered to be “high efficiency”) to 15% (the level at which industry experts say organic solar cells will be cost-effective), and adding 0.2 volts to the cell’s voltage.”

The development is based on increasing the energy gap between the electrodes by changing their fixed position in the system. By doing so, the researchers were able to increase the voltage, leading to an increase in system power. “This improvement is significant for the relevant industry, and it was achieved by focusing on structural changes in the device, versus developing new materials, a common approach by researchers in this field. It seems as if we have stretched the laws of physics with the aid of engineering.”

Prof. Tessler estimates that he and his team will complete the development of a prototype system within a year.

Link to the article in the Journal of Applied Physics

Vigor Medical Technologies Ltd., operating within the framework of the Technion’s T-Factor Start-Up Launch Program, takes first place (out of 150 companies) in the iNNOVEX Competition. The company developed a novel device that enables the safe insertion of medical instruments into the chest area.

iNNOVEX 2016

Presentation of the “2016 Most Innovative Israeli Start-Up Award” to Vigor Medical Technologies at the 2016 iNNOVEX competition

Vigor Medical Technologies Ltd. won first prize at the annual iNNOVEX Competition, and in so doing has been named the most innovative and promising Israeli start-up for 2016. The competition, which was held jointly by Google and the OurCrowd Foundation, attracted some 150 young start-up companies developing novel products expected to have great impact on the lives of many.

Vigor – a start-up developing devices to prevent lung and heart collapse – was established a year and a half ago by Dr. John Abeles, an American physician from Florida who was also the company’s first financial investor, Irina Kavounovski, a Technion graduate from the Faculty of Chemical Engineering who is currently serving as the company’s CEO, and her father Igor Waysbeyn who is the company’s CTO; Waysbeyn specializes in emergency medicine and holds a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering.

Vigor developed a plastic mechanism to treat chest trauma. Thoracic related trauma, which accounts for approximately 4 million cases a year worldwide, is the major cause of death in accidents. Medical treatment offered at such events involves the insertion of drains and surgical tools to the chest area. The ability to provide such treatment within the first hour after traumatic injury – often referred to as the “golden hour” – is critical as it typically determines the fate of the victim in about 80% of cases. However, such medical intervention can be very dangerous because it could potentially damage internal tissues in the chest.

Today, abdominal laparoscopic surgery (minimally invasive) is done using access devices (Trocar), through which surgical tools are inserted and manipulated. The problem is that this device is dangerous for use in chest surgery, as it may damage internal tissues and cause serious or even fatal injuries, especially when used out in the field by paramedics.

Vigor’s product changes the game rules: it allows medical personnel, including paramedics and medics, to perform the treatment without fear of inflicting damage. This product, unlike Trocar devices used in abdominal surgery, allows simple and quick replacement of its drains, so it is also suitable for make-shift field conditions.

Vigor’s product is suitable for treating penetrating trauma (caused by gunshot or stabbing) as well as blunt force trauma (caused by impact such as from a fall, traffic accidents, or other). It becomes fixated to the chest walls and creates a permanently sealed passage that prevents the infiltration and escape of air and liquids, and allows the fixation of the drain for the removal of fluids and air from the chest. The product has been adapted for use in civilian rescue services (such as Israel’s Magen David Adom (MDA)) military emergency response units, emergency departments and trauma centers, and to treat patients after chest and abdominal surgery.

The company started out within the framework of the start-up accelerator program MassChallenge in Boston, and went on to take part in the Technion’s T-Factor Start-Up Launch Program. David Shem Tov, the Director of T-Factor, emphasizes that Vigor was the first company to join the accelerator program and is expected to complete its seed stage soon. “This is our goal,” he explains, “to provide Technion researchers, students and alumni with assistance in launching start-ups implementing their innovations. We accompany them through the initial stages, provide them with access to Technion’s technological environment, give them financial support, and do everything in our power to help them build their company.”

