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The Ophek team working on the innovative plan at the Technion’s 3–Day Startup competition: (l to r) Igor Vainer, Sahar Sela and Doron Manzur.

“Lazy eye” (amblyopia) is the most common cause of pediatric vision problems, affecting two to three out of every 100 children. Typically, the lazy eye itself looks normal, but for various reasons the brain favors the other eye. Amblyopia must be diagnosed at an early age to optimize treatment outcomes. But getting a child to sit still while a bright light is shining into his/her eyes, is easier said than done.

To diagnose lazy eye and other vision disorders in kids, Technion students Doron Manzur and Sahar Sela, originally part of a team of eight students working together at the Technion 3–Day Startup (3DS) competition in April 2017, came up with the idea of creating a pediatric eye exam that uses virtual reality to make the process fun!

Sixty pitches were narrowed down to 30, and then cut further. Their Ophek-VR (an acronym for Ophthalmologic exam for kids) landed in the top 10, bringing a $50,000 prize and the chance to enter the prestigious national BizTEC Challenge. While they did not make it through the next round, Doron, a medical student (class of 2017), and Sahar, an engineering student, continue to develop Ophek, and share their thoughts on the process.

How was the idea born?

Doron, CEO, Ophek-VR: The idea came to one of our original teammates, Igor Vainer, a medical student who is now focused solely on finishing his medical degree. While working in the eye department at Rambam Hospital, he saw the pediatric exam was time consuming, and not suitable for children. It required the child’s cooperation in keeping his forehead still while a strong light was directed into his eyes. Every time the child moved, the device lost focus and the doctor had to start again. Also, the hospital setting is frightening for children.

Ophek-VR’s original 8-member team gives a thumbs up at the competition: (l to r) Itamar Getzler; Rafi Nave, head of the Bronica Entrepreneurship Center at the Technion; Igor Vainer; Sahar Sela; Doron Manzur; Ron Liraz; Meged Shoham; Dan Cohen and Chen Reich.

What brought you to the 3–DS, and to your teammates?

Doron: I always knew I wanted to be a doctor, and I also wanted to do something that is meaningful. I worked before in a small startup that didn’t succeed. And I am now also working at Novocure, started by Technion Professor Yoram Palti, which uses electrical fields to treat brain cancer. Then I found 3–DS.

Sahar, COO, Ophek-VR: Startups always attracted me. During high school, in Ra’anana (a suburb of Tel Aviv), I made my own computer lab and took a leadership program that focused on developing social startups. I wanted to start an organization to help bulimic young women, but didn’t have the time to pursue it. At the Technion, I’m studying electrical engineering and physics. Entering the 3DS presented an opportunity to combine my scientific bent with my interest in the social good.

Can you describe the 72 hours of the 3DS?

Doron: It was a roller coaster. We didn’t know each other from the start. We started on a Thursday evening, working until 2:00 a.m., hearing what everyone wanted to do in the project. The next morning, we went to Rambam Hospital to talk with a doctor about our idea and get his feedback. We returned pale as ghosts. We had hoped he would say ‘this was amazing,’ but he gave us the cold shoulder. We thought about changing everything.

We took a 30-minute break to think about revamping the project. When we came back together, we agreed that the idea was a good one and we wouldn’t let anyone tell us any differently. We saw a need, and a solution. It was already 8 p.m. when we started working on the project again, and panicked because there wasn’t much time left. In the morning, we pitched it.

An animated picture of the future exam

How will Ophek-VR work?

Sahar: We are building Ophek as a virtual reality device that will use lenses and cameras to examine a patient’s eyes, while he or she watches a movie. The patient will wear a set of VR goggles that allows him to move his eyes, but keeps them at a steady distance from the camera. We will need to shine a direct beam of light in the eye, but the light will be incorporated into the movie. The device can be used in a doctor’s office, so the child will not need to visit the hospital. Later, we’ll be able to add machine learning in order to recognize common patterns of various eye diseases, leading to better diagnosis.

Ophek team members after landing in the top 10: (l to r) Doron Manzur, Igor Vainer, Meged Shoham, Chen Reich, Dan Cohen, Sahar Sela and Ron Liraz

Entrepreneurs tend to embrace setbacks on the assumption that “failure is one step toward success.” What is the future for Ophek, now that you will not be heading toward BizTEC?

Doron: For now, we are focusing on understanding why we didn’t make it to the finals. The judges didn’t give us any comments on their decision, and the organizers of BizTEC thought our product and idea was very good. So, we are trying to understand the market better, and see if our solution really fits the problem.

