It’s difficult to overestimate the global impact that the new partnership between the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Cornell University, CornellNYC Tech, will have on the future of research and new technology.
But last month, on May 22, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that Google, Inc. is giving these collaborative, world-class institutions the use of 22,000 square feet of its office space for free, so that classes can begin in September 2012. The “gift” will be in effect for a maximum of five and a half years starting July 1, which should be enough time for Cornell University to complete the campus construction. Eventually, the campus will be expanded to 58,000 square feet.
Prof. Craig Gotsman of Technion will serve as the founding director of the Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute there and will partner with Cornell in its operation, when it opens in 2017.
During a meeting at the Technion with a visiting New York city council member in February, Technion’s president, Prof. Peretz Lavie, explained that the new “hub” educational approach will be a curriculum that operates across several disciplines and that will be targeted at tech companies located in New York City.
A few of these include tech giants like Tumblr, Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, Bitly and YouTube.
“It may be that Prof. Shechtman is the last scientist to be awarded the Nobel Prize for research conducted by one person working alone in one laboratory,” said Lavie, referencing Technion professor Dan Schechtman’s 2011 win in Chemistry. “Nowadays, achieving significant scientific and engineering breakthroughs requires tremendous knowledge that the single scientist does not possess.”
Lavie’s hope is that large technology companies will add satellites near the campus, and a high-tech startup culture will begin to surround the center, “just as such companies and extensions historically developed near the Technion,” he said. “Our innovative venture will build a bridge of friendship and cooperation between New York and Haifa.”
These bridges and partnerships may increase as the academic profiles of several Israeli research institutions have risen in the last decade, making impressive showings in lists like the 2011 Academic Ranking of World Universities conducted by the Center for World-Class Universities of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, a co-publisher of the first English book of world-class universities with the European Centre for Higher Education of UNESCO.
According to last year’s most recent list of the top-ranked 100 schools in Computer Science, the Weizmann Institute of Science came in at No. 11, and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology ranked at No. 15. Also on the list was The Hebrew University of Jerusalem at No. 26, and Tel Aviv University, coming in at No. 28.
The Hebrew University also ranked 22nd out of 100, in CWCU’s 2011 Academic Ranking of World Universities in Mathematics. Tel Aviv University came in 32nd.
In the CWCU’s list of the top 500 universities in the world, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem ranked No. 57; the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University, and the Weizmann Institute of Science ranked in the 102-150th range; and Bar-Ilan University along with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev are listed in the 301-400 slot.
And the cutting-edge research continues to make news.
Just this past month, Lior Gepstein, professor of medicine in Cardiology and Physiology at the Sohnis Research Laboratory for Cardiac Electrophysiology and Regenerative Medicine at the Technion and Rambam Medical Center, successfully harvested skin stem cells from a patient with heart failure and manipulated them into healthy heart muscle cells. One day in the future, researchers may be able to introduce healthy heart cells into the heart of a sick patient to regenerate healthy tissue. This method of using skin cells would remove the ethical objections some have with using embryonic stem cells. Using a patient’s own skin stem cells also significantly lowers the probability of the body rejecting them.
In April 2012, Maty Tzukerman, a senior research scientist also at the Technion Rappaport faculty of Medicine and Research Institute and the Rambam Medical Center, found that cancer cells grow and replicate themselves more quickly when exposed to human cells than they do in a Petri dish or mouse model. This research could lead to the development of new methods for controlling the growth of cancer. Tzukerman hopes it may lead to cancer treatments that would render the killer disease to be a chronic condition, like HIV-AIDS, that is manageable and treatable. The research was published in the current advanced online issue of the journal, Stem Cells.