In less than two years Vigor’s product completed development and entered preclinical trials, and is expected to soon begin the necessary processes for approvals by the regulatory authorities in the United States (FDA) and Europe (CE). Vigor’s CEO Irina Kavounovski expressed her gratitude, “Technion accompanied us closely both with funding and training, and the Technion Society in France (ATF) directed us towards potential investors and fitting business competitions in France. Here in Israel we received assistance from the Chief Scientist and our product received very positive feedback from the MDA’s chief paramedic. We believe that this win here at iNNOVEX 2016 will open-up more doors and opportunities for potential investors and for growing our contacts in the medical world.”

Photo (right to left) Liz Leibovitz, architect Moshe Tzur, Azrieli Foundation Chairman Danna Azrieli, Noa Gantz and Amit Chelouche Photo Credit: Raphael Delouya

Photo (right to left) Liz Leibovitz, architect Moshe Tzur, Azrieli Foundation Chairman Danna Azrieli, Noa Gantz and Amit Chelouche
Photo Credit: Raphael Delouya

A great honor for the Technion Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning: Two students at the Faculty have won first and second place in the David Azrieli Prize competition for projects by architecture students.

Liz Leibowitz won first place (NIS 60,000) for her work, Musha Musha: A new look at Tel Aviv’s “Hatikva” Neighborhood and a proposal to encourage private initiatives by the neighborhood’s residents. Noa Gantz won second place (NIS 25,000) for her work, Minus 400: Rethinking the meeting between man and the environment at the Dead Sea. Third place (NIS 15,000) went to Amit Chelouche of Bezalel for his work, Total Stage.

The award ceremony was held earlier this week at Tel Aviv Museum of Art, with the participation of leading figures in the world of architecture. This year, the Azrieli Foundation in Israel, headed by Chairman Danna Azrieli, rebranded the award in memory of David Azrieli and increased the value of prizes to NIS 100,000. Fifteen projects by students at schools of architecture throughout Israel participated in the competition.

The event was attended by a special guest, who also served on the panel of judges: Odile Decq, one of the most prominent architects in France. Decq planned and designed major projects around the world, including the new wing at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome, a unique restaurant in the historic building of the Opera Garnier in Paris, and a series of projects in China and North Africa. Decq was highly impressed by the thought, initiative and creativity expressed in the work of the young architects.

The David Azrieli Prize is the highlight of the work of all students of architecture in Israel, and provides an incentive for their excellence.

Danna Azrieli, Chairman of the Israel Azrieli Foundation and the Azrieli Group, said: “This is the 12th year that we have awarded the Azrieli Prize for projects by architecture students, which aims to recognize and strengthen creativity, originality and quality of architecture among architecture students in Israel. This award reflects the values that accompanied my father over the years: commitment to promote quality education, striving to develop the field of architecture, and love of Israel. I congratulate the winners and I have no doubt that the work, wisdom and creativity shared by all the students will shape the future of architecture in Israel.”

“Excellence in education is the main goal of the Technion Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning,” said Faculty Dean Prof. Yehuda Kalay. “The Faculty is committed to train skilled and responsible architects, urban planners, landscape architects and industrial designers, who will be at the forefront of the processes and changes in Israeli society in particular, and humanity in general.

“The David Azrieli Prize is the highlight of the work of all students of architecture in Israel, and provides an incentive for their excellence. We are proud of the accomplishments of Liz Leibowitz and Noa Gantz, and congratulate their teachers – Gabi Schwarz, Fatina Abreek-Zubiedat and Ronen Ben Arieh (Liz Leibowitz’s advisors), and Shmaya Serfaty and Yonatan Natanian (Noa Gantz’s advisors).”

So said John Connolly, senior engineer at NASA and director of the Space Studies Program of the International Space University (ISU), which will come to the Technion this summer

ISU SSP Director John Connolly

ISU SSP Director John Connolly

When John Connolly lectures to children and young people he asks the audience, “Who was the first man on the moon?” – and the answer comes immediately: Neil Armstrong. When he asks who the second man on the moon was, the crowd falls silent, until Connolly discloses the first name “Buzz” and the young audience calls out in unison: “Lightyear!”