Sahar: We didn’t get to BizTEC, but we did leave with a bag full of lessons, experience in entrepreneurship, and connections with lawyers who will do business with us in the future. We’ll keep working on this project because this was just a competition. One competition you win and another you lose.

Check out our recent Facebook photo album for more photos.

Learn more about how to show your support for students through The Technion Fund.

Our ATS community across the U.S. was treated to recent visits (February 21-March 7) by some of the Technion’s incredibly impressive students. Their academic interests range from medicine to environmental engineering and artificial intelligence, while their hobbies include dancing, Tae Kwon Do and skydiving. Dave Doneson, ATS Senior Vice President of Resource Development, had the chance to catch up with the students when they were passing through New York. Below are some excerpts from this inspiring panel discussion.

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Dave: We’re thrilled to have such a diverse and interesting group with us this year. We’ve tagged your trip #TechnionFuture so we can follow you around on social media. But the hashtag could just as easily have been #Israel’sFuture because of the outsized role that Technion students have typically played in transforming Israel’s economy.

Given the academic rigor the Technion requires of its students, and the fact that you guys are raising babies, training seeing-eye dogs and dancing on the side, I’m wondering how you could get away—even for a brief week—to visit us? And what you most want to tell us regarding what the Technion and ATS mean to you?

Amit Gilboa: Undergraduate in Civil Engineering & Transportation Infrastructure, “Cadets for Transportation”

I want to say thank you! Without you, it wouldn’t be possible for me to now be in my fourth year at the Technion.

When I was just about to finish my first year, Operation Protective Edge (2014 conflict with Gaza) broke out. I was on active duty for 40 days. The time needed to go from Haifa to where my unit is based was the time I needed to shift into military mode. But shifting back to my academic life was much harder. I returned during an exam period, the hardest part of the semester. The ATS helped me get back on course. Without the support of the Beatrice Weston Unit for the Advancement of Students, I would not have managed to get back on track. But I got good grades and saved some money for the next semester. I even used a small portion of the funds to go on a much-needed vacation to clear my head.

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Dave: Our Executive Vice President Jeff Richard recently tweeted an article about the awful air pollution in India. Pollution is a global concern. Two of our Technion alumni innovators founded BreezoMeter, and are developing apps to monitor air quality all over the world. Yaela, you seem to be following in their footsteps. Can you tell us about your involvement in the field of “citizen science,” and the project you are leading called “Sensing the Air?”

Yaela Golumbic: Ph.D. student in Science Communication, specializing in “Citizen Science”

Air quality is of great interest to most people in Haifa. On one side, we have environmental scientists who build algorithms to measure air quality distribution over time and space. On the other side, we have people who want to know the quality of the air that they’re raising their kids in. “Citizen Science” connects the two by helping citizens collaborate in scientific research. “Sensing the Air” is an air quality monitoring project in which residents help scientists by providing observation on the air that they are experiencing in their community. Some residents take air sensors with them to their homes or other places of interest. That information is transferred to scientists. And we are building an online platform to monitor air quality—in real time—at many locations throughout Haifa. We are now expanding through the whole country. So, we’re all working together to improve the situation for everyone.

Dave: Speaking of innovations to improve health, we’re very excited about the opening last year of the Technion Integrated Cancer Center (TICC), which brings together clinicians, engineers and researchers from many areas. Eliana, as a medical student, can you speak about what it is like to be part of such a multidisciplinary program? Does that differentiate your experience at the Technion from that of other medical students in Israel?

Eliana Fischer: Medical student in the Technion Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine

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Yes, definitely. I like science in engineering ways, as well as medicine. That comes together at the Technion. There is a big focus on getting us into medicine, technology-wise—in really understanding the tools. I understand much more because I understand the mechanism behind the machines I use, behind, for example, why things flow the way they do in the body. I also learned how to program in Matlab. You won’t find medical students in other universities who know how to use that.

There are also many projects that focus on collaboration between engineers and doctors and other researchers. That’s the future in hospitals and startups.

Dave: For people who don’t know a lot about the Technion, its graduates have a stellar track record in helping create Israel’s high-tech miracle. More than half of the Israeli companies on Nasdaq were founded or are run by Technion alumni. And the university offers opportunities for students to work with industry. Omer, I understand that you worked at Mellanox. Can you tell us what it was like to work in a startup?

