Centre of Excellence for Research on Environment, Health and Aging


Newsletter No. 3 September 2014

30 September, 2014

A Newsletter of the

Centre of Excellence for Research on

Environment, Health and Aging 



Newsletter No. 3 


New researchers recruited to the CEREHA project

MIGAL is excited to welcome the new researchers who have been recruited to MIGAL as part of the CEREHA project. Dr Zipora Teitel - a chemist working on metabolomics of plants and post harvesting to ensure a better shelf life. Dr Ofer Shir - a computer scientist, specializing in scientific informatics and computational intelligence, with a focus on experimental optimization and statistical learning of physical systems. Dr Livnat Afriat - a biochemist/microbiologist working on enzyme evolution, together with Dr Itamar Yadid. Dr Gal Sapir - a plant scientist working on grapevines, to reduce damage from pests and use of pesticides. Dr Eran Dvir - specializes in small Animal Gastroenterology.

In addition, the following Post-Docs were recruited as part of the project:

  • Dr Ofir Benyamin - a food scientist working on determinations of taste and odour.
  • Dr Lior Rubinovich - plant scientist, working on antioxidants from pomegranates.
  • Dr Nelia Shechter - a microbiologist
  • Dr Hagit Rogovski - a biochemist
  • Dr Niv Bachnoff - a biochemist working on vaccine development
  • Dr Moshe Cohen- a biochemist working on vaccine development
  • Dr Yearit Fridman - a biochemist, joined the crystallography group, working on cell division proteins.
  • Dr Nadia Grozdev - a microbiologist, working on microbiota of the soil.
  • Dr Boaz Shapiro - an NMR chemist, working on drug design.
  • Dr Iris Zohar - a geochemistand environmental scientist, working on phosphates.
  • Dr Gal Cafri - an immunologist
  • Dr Hagai Glasner - an organic chemist, working on modified protein-pigment complexes.


Visitors from abroad in CEREHA's labs

Two students from Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Greifswald University in Germany and from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark visited MIGAL labs, in order to exchange expertiseand knowledge with MIGAL's researchers.

  • Mr Iwan Parfentev is a visiting MSc student from Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Greifswald University. He arrived at MIGAL by late July 2014 and will stay until the end of September 2014. He is studying the bacterial pathway for sphingolipids biosynthesis under the supervision of Dr Itamar Yadid and Prof Eliora Ron. During his time at MIGAL he gained experience in molecular cloning, DNA libraries construction, yeast genetics and extraction of lipids from bacterial cultures.

  • Mr Jesper Andreas Bording Strickertsson, a Postdoc from the University of Copenhagen, came to MIGAL to learn the technology of detecting and identifying AGEs (Advanced Glycation Endproducts) and their secretion by bacteria. In Denmark, he has been working on the induction of biochemical changes in human tissue culture cells following exposure to bacteria. In MIGAL he worked with Dr Chen Katz who previously showed that bacteria secrete AGEs that cause inflammation in human cells. Going back to Copenhagen he is currently trying to adapt the system he learned in MIGAL to the cell cultures he is working with in Copenhagen.


Secondments of CEREHA researchers to European universities

  • May 15-16, 2013 - Dr Ofir Benjamin visited Wageningen University in the Netherlands. He participated at the first international conference on edible insects, which is one of the most innovative and promising topics in the sector of future food and human nutrition. More than 400 people attended the conference from different fields of research: food science, nutrition, environment studies, economy and entomology. Dr Benjamin participated in the event together with two colleagues from MIGAL and Tel-Hai College–Dr Itzhak Martinez and Dr Adi Jones. They presented a poster describing the effect of varroa mite on nutritional value. The conference included several sessions on various aspects of edible insects including rearing the insects, processing, consumer behaviour and sensory, human and animal nutrition from insects, financial potential and environmental impact. It was a great opportunity for Dr Benjamin to meet his consortium partners of the H2020 proposal which was submitted under the call –"SFS-15 protein of the future" and to discuss with them future collaboration.
  • October 3-8, 2013 - Prof Iggy Litaor visited the Alterra-Wageningen Institute in the Netherlands. One of the main objectives of the CEREHA project is to network with European scientists and advance collaborative research. During his visit, Prof Litaor facilitated collaboration with researchers from Alterra (Prof Oenema and Dr Baveco) in the framework of two new research initiatives. In addition, Prof Litaor met with Prof Paul Torfs and they discussed the possibility of a collaboration designed to improve academic teaching. Prof Torfs also agreed to share his experience in building advanced statistics course for graduate students. Prof Litaor gave a seminar in Alterra entitled: “Hydro-geochemistry of Phosphate in altered East Mediterranean wetland/lake complex – or why do I need to run time series analysis?”. The seminar summarized over 12 years of research in the Upper Catchment of the Jordan River with special emphasize on fertilization practices that affect water quality and people health downstream. After the seminar, Prof Litaor teamed up with Dr Martin Knotters from Alterra who specializes in regionalized time series models for water issues and together they worked on the various data sets Prof Litaor brought from Israel.
  • October 3, 2014 - Prof Giora Rytwo visited the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-University Greifswald in Germany and met with Prof Laurence Warr who is a professor of Economic Geology and Geochemistry. Prof Warr published several papers on applications of clays and clay minerals. In recent years he performed several studies on fertilized clays that enhance microbiological degradation of crude oil in marine oil spills. During the meeting, several possibilities for cooperation were discussed (including working on a joint GIF and Horizon 2020 proposals).