John Connolly, a senior figure in the aerospace industry, is rather pleased with the representation of space science in film and in art in general. He often advises movie producers, including the producers of the new movie, The Martian, and is well-versed in science fiction. “Ultimately, the way culture reflects reality in the field of space helps instill an awareness of the importance of NASA and other space agencies,” he says. “Movies, TV series and books assimilate space in the public consciousness, reflect the tremendous curiosity that drives us and present the challenges that we face in space.”

Of course, the popularity of space in movies also has its disadvantages. “Sometimes these movies do not place sufficient emphasis on the difficulty and the challenge. Sometimes people say to me: ‘Why invest so much in sending people to Mars? I recently saw a movie where it had already been done.’ Nevertheless, movies show the human side, especially the curiosity and the coping, and that is of great value.”

Connolly spent last week at the Technion in his capacity as director of the Space Studies Program of the International Space University (ISU), which has chosen the Technion as the site of its prestigious summer semester this year. He was accompanied by all the academic managers of the ISU, in order to plan the schedule of the program and visit the classrooms, dorms and all the other relevant sites.

Around 150 space experts will participate in the Space Studies Program (SSP) to be held this summer at the Technion, along with nearly 150 participants from academia and industry, astronauts and directors of space agencies from around the world. “We do not call them students because these are people with experience whose average age is 32,” says Connolly. The participants are carefully selected, based on the concept that they will be the space leaders of the future. Indeed, graduates of the International Space University’s program already hold senior positions throughout the global aerospace industry.

“Space is becoming more and more international,” Connolly explains. “Missions are bigger and more complex, like the International Space Station, for example, and require cooperation among agencies and among countries. That’s why the International Space University operates in a different place in the world each year – last year at Ohio University and this year (2016) in Israel, at the Technion.”

The intensive program that will take place at the Technion this summer will also include events open to the general public, including a robotics competition, rocket launches, space-related movie productions and a professional panel discussion about the Columbia space shuttle disaster. “We very much hope to bring Buzz Aldrin to the Technion. He was recently appointed Chancellor of ISU,” he says.

The program that will take place this summer at the Technion will mark the end of Connolly’s tenure as the head of the Space Studies Program at ISU, and he will return to NASA, which loaned him to run the SSP and the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program (SH-SSP) of the International Space University for a limited period.

Connolly came to NASA in 1987 as a young engineer after graduating from college, after working for a short time as a “plain old rocket scientist,” and since then he has gradually advanced within the organization. “As a boy I would often launch improvised rockets, draw spaceships and follow the Apollo missions, and an invitation to work at NASA was obviously an offer that I couldn’t refuse. It’s a great honor to make your dream come true and even get paid a salary. NASA people are paid the same salary as other government workers in the US, so you’ll never get rich, but I never considered giving up my job here. “

His current position at NASA is human space exploration engineer, which means the engineer responsible for planning robotic flights to Mars and the Moon, which are supposed to prepare the ground for future manned delegations. The non-manned delegations are supposed to test the environmental conditions (radiation, temperature, dust, etc.) and land the necessary equipment for the astronauts who will arrive in the future.

“There’s a lot more work to be done in this area, and that’s wonderful,” he says. “Humanity wants to go to Mars, and I’m glad to be part of this step. Maybe in the more distant future there will even be a permanent settlement on Mars – not because there’s no room on the planet Earth, but because man is a curious creature by nature. If you put a one-year-old baby on the floor, he’ll crawl to the low cabinets and will try to open them – because he’s curious. The same holds true for adults: mankind wants to find out what’s on the other side of the mountain, the other side of the sea, the other side of the ocean. And that’s the whole story with voyages into space – space is the next ocean that we want to cross in order to discover what’s just beyond our reach.”  

The Technion Faculty of Electrical Engineering is now named for Prof. Andrew Viterbi and his late wife, Erna
Viterbi, co-founder of Qualcomm, is the inventor of the Viterbi Algorithm, which is used in most smartphones today and in data terminals, digital satellite broadcast receivers, and deep space telemetry.

- Right to left: Prof. Boaz Golani, Alan and Caryn Viterbi, Professor Andrew Viterbi, Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie and Dean of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering Prof. Ariel Orda.

– Right to left: Prof. Boaz Golani, Alan and Caryn Viterbi, Professor Andrew Viterbi, Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie and Dean of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering Prof. Ariel Orda.