Omer Amit: Undergraduate student of Industrial Engineering and Management, and Chairman of the Technion Student Association

It was wonderful. I worked for a year at Mellanox (communication equipment), whose co-founder and CEO, Eyal Waldman, is a Technion alumnus. I remember one of my first interviews in the office. I could tell that everyone was so proud of that company. They were not the owners yet they spoke of the company like it was their own. One thing I realized after I started working there was that it’s an Israeli company that grew up step by step to the worldwide, industrial company it is today. That makes its workers feel a part of it.

Personally, it was inspiring to think that students like me can graduate and start their own company. I’ve always had a dream to start my own company. And I’ve wondered, not once, but many times, what to do so that maybe, one day, I’ll get to this!

Dave: We all know that machine learning is a fertile topic in today’s world. Who can forget when IBM’s Watson computer competed on Jeopardy! and won first prize? Noah, you are pursuing a master’s degree in the field. Can you tell us about what interests you about machine learning, and talk about its real-world applications?

Noam Heiman: M.S. student in Information Management Engineering (Data Science), specializing in artificial intelligence and machine learning

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I’m not good in history. I can’t remember dates or names. But give me something that has logic behind it, and I can make that logic remember those things for me. So, I was always interested in computer science, in writing programs and using that information to do tasks with. But that was yesterday’s computer science.

We still define the task for the computer. We’re not at the stage where a machine can tell itself what to do. But today, we are making the machines write their own code. Computers learn from experience. Just as a child learns what to do and what not to do from experience—he touches the burner and his mother says no, it’s hot. Machine learning is based upon that, though there is also a lot of math behind it. It’s amazing to me.

Dave: Shani, you and Amit are both participating in the “Cadets for Transportation.” This is a program, as I understand it, that trains the next generation of public servants for governmental positions in transportation. Can you tell us a bit about this program and how it equips you to become a leader in this vital area for Israel?

Shani Hamama: Undergraduate student of Civil Engineering & Transportation Infrastructure, “Cadets for Transportation”

We study transportation infrastructure and learn what it means to serve the public sector in Israel. Each week, we meet engineers from industry. Someone from the Ministry of Transportation may come to speak, or someone working in the field talks to us about making your career as a transportation engineer. We also take tours to see various transportation projects. As a fourth-year student, we make weekly visits to one of six governmental companies, like Israel Railways or Israel Port Authority.

We work for at least four years in the public sector after graduation. But the program aims to keep us in the public sector, so that we can grow up in key roles in this field. Israel’s infrastructure is being built up again. It is so important.

See highlights from their journey across the U.S. in social media via #TechnionFuture.

You can take the Israeli out of Israel, but you can’t dampen his entrepreneurial spirit. Dr. Amir Lerman, a Technion graduate of The Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine (class of ‘85), is leading an initiative at the Mayo Clinic to promote collaboration with Israeli startups for medical innovation.

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Dr. Lerman at his research laboratory at Mayo Clinic

The Mayo Clinic Israeli Startups Initiative, announced in May during the IATI-Biomed 2016 conference, will partner, collaborate with and invest in Israeli medical technology with the aim of accelerating the availability of medical innovations. “Israel is very innovative in the field of biomedical research. So engagement with early or late stage medical companies will benefit our patients in the long run,” says Dr. Lerman, a cardiologist and the medical director of the Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic Initiative.

 

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Dr. Lerman at his Cardiac Catherization laboratory at Mayo Clinic

The plan is to partner and collaborate with startups, institutions and researchers, as well as venture capital firms, to develop promising technology across a variety of areas including therapy, diagnostics, prognostics, devices, individualized medicine and regenerative medicine. “We are not restricting ourselves. We are looking for good technologies.”

The initiative is a win-win situation, as Mayo improves its treatment options and Israeli startups are helped to penetrate the U.S. market. “It’s also important to show that a major medical institution in the U.S. chose to work with start-up companies from Israel,” says Lerman.

Dr. Lerman was born and raised in Israel, and graduated from the Technion School of Medicine (cum laude) in 1985, before completing his training in Internal Medicine, Cardiovascular Diseases and Invasive Cardiology at the Mayo Clinic. “Studying at the Technion Medical School was a great experience,” he recalls. “The first year or more we studied together with the engineering school, which had a major effect on how I look at things in medicine.”

The Startups Initiative is managed by Mayo Clinic Ventures, the commercialization arm of the Mayo Clinic, and supported in part by The Merage Institute, which is committed to promoting trade as a vehicle to economic growth between Israel and the United States.