Conference  with the Israeli Association for the Study of Oxygen and Free Radicals – ISOFRR

Since REDOX is involvedin many pathways related to metabolism and aging and ultimately manifested atthe clinic, the conference focused on those issues. These topics were presented in lectures and clinical studies, as part of the CEREHA project.It also included the Israeli Society of Hyperbaric Oxygen as well as panel discussions that were devoted tostudies related to radicals and antioxidant factors. Scientists, doctors and students participated and showed interest in these innovative and exciting topics. The conference attracted many researchers from all over Israel.


Presentation of CEREHA’s research work to the industries in the Galilee region

Over 80 researchers and industrialists from the Galilee attended this event, which was held on February 2014 at the HaGoshrim Hotel and was dedicated to the industrial applications of the CEREHA project. MIGAL's researchers and especially the new recruited researchers of CEREHA presented their activities and achievements to participants from the industries in the Upper-Galilee and to MIGAL’s researchers.The importance of the applied approach of MIGAL’s researchers and their willingness to cooperate with the industries in both the Galilee and Israel was emphasised. The Chairman of MIGAL, Mr Zeev Markman, who is also the Chairman of the Regional Industrial organization, opened the Event. Mr Avner Finger of Abic Industries (PHIBRO) gave a lecture on the company’s R&D activities. The discussions that followed focused on the agricultural aspects of the research at MIGAL, which is nowadays being taken into creating an innovative “Agro-Biomedical hub”.


Workshop with industries and researchers

In May 2014, a workshop dedicated to the memory of the late CEO of MIGAL, Mr Zvika Rubinstein, discussing the connection between MIGAL, CEREHA and industrial applications was held. Over 150 people attended this event. Dr Aharon Schwartz, ex-Deputy-Chair of TEVA in Israel gave a very interesting talk on the possibility of applying research in Biotechnology in the industry, and the experience TEVA had in Israel. Many of the industrialists approached him with questions and remarks.


Workshop with the Israel Society for Microbiology

In November 2013, a conference was held as part of the CEREHA activities and together with the Israeli Society for Microbiology. The workshop (FALL WORKSHOP) was dedicated to host- bacterial interactions. Two international guests focused their talks on CEREHA-related topics:

  • Prof Stephan Lerner from Wayne Institute discussed antibiotics resistant bacteria and the clinical problems in hospitals, especially in immune-deficient patients of advanced age.

  • Prof Doerte Becher of Greifswald University discussed the functional genomics of Staphylococcus aureus - a pathogen responsible for a large fraction of hospital and institution acquired infections.


“Sustainable Olive Oil: Clean Production and Waste Management”

Prof Uri Marchaim was invited (with a delegation of around 15 people from Israeli Ministries) to participate in the Horizon 2020 Capacity Building/Mediterranean Environment Programme (H2020 CB/MEP) workshop,which was held inFebruary 2014 in Amman - Jordan. It is an EU funded project which runs under the H2020 Initiative and aims at enhancing the capacities to address pollution problems at institutional and society level. Prof Marchaim presented the work done at MIGAL and held discussions with delegates from Jordan and the Palestinian Authority on presenting a proposal to Water-2c Call of Horizon 2020. This was followed by e-mail exchanges and also a meeting in June in the Galilee.









Presentation of CEREHA at the MedSpring meeting in Brussels

Towards a Common Euro-Mediterranean Innovation Agenda, a workshop was held in Brussels in April 2014, with many delegates from the Mediterranean countries. The workshop was jointly organized by the Innovation Working Group of the Euro-Mediterranean Group of Senior Officials in Research and Innovation (EU-Med GSO) and the European Commission. The MedSpring regional platform in research and innovation, funded under the 7th Framework Research Programme, supported the organization of the workshop. Prof Marchaim participated in the event and presented MIGAL and the CEREHA project. It was an opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with colleagues from the surrounding countries.