The Technion Faculty of Electrical Engineering (EE) has been named for Prof. Andrew Viterbi and his late wife, Erna. The plaque bearing the new name of the Faculty was unveiled December 8 at a festive ceremony held at the Technion with the participation of Prof. Viterbi, his son Alan and daughter-in-law Caryn, Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie, the Technion management and EE alumni.

Andrew Viterbiis the inventor of the Viterbi algorithm – a mathematical formula underlying the operation of many of today’s mobile devices. The Viterbi algorithm enables quick and accurate decoding of many simultaneous signals and helps neutralize signal interference. The mathematical formula is used in all four international standards for digital mobile phones, as well as in data terminals, digital satellite broadcast receivers and deep space telemetry. The algorithm is also used in DNA analysis and identification software.

Prof. Andrew Viterbi, one of the most influential figures in the digital world and co-founder of Qualcomm, has made a significant and outstanding donation of $50 million to the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, with the aim of establishing the Technion’s status as a leading institution in the field of electrical engineering and computer engineering in Israel and around the world.Prof. Viterbi’s donation will enable the Technion to recruit and retain first-rate faculty, as well as outstanding graduate students in the fields of electrical and computer engineering, and to upgrade its teaching and research infrastructure.

“We are deeply grateful to Andrew Viterbi,” said Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie. “His and his beloved late wife Erna’s longstanding involvement with the Technion and his understanding of the vital impact of electrical engineering on the State of Israel will help the Technion recruit the best and brightest students and faculty members. Prof. Andrew Viterbi is, first and foremost, a family man, and this is reflected throughout his lifetime, since he was a little boy who fled with his family from the terror of the fascist regime in Italy, through his career as a renowned professor to his being an inventor and a technology leader. Prof. Viterbi is part of the Technion family and the Faculty of Electrical Engineering family. Hannukah is a family holiday, and no time could be more suitable for celebrating the naming of the faculty after him and his late wife, Erna.”

Prof. Andrew Viterbi (on the right, with Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie)

Prof. Andrew Viterbi (on the right, with Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie)

“Viterbi and communications – these are synonyms.You can’t mention one without mentioning the other.”So said Distinguished Professor Emeritus Jacob Ziv who, together with Prof. Avraham Lempel, developed the Lempel-Ziv data compression algorithm, which played a key role in making the Internet a global communications medium.“Prof. Viterbi is a true pioneer in the fields of electrical engineering and computer engineering.The Viterbi algorithm underlies many of the technologies currently being developed in the fields of communications and information.We are very proud that the Faculty of Electrical Engineering will bear his name.”

“The Viterbi family’s donation guarantees that we will be able to continue to be a center of academic excellence and fulfill our role of advancing the State of Israel’s security and prosperity,” said Prof. Ariel Orda, Dean of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. “Professor Viterbi gave us another gift, which is impossible to estimate in mere figures, but whose value is far greater. It is a rare combination for a Faculty to be affiliated with the name of a scientific and technological giant while teaching his scientific contributions in advanced courses of its curriculum.”

Prof. Andrew Viterbi

Prof. Andrew Viterbi

Prof. Viterbi’s ties with the Technion developed as long ago as 1967, when he delivered a series of lectures here during his sabbatical from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. These roots have developed and deepened since then, and therefore Prof. Viterbi’s name is well known to engineering students at the Technion. In 2000, he was named a Technion Distinguished Visiting Professor of Electrical Engineering.

Together with his late wife, Erna Finci Viterbi, Prof. Viterbi has a long history of support for the Technion and the State of Israel. He has been named a Guardian of the Technion, a designation reserved for those who have reached the highest level of support of the Technion. The Viterbis’ gifts to the Technion have included the Andrew J. and Erna F. Viterbi Chair in Information Systems/Computer Science, held by Prof. Oded Shmueli; the Andrew and Erna Finci Viterbi Center for Advanced Studies in Computer Technology at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering; and the Andrew and Erna Finci Viterbi Fellowship Program.