For more information, contact Dr. Amir Lerman at lerman.amir@mayo.edu.

 

Imagine having the opportunity to live in Israel, while studying in English and making friends with people from all over the world. The Technion International School offers just that. We caught up with three international students from very different walks of life. The four-year program grants a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering.

Chayah Rosenblum, 19, was raised Orthodox in West Hempstead, NY, attended Yeshiva University High School for Girls, where she graduated on the Honor Roll and in the National Honor Society. She just completed her first year at the Technion, and hopes to transfer to the Technion Faculty of Aerospace Engineering when she becomes fluent enough in Hebrew. She made aliyah last summer.

Elda Yitbarek, 18, grew up with a large extended family of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents in Mekelle, Ethiopia, the capital city of the country’s northern region. She wants to be an engineer, but felt that the engineering programs at Ethiopian universities are lacking. Like Chayah, Elda recently finished her first year at the Technion.

Simon Ulka, 23, comes from Quickborn, a small German town near Hamburg. His father founded a tile company, which sparked his interest in construction. Simon just finished the four-year program, where he graduated with a 4.0 GPA and First-Class Honors, a major in Civil Engineering with a focus on Construction Management, and a minor in Environmental Engineering. He is considering becoming a project engineer.

What brought you to the Technion International School?

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Chaya Rosenblum

Chayah: One of the reasons I came to Israel is that it’s a Jewish state, our homeland. I love it. I was already at a seminary in Jerusalem when I realized I wanted to move here. I was going to go to the University of Maryland, but then I got an email that I was accepted to the Technion. I wasn’t sure what time it was in the U.S., but I immediately called my parents. I was so excited.

Elda: Ethiopia is a growing country. We are still building roads and installing trains. We need many engineers. I wanted to do engineering, so I came with my school on a trip to Israel. We visited many universities. The Technion seemed to be friendly and to have the best engineering. I also liked Haifa more than Tel Aviv.

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Simon Ulka

Simon: I was drafted into the German Army and had a choice of doing military service or social service. I had been a youth leader in Germany, so I accepted an offer from Akim Jerusalem (which works with people with intellectual disabilities). I spent the year learning Hebrew and Arabic, getting to know the country, and thought it would be a waste if I left after just one year. So I found the Technion International School online. I started studying civil engineering with the goal of switching to electrical engineering after my first year. But I was having so much fun, I decided not to switch.

How are Israel and Israelis different than the society and people in your country?

Simon: I am not Jewish, but I’ve been to Shabbos dinners in religious communities, and I was surprised how their Friday night dinners are so similar to our traditional German Sunday night dinners. The religious rituals are close to what we do in Germany. Both of us sing. The only difference is the songs. After dinner (in Israel) we play board games. I felt at home. I’ve experienced great hospitality from Jewish citizens and Palestinians.

Chayah: Everyone is friendly but much more pushy in Israel. And I’m starting to fit in. I had to go to the Ministry of Interior, and came early to avoid a long wait. I was 10th in line, but pushed my way up to second so that I could get back to class on time. I would not have done that in the U.S. Also, the culture here is more relaxed, compared to America. People are less concerned about being on time and having things organized. People are more into hanging out and being spontaneous than back home.

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Elda Yitbareck

Elda: If you think the social life is relaxed here, you should come to Ethiopia. Friends come to my home and stay for days, sometimes weeks. Ethiopians value social connection. Friendships seem to be more intimate than in Israel. Life at home is far less formal than in Israel. Here everything is in its rightful order. There are traffic laws. In Ethiopia, nobody pays attention to whether the light is red or green. If there is no car, you just cross.

What about the academics? How does the teaching and course load compare to universities in your country?

Simon: The Technion is more rigorous but German universities are more open. You are not forced to come to class in Germany, whereas here they take attendance. Classes at the Technion are smaller, so you have close relationships with the professors. You call them by their first name and may even have their phone numbers. Given the rigor at the Technion, professors give you a second chance. If you fail a calculus final and want to retake it, the second one will count. I like that a lot.

Elda: You can’t go to a test and say, ‘Ah, I know this question,’ because the questions on finals and exams are different from what you do in class. It’s not memorization. The professors teach you the basics, then you have to apply it. It triggers you to think. They make you think, and give you time to think. That’s what engineering is. Engineers have to come up with something new.