EU-Israel Innovation Seminar

A seminar organized by the EU Delegation to Israel under the title: The Place of Venture Capital in the Innovation Ecosystem, was held in Tel-Aviv in September 2014. Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen, Head of the EU Delegation to Israel and Mr Avi Hasson, Chief Scientist of the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Chairman of ISERD's Steering Committee, made the opening remarks of the event. Prof Marchaim was invited and discussed possibilities for implementing the CEREHA know-how with several venture capital representatives from Israel, Greece, Czech Republic, Finland, and the Netherlands.


Innovation as a Culture, the First International Learning Experience for Innovation Management

In September 2014, a conference on Innovation Management was held in Tel-Aviv. Prof Marchaim presented CEREHA and the innovation activities at MIGAL. In the following link it is possible to see the presentation on MIGAL and the innovative approach at the research institute which is located in the periphery. It was an important event to disseminate information on the CEREHA initiative in the Galilee.


Conference on Nutrition Promoting Health

On October 26th 2014, a conference on Nutrition Promoting Health will be held, as part of the CEREHA dissemination activities. The conference will bring together for the first time agriculturists, agro experts, agro-technologists, experts in nutrition science and functional food, clinical nutritionists, entrepreneurs, start-up companies, nutraceuticals companies, angel investors, venture capitalists, representatives of the global food industry, parliament members, government officials and global pharma. The aim is to discuss innovation in nutrition promoting health and to promote the establishment of the first specialized Agro-Biomedical hub that will encompass the entire development chain from the bench to the growers. The centre shall serve as a hub for applied researchers, clinicians, entrepreneurs, start-ups, growers and consumer companies specializes in functional foods, food supplements, nutraceuticals, novel botanical therapeutics and related agro-tech technologies.


Meeting  with the Belgian Ambassador in Israel and a Visit to Belgium

In January 2014, Mr Avishai levy, CEO of MIGAL and Prof Uri Marchaim met with the Belgian Ambassador Mr John Cornet d'Elzius and the Commercial Attaché for the Flemish Region - Mr Jacob Lempertand presented the activities of CEREHA and MIGAL’s involvement in Biotechnology. The meeting was held prior to the trip to Gent, Belgium and the aim was to enhance joint activities in research and technology implementation.

In February 2014, Prof Uri Marchaim met the Flanders’ representative at the Mercure Brussels City Centre and later travelled to Gent. They organized a dinner with Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) delegate, Dr Lieve Ongena, who presented the institute and opportunities for collaboration. The next day a meeting was organized with Dr Ludo Diels from the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO) and afterwards a meeting was held with Mr Willem Dhooge from the FlandersBio network. Those discussions were followed by exchange of e-mails and examination of presenting proposals in the framework of Horizon 2020.


Visit of the General-Director and Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Science and Technology

In September 2014, the new Director-general of the Ministry of Science and Technology and his staff visited MIGAL. They were impressed by the new laboratories at Tel-Hai Industrial Park and talked with the new recruited researchers of CEREHA. The visit was very successful and followed by discussions with the Ministry on supporting CEREHA sustainability in the future.


CEREHA Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) Meetings

MIGAL’s Scientific Director and member of the SAC, Prof Eliora Ron met with two of the SAC members separately. She presented to them the current status, the process of recruiting researchers and Post-Docs, the development of the laboratories and the latest achievements and discussed various issues related to the CEREHA project. Both members of the SAC were impressed by the scientific quality of MIGAL's new recruits and pointed out that their achievements in obtaining competitive grants are rather unusual.

On April 2014, Prof Ron met with Prof Joerg Hacker, the head of Leopoldina – the German National Academy of Arts and Sciences. Prof Joerg was interested in the academic and networking activities. He agreed to be on the organizing committee of a CEREHA workshop to be held by the end of March 2015, on “Microbiology 2015”, and devoted to infections and ageing. Moreover, Prof Hacker discussed the CEREHA workshop with the scientists at the Leopoldina and they agreed to support young scientists who wish to come to the meeting.

On July 2014, Prof Ron met the Nobel Prize laureate Prof Aaron Ciechanover. After a brief report on the CEREHA achievements, Prof Ciechanover was very interested in the teaching activities of the CEREHA-recruited faculty members and emphasized the point that doing good research is only part of the expectations. This was discussed earlier at the SAC meeting in the Galilee as a goal. As a result, Prof Ron contacted Prof Jacob Vaya – the newly appointed Dean of the Faculty of Sciences and Technologyin Tel Hai Academic College, and they arranged the incorporation of the new researchers into the teaching system.

The next SAC meeting will be held in Kiryat Shmonaon October 24-26, 2014 and will include the participation of Prof Lene Rassmussen from the University of Copenhagen and Prof Rino Rappuoli, head of the vaccine R&D in Novartis.