Prof. Andrew Viterbi with his son Alan (left) and Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie (right)

Prof. Andrew Viterbi with his son Alan (left) and Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie (right)

At the festive ceremony held at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie awarded Prof. Andrew Viterbi the Technion Medal – the highest award granted by the Technion for lifetime achievement. The Medal was awarded to Prof. Viterbi for his “decades-long devotion to the Technion as a Distinguished Visiting Professorimparting his pioneering insights; in gratitude for his support of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars and the recruitment of new faculty; and with appreciation for his transformational gift to the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, that will secure and enhance the Technion’s leadership position in electrical and computer engineering in Israel and globally, and will ensure that the high-tech innovation that is vital to Israel’s economy and defense continues for generations to come.”

“I am extremely proud to have my name associated with the Technion, one of the world’s leading science and technology institutions,” said Dr. Viterbi at the ceremony. “Technion Electrical Engineering graduates are in large part responsible for creating and sustaining Israel’s high-tech industry, which has been essential for Israel’s economic success. To meet the challenges facing us, we must promote the intensive recruitment of new faculty and enter into the emerging research fields.”

- Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie gives Prof. Viterbi the Technion Medal

– Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie gives Prof. Viterbi the Technion Medal

The Technion Faculty of Electrical Engineering, which is included in the list of the world’s top ten faculties of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has played a crucial role in the development of Israel’s hi-tech industry and in turning Israel into a start-up nation.In early 1970s, the Faculty driving force was essential in creating the infrastructure and knowledge in microelectronics and developments that played a key role in the economic growth of the high-tech industry and the security of the State of Israel.In the following decades, the Faculty paved the way for a series of disciplines, including computer engineering, telecommunications, microelectronics, optoelectronics, nanotechnology and quantum technology.

Over the past twenty years, Technion alumni have been responsible for the establishment and management of more than 1,600 companies that have led to the creation of one hundred thousand jobs; around 35% of these companies were founded by alumni of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering.

“It is impossible to imagine Israel’s transformation into a world leader in science, technology and innovation without the Technion, and in particular the researchers, students and alumni of its Faculty of Electrical Engineering,” wrote Minister of Education Naftali Bennett in a special letter sent today to Prof. Viterbi. “Your gift will ensure that the newly-named Andrew and Erna Viterbi Faculty of Electrical Engineering will continue to be a center of world class research and education, providing Israel with future generations of engineers and scientists at the forefront of our dynamic, high-tech economy.”

Prof. Andrew Viterbi

Prof. Andrew Viterbi

The ceremony was also attended by alumni of the Technion Faculty of Electrical Engineering.Many of them are now senior members of Israel’s high-tech industry: the founders of the Rad-Bynet Group, Yehuda and Zohar Zisapel, Apple Israel CEO Aharon Aharon, Qualcomm Israel CEO Aric Mimran, former Qualcomm CEO Eyal Bar-David, and many others.

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Technion Announces Winners of the 2014 Harvey Prize:

James P. Allison and Reinhard Genzel

The 2014 Harvey Prize will be awarded to prominent cancer researcher, Prof. James P. Allison, and leading astrophysicist Prof. Reinhard Genzel.

About 20% of Harvey Prize winners have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.

Prof. James P. Allison

Prof. James P. Allison

The Technion will award the 2014 Harvey Prize in Human Health to Prof. James P. Allison, an immunologist from the University of Texas, and the 2014 Harvey Prize in Science & Technology to Prof. Dr. Reinhard Genzel (for Science & Technology), an astrophysicist from the Max Planck Institute in Germany. The prize, in the amount of $75,000 US, is named after Leo Harvey (1973-1887), and is awarded annually to men and women who have made significant contributions to humanity.

It has been found that about 20% of the prize winners have gone on to win the Nobel Prize, among them Dr. Shoji Nakamura, who today is receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics for developing the energy-efficient and environment-friendly light source – the blue light-emitting diode (LED).

Professor James P. Allison, the Chairman of the Department of Immunology at The MD Anderson Cancer Center, will receive the Harvey Prize for developing a new paradigm for cancer treatment and for his theoretical and practical contributions to cancer treatment. The MD Anderson Institute, affiliated with the University of Texas, is ranked as one of the nation’s best hospitals for cancer care in the United States.