Given all the cultural and academic differences, what has been your biggest adjustment?

all 3 intl students-0399Chayah: I knew there would be people from all over, but I was surprised at how diverse the International School is. My high school was a very sheltered environment, with only Orthodox Jews. It’s interesting to meet people from all over, and to be in a co-ed environment. But I’ve had to adjust to that.

 

Elda: Settling in was a bit difficult for me, especially in the mechina (preparatory program). I felt very homesick. I missed my friends and family. I didn’t know how to manage money. But the worst of it was that I couldn’t cook. Step-by-step I made friends and then . . . whoosh. . . I started liking it.

Simon: I spent a year in Jerusalem before coming to the Technion, so I was acclimated. It helped that I have three Israeli roommates. I got introduced to the Technion and to the Israeli community by way of my roommates. Many people do not have that privilege. I’ve gotten involved in Israeli life. I was a team leader in charge of designing a concrete canoe (for an engineering and design competition). And this is my third semester in the Technion choir. The climate is warmer here than in Germany, and the people are more warm-hearted.

Have you experienced moments when you said to yourself, “I can’t believe I’m really here!”

Elda: I never thought I’d be visiting Israel at this age, alone, without my family. I’ve never traveled alone. So when I first came I said, ‘I can’t believe it.’ When I’m cooking for myself, again I say, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this.’ Also, our country is landlocked. Whenever I go to the Mediterranean Sea, I just can’t believe what I’m seeing. It’s beyond measure. I like to think of it as a gift.

Chayah: The times that I most appreciate are when I hear people speaking Hebrew, like on a bus. Or when I see streets that are named after Biblical figures or people from Israel’s history (i.e. Jabotinsky Street). At school in the U.S., I learned Hebrew to study the Tanach and also had conversational classes, but not this intense. I’ve become a lot more fluent and I love learning the language. It’s really cool when our teacher makes connections between words with the same root. And it’s so cool to learn physics in Hebrew.

Finally, has your experience at the Technion been transformational?

Elda: I’m learning how to stand on my own two feet. That’s been the most transformational for me. I’ve got to do it at some point, so this is the time. In Israel.

Simon: I’ve been here four years and it has changed me a lot. I’ve become fluent in Hebrew; I don’t remember the last time I had a dream in German. I’m more understanding of the country, and I got to know many other cultures. I’d never met a Nepali person before coming here. So the international community at the Technion has really been great. It’s opened my mind and my eyes. My horizons have really broadened.

I also found my passion for civil engineering. It happened when we took a trip to Tel Aviv for an introductory course in civil engineering. A civil engineer guided us, pointing out each building he had built, and I thought how really nice it wold be to go through a city and say, ‘I built this one.’ To leave my mark.

Chayah: Coming to the Technion has been one of my biggest accomplishments. That I came to Israel by myself. That I’m studying engineering; going forward with my dreams, even though it is challenging to be in a different country far from my family – it has been incredibly transformational. I don’t plan on leaving. There are so many cool things to do. I want to travel more, and I hope I can bring my family here. I really hope to build my life here and have a family.

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Jerusalem Venture Partners employees at their headquarters

Deep within the ancient city of Jerusalem, a tech-savvy investment firm is working on the latest modern-day tools to delight consumers and thwart cybercrime.

The striking headquarters of Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), a stop on the Technion World Tour, is located in a historic compound that draws visitors from around the world. Since 1993, JVP has shown a stellar talent for finding, nurturing — and cashing in quite nicely — on promising startups.

And once again JVP has been way ahead of the pack as it expands its focus from digital media infrastructure into the booming area of cybersecurity, a growing concern for consumers, businesses and governments worldwide.

“The big thing is changing the equation between the attacker and the defender,” says Managing Partner Kobi Rozengarten, a Technion Industrial Engineering and Management graduate who has been with the firm since 1997.

“We are in the business of defending. Securing the cloud, securing your devices, securing your wi-fi, even securing your business from employees or impostors who might mean harm.”

Global Reputation

One of Israel’s leading venture capital funds, JVP was recently ranked by the investment data firm Preqin among the top 10 consistently performing funds in the world. With more than $1 billion raised to date, JVP has helped build over 120 companies and orchestrated about 30 major “exits” — investor lingo for a successful industry sale or stock-market IPO.

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The JVP Media Quarter complex

How do they do it? Kobi explains that Israel’s VC community is largely clustered around Tel Aviv, “So when you’re outside the center you have to think differently.”

JVP thus took the unusually proactive step of creating its own start-up incubator, in league with an Israeli government early-stage start-up program — a unique public-private strategy in the venture capital world.

“At JVP this is a great model for building companies, ” Kobi says. “And we’re proud to see other investors emulating our model.”

Looking for ideas that can have international impact, JVP will audition about 1,000 startups yearly — but invest in perhaps just 10. If your startup is among that lucky 1 percent, you’ll benefit not just from seed money but from the JVP team’s many combined years of hands-on high-tech industry experience.

“We are company builders, not financial investors,” emphasizes Kobi, who learned the ropes leading his own successful semiconductor startup. “We also have a deeper commitment to our companies. It can take a decade or more to ready a firm for a successful exit.”

Ehud Rokach, a Technion alumnus and Co-founder of XtremIO, says “JVP did an impeccable job helping us grow our startup, and they have been such a valuable partner for other tech companies sprouting from the Technion. It also helps that Kobi really gets us. As an alumnus, he knows how we think, and that the sky’s the limit for us given the training we received at the Tehnion.” XtremIO is the leading all-flash array on the market, and another stop on the Technion World Tour.

Serving on the Technion Board of Governors, Kobi also helps run a scholarship fund for Jerusalem residents hoping to study at the university, and says JVP stands ready to lend its expertise as the Technion continues to enhance its own emphasis on entrepreneurship.

Tourist Attraction

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The complex is just minutes away from the Old City of Jerusalem

Along with its impressive return on investment, JVP might be the only VC firm that is also a must-see on any tourist itinerary.

Housed in the renovated national Mint of the British Empire and the Ottoman warehouses next door, its headquarters — known as the JVP Media Quarter — has been a driving force in the revitalization that has swept the area surrounding Jerusalem’s old train station.

The Media Quarter is the brainchild of company founder Erel Margalit, who in 2006 envisioned a new life for the Mint, built by the British in 1937 and abandoned by the Israeli government in the 1980’s.

After two years of painstaking preservation, in moved JVP’s venture capital team, its Media Labs incubator and about a dozen of its leading portfolio companies. The compound houses 300-plus employees as well as the fund’s own busy performing arts hub and its philanthropic community outreach organization.

Architecture buffs will especially appreciate the Mint building’s landmark Bauhaus style. But any visitor will appreciate the spark of creativity and innovation running through the complex with its mix of engineers, artists, authors, filmmakers and cultural figures.

“Our headquarters is a unique place,” Kobi says, “right in front of Mt. Zion, site of King David‘s Tomb and Jesus‘ last supper. Jerusalem is becoming more active and more a part of the “Start-Up Nation.” We regularly welcome business and government delegations from around the world who come to study our business model.”

Changing the Equation

That model got an additional boost last year as JVP sealed a major partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba — the Amazon of Asia — to support promising tech startups.

JVP’s start-up portfolio is attractive to companies such as Alibaba because of its focus on enterprise security software — vital technology as Alibaba grows beyond e-commerce into cloud computing, data management, online payments and credit scoring.

“When a 14-year-old hacker somewhere in Iran can get into a company’s system and cause many millions of dollars worth of damage,” Kobi says, “you must change that equation. You must make that attack much more difficult.”

“As the ferocity, scope and sophistication of cyber-attacks continue to grow, so must our capacity to defend our critical assets,” comments Gadi Tirosh, a fellow managing partner at JVP, in a recent report. “As part of our investment process, we review about 90 percent of the Israeli cyber startups, and we are very excited by the level of creativity, know-how and innovation that we are seeing.”

Technion World Tour

The JVP headquarters is just one of the many exciting stops on the Technion World Tour. To learn more, register or request more information, please visit www.technionworldtour.org.

 

 

Some of the Technion’s best and brightest students, accompanied by rocket scientist Professor Alon Gany, recently visited our offices in New York City. Sitting down with our staff and senior leadership was just the first stop in their journey across the U.S. In total, six students are currently traveling across the nation to meet ATS staff, donors, industry leaders and others interested in what it’s like to be a student of the Technion.

See highlights below of the Q & A panel discussion led by Jeff Richard, our Executive Vice President.

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(l to r) Danielle Movsowitz, Ari Levine, Prof. Alon Gany, ATS EVP Jeff Richard, Shani Elitzur, and Nimrod Harani

Jeff: We are thrilled to have you visit. As I know you all have busy workloads back in Haifa, I’m wondering why it was important to take the time to visit so many of our offices here in the U.S.?