Allison, who was born in Texas in 1948, specializes in the field of immunotherapy – treatment by means of strengthening the immune system – particularly in the context of cancer treatment. Allison has a longstanding interest in T cells, which play an important role in the immune system, and his research led him to discover a T-cell inhibitory molecule (known as CTLA-4) which can prevent them from attacking tumors. Following this discovery, Alison developed an antibody to block this inhibitory molecule in the hope that it will enhance anti-tumor immune responses and tumor rejection. His research led to the clinical development of ipilimumab (Yervoy™), which was approved in May 2011 by the FDA for the treatment of metastatic melanoma. Today, Allison investigates possibilities for applying this drug and similar inhibitory drugs-treatments in treating other forms of cancer.

Professor Reinhard Genzel

Prof. Reinhard Genzel

Professor Reinhard Genzel will receive the Harvey Prize in Science and Technology on showing that a black hole exists at the center of the Milky Way (our galaxy). Genzel, who was born in 1952, is a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley and is the Director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany. In 2002, Genzel discovered, along with research colleagues in Germany and California, a massive object at the center of the galaxy whose size was smaller than that of the solar system, yet its mass was more than 3 or 4 million than the mass of the sun, in other words, a very massive black hole. This determination was based on the exceptional acceleration of stars surrounding the galactic center. Genzel used innovative optical methods and infrared photography to overcome atmospheric disturbances and particles floating in space.

The Harvey Prize awarded by the Technion was first given in 1972 by the foundation established by Leo M. Harvey (1887-1973) from Los Angeles, in order to recognize significant contributions in the advancement of humankind in the areas of science and technology, human health and peace in the Middle East. The prestigious Harvey Prize has been awarded to scientists from the United States, Britain, Russia, Sweden, France and Israel, among them Nobel Laureate Mikhail Gorbachev, former leader of the USSR, awarded the Harvey Prize in appreciation of his seminal initiatives and policies to lessen regional tensions; Nobel Laureate in Medicine, Professor Bert Sakmann; Nobel Laureate in Physics, Professor Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, Professor Edward Teller for his discoveries in solid state physics, atomic and nuclear energy; and Professor William J. Kolff  for his invention of the artificial kidney.

The prize ceremony will take place at the Technion on February 17, 2015.

In the photos:  

Prof. James P. Allison – image courtesy of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Prof. Reinhard Genzel – image courtesy of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics

“Detailed knowledge of chemical processes makes it possible to optimize catalysts, drugs and solar cells.”

Technion graduate Prof. Arieh Warshel, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Southern California has won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, together with Michael Levitt and Martin Karplus for “the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.”

The three scientists won the world’s highest honor for research which lay the foundations for future computers to understand complex chemical processes from the purification of exhaust fumes, through to photosynthesis.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement, when awarding the prize of 8 million crowns ($1.25 million), that Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel had pioneered the use of computer models that mirror chemical reactions. The work also has applications in the use of complex processes in the development of drugs.

“Chemical reactions occur at lightning speed; electrons jump between atomic nuclei, hidden from the prying eyes of scientists,” the academy stated. “The Nobel Laureates in Chemistry 2013 have made it possible to map the mysterious ways of chemistry by using computers. Detailed knowledge of chemical processes makes it possible to optimize catalysts, drugs and solar cells.”

Israel Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu called new Nobel laureate Arieh Warshel today: “This is exceptionally impressive. We’re proud of you & people at Technion & Weizmann,” he said.

Arieh Warshel was born 1940 in Kibbutz Sde-Nahum in Israel.  He earned his undergraduate degree at the Faculty of Chemistry (now the Schulich Faculty of Chemistry), class of 1966 – which was the same year Distinguished Prof. Dan Shechtman (Nobel Laureate 2011) completed his BSc in mechanical engineering at the Technion.

In 1965, Prof. Warshel was awarded the “Technion Award – Best Third-Year Student in Chemistry”. He graduated Summa Cum Laude. Warshel went on to comlete advanced degrees at the Weizmann Institute of Science, and was an associate professor at Weizmann until 1978, when he moved to the University of Southern California.