Shani Elitzur, a PhD student of Aerospace Engineering studying green energy: This is an amazing opportunity for us to say thank you to the people who influence our daily lives. Our lab was donated by ATS supporters. All of the equipment in the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, our libraries, and basically everything that we have is donated. It’s a great help and we appreciate it a lot. My fellowship allows me to concentrate solely on my research. I just want to say thank you for that.

studentsblog1Nimrod Harani, an undergraduate majoring in both materials science and engineering plus chemistry: I want to connect faces to the people who are now just names on plaques in the dormitories, the libraries and the laboratories. They’re people with their own stories that influence Israel and the Technion.

Jeff: Tell me a bit about being a student in Haifa — what is it like studying in such a tech-driven hub for innovation, in such a diverse community?

Ari Levine, a PhD student in chemistry with a medical degree from Bar-Ilan University: Haifa is big on co-existence. You have Jews, Arabs and Christians; you have Russian immigrants and Ethiopian immigrants. That kind of diversity is reflected in the Technion student community too. Meeting all of these people gives rise to new ideas, new ways of thinking and pushes forward achievement. It also makes student life incredibly interesting.

studentsblog2Nimrod: The Technion is the institution that puts life into Haifa. The creativity and the vibe of solving problems makes the area around it thrive. The Technion is the core.

Jeff: Many talk about a “secret sauce,” a zeitgeist that encourages students over there to think creatively and independently, to push the boundaries. Please share your thoughts on what drives such entrepreneurial spirit on the Technion campus.

Nimrod: There’s always a struggle for any student to go outside of academia to build start-ups. But Technion professors accept revolutionary ideas. They use their laboratories to innovate and promote new notions, which puts high-tech and the Start-Up Nation inside the Technion. Many graduate students and professors have startups, but they don’t leave academia. One year they invent in the lab, and the next they launch a start-up. This is a real strength for the Technion.

studentsblog6Ari: I found something in a research paper that didn’t make sense. So I talked to my professor and he said, ‘yeah your point is interesting but people have been talking about this for 10 years. Everything we know, we know.’ Yet he encouraged me to start researching it. We found what we believe is a completely different answer, which gave rise to what we call “quantum mechanical unfurling.” It was interesting how my professor was open to me challenging things that are already known, which I’m not sure you get in every school. That’s something really special at the Technion. Not only are we encouraged to go forward with our ideas, but we also have the full backing of our professors.

Shani: We are in the Technion. Innovation is part of our lives. This is what is expected. You have no other options. You don’t think you are doing innovative stuff, you’re just working on what you love and innovation is in the air.

studentsvisit5Jeff: Professor Gany, you hold some 20 patents, so it’s safe to say you know a thing or two about innovation. Can you give us your point of view?

Professor Gany, Head of the Sylvia and David I.A. Fine Rocket Propulsion Center, Director of the Aerothermodynamics Lab, and Deputy Head of the Aeronautical Research Center: If you’re in research, you have to deal with traditional research but you also have to come up with novel ideas. You have to take risks. We do take risks, which means that we come up with new ideas, diverse ideas, and we are called the “Start-Up Nation” because of this. Students are encouraged to think innovatively, to develop ideas themselves, and it eventually pays off. Those who finish at the Technion have a bright future.

Jeff: We hear a lot about the Technion’s academic rigor. Can you tell us how that figures into your own journey and experience on campus?

studentsblog4.jpfNimrod: I studied two courses of mathematics at another university in Israel. Both of them together weren’t enough to replace the basic math course at the Technion. When I got here, I realized I was in a completely different university.

Ari: I had the ability to study both medicine and theoretical chemistry at the same time only because I had done my bachelor’s at the Technion. I don’t think that any other school would have prepared me for competing on that level.

Jeff: Tell us about life outside the classroom. Is that encouraged? Is there enough time?

Danielle Movsowitz, an undergraduate student in computer science, focusing on cloud computing: There’s not much time (laughs) but it certainly is encouraged. We do try to find time to do things, especially since the studies are so hard. I am active in the Technion Students Association, and we plan many parties, social events, gym classes, movies and other gatherings on campus. The events are as cheap and accessible as possible. We also do study. I often find myself staying at the library till midnight. But then we’ll go to the pub, situated in the center of the university, or to a party on campus. If you only study, that’s not good for your head!

Jeff: What specific challenges, if any, have you faced being students at the Technion?

Danielle: In computer science we are about 30 percent women, and we’re bringing more women in each year. I don’t feel that anybody puts us aside because we’re women. Not only that, but most of the honor students are women (laughs) because they work very hard to prove they are worthy.

Follow the students’ journey across social media via #TechnionFuture or visit www.ats.org to learn more about the ATS.

 

 

Several professional titles grace Gad Rennert’s signature, giving him charge of Clalit’s National Cancer Control Center and Personalized Medicine Program, and its Breast and Colorectal Cancer Detection Program. Clalit is Israel’s largest health provider. He is also a Technion professor at The Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and chairman of the Department of Community Medicine and Epidemiology at the Technion-affiliated Carmel Medical Center.

Dr. Rennert wears many hats, but his interests are mostly focused on cancer genetics. Renowned for his large-scale studies of breast cancer and BRCA gene mutations in Israeli women, he has launched the First International Conference on “Founder Populations and their Contribution to our Understanding of Biology and History – Lessons from the Jewish Genome” (July 10-13, Haifa, Israel). We recently had the opportunity to interview him about this most exciting initiative.

What makes this gathering the first of its kind?

gadi

Dr. Gad Rennert

We are trying to do something different by focusing on the concept of founder populations — populations that can be traced back to a time in history when they all originated from the same source. This is the first international conference of this type, aimed at evaluating the contributions made by studying one of the most significant founder populations in the world — the Jewish community.

Ashkenazim are a founder population because they have kept their cohesiveness for generations. That has led to discoveries in the genetics of Ashkenazi Jews, which in turn has contributed to global science. BRCA gene mutations, for example, which put women at risk for developing breast and ovarian cancer, are prevalent in this population. While we know three mutations in Ashkenazi Jews, we now know hundreds more in non-Ashkenazim that would not have been detected had it not been for the Jews.

Also, genetic meetings can be so esoteric that attendees who are not in the exact field might feel lost. We will be a multidisciplinary group of clinical geneticists, population geneticists, genealogists and more so that a broad range of professionals, as well as lay people, can participate.

Can you give us a glimpse into the conference highlights?

 

We’ll be dealing with various issues of wide interest such as uncovering your genetic origins, using your genes to deduce risk of chronic disease, and employing large-scale initiatives to genetically characterize large populations. In the session “Genetics Meets History,” Near-East scholars, historians and genealogists will talk about the movement of Jewish and Mediterranean populations around the world and what that tells us about the Biblical stories. Is there genetic evidence to confirm that the Exodus really took place? Did King Solomon and Queen Sheba leave genetic evidence in Ethiopia? Other talks will discuss the current and future demography of the Jewish people.

The cadre of speakers is impressive. Professor Robert Winston of Imperial College London, a member of UK’s House of Lords and a world-renowned fertility expert and science commentator, will open the meeting with a talk about the promise of genetics. Eric Green, Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute in Washington, D.C., will present President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative, a plan to draw the genetic map of American populations. Spencer Wells, head of the National Geographic Genographic Project, will talk about genetically mapping the world populations. We will close with an address by Sir Walter Bodmer, one of the most significant geneticists living today.

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DNA Double Helix

The first step of the Human Genome Project was to create the human genetic map, but the next step is to use it. People are sitting at home not knowing their risk of disease. If we actively seek them out and test them, we could potentially save lives. That raises other issues. Our session on genetic screening will feature a law professor and clinical geneticists, including one of the world’s leading medical-halachic ethicists.

Which diseases will be covered?

One session will deal with cancer syndromes, including the Jewish genes involved in breast and ovarian, lung, and colon cancers. Another will be devoted to non-cancerous syndromes that are prevalent in Ashkenazi Jews such as Tay-Sachs, Gaucher and inflammatory bowel disease, as well as the genetics of Jewish aging. We will also talk about the genetic syndromes found in Israeli Druze, Bedouins and the Arabs of Galilee.

What do you hope this conference will accomplish?

Genetics is a fast-moving science. I hope the multidisciplinary approach will encourage professionals to think out of the box, improve their understanding and develop new ideas. More important, our mission for the layperson is to change attitudes. We want genetics to be something you talk about, something you deal with — something that empowers people rather than frightens. Understanding and empowerment come with education.

Please join us! If you are interested in learning more about your genealogy or are already planning a visit to Israel this summer, we encourage you to spend the day with us in Haifa.

Please click here to learn more and register for the conference. http://www.foundergenomics.com