Israeli students from Tel Aviv University achieved unprecedented success at the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM), the world championship in synthetic biology.
The 50%-female team won first place in the Best Software Development category, and second place in the Foundational Advance category, a prize given for proposed solutions for fundamental problems in synthetic biology.
In the competition’s overall ranking, the TAU team ranked higher than teams from some of the world’s top universities, including Stanford, MIT, Harvard and Cornell.
Students from 256 leading universities around the world participated in the competition. Each team formed an original idea and implemented it like a startup venture.
Usually, the competition takes place in Boston, but this year, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it was conducted online.
The TAU team, led by Prof. Tamir Tuller, Head of the Laboratory of Computational, Systems and Synthetic Biology, The Fleischman Faculty of Engineering, included 12 students from the Faculties of Engineering, Medicine, Life Sciences and Exact Sciences: Karin Sionov (Captain), Niv Amitay, Hadar Ben Shoshan, Noa Kraicer, Bar Glickstein, Itamar Menuhin, Matan Arbel, Doron Naky, Omer Edgar, Itai Katzir, David Kenigsberger and Einav Saadia
Genetic engineering is based on the insertion of genes from one organism into another organism. The challenge in this process is the instability of these genes, which are often quickly “erased” from the genome.
In the iGEM competition, the TAU team developed an innovative technology that improves genome stability and ensures long-term preservation of the inserted synthetic genes.
Since most of the world’s biotech and pharma companies use this type of genetic engineering, the new technology can contribute to a range of areas, such as drug development, the food and agriculture industry and green energy.
The technology, based on tools from various disciplines, including engineering, computer science and molecular biology, comprises software for designing genetically stable DNA sequences, alongside novel techniques for measuring genome stability.
Impressed with the new technology, the judges awarded it a gold medal, as well as prizes and high ranking in several categories.
Team Captain Karin Sionov, who holds a BSc in Biomedical Engineering from TAU’s Faculty of Engineering, said that “winning was our reward for a whole year of hard, challenging work. We came to the competition with great motivation and gave everything we had. I am glad that we defeated some of the world’s leading universities.”
Prof. Tamir Tuller crown the award as “a very impressive achievement, which proves that TAU leads and excels in synthetic biology – not only in Israel but internationally as well.”
“One proof of the immensity of the achievement comes from a Swiss company that has expressed an interest in our technology, already forwarding a contribution to advance the idea, and intending to support us on our way to commercialization,” he said.
The Corona Cabinet unanimously voted on Tuesday night to approve the outline of Education Minister Yoav Galant for the opening of almost all of the education system, two months after it was shut down as part of Israel’s second Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown.
After a discussion lasting several hours, the cabinet decided that high school students in green and yellow cities with low infection rates will return to school this coming Sunday, and that middle school students will return to school the following Sunday, December 6.
The move will be accompanied by an increase in the number of tests among teaching staff and students.
Galant wrote on Twitter: “Dear students – in good time you are all returning to school – to studies, teachers and friends.”
“Principals and teachers are prepared to open the various educational institutions and together with the health authorities, we will increase the scope of tests for students and teaching staff, to maintain their health. For you, the dearest students of all, all that remains is to prepare the schoolbag,” he added.
The majority of the school system has been learning remotely from home for the past two months, presenting educational, social, and emotional challenges to both teachers and students.
Professor Eran Segal, a scientist at the Weizmann Institute and an expert on the Coronavirus, noted that around the world, an index of five verified new cases per week for 10,000 residents has been defined as a low level of morbidity below which schools can be opened.
Most localities in the general sector meet this criterion, he said.
He further pointed out that since the opening of grades one through four and the other easing in restriction of phase 2 some three weeks, there has been no increase in morbidity in the general public.
Overall, morbidity is stable at all ages, and there is even a decrease in morbidity at ages 0-6.
The IDF concluded on Sunday a surprise drill launched by IDF Chief of Staff Major General Aviv Kochavi simulating another war in the Gaza Strip.
Gaza Division forces took part in the exercise, along with forces from the Air and Space Arms, the Sea Arm, the Information and Communication Technology Division and Cyber Defense Division, the Intelligence Division, the intelligence community and the Israel Police.
The forces practiced a variety of scenarios that included responding to operational and evolving events at the border.
The exercise examined inter-organizational and multi-armed cooperation, the work interfaces between the forces, and decision-making in a multi-dimensional event.
As part of the Chief of Staff’s test, the troops practiced a scenario of a cyber-attack and the shutdown of operational systems in the division.
This is the fifth surprise test that Kochavi has introduced. The exercise was set as part of the IDF’s annual training graph for 2020 and is intended to improve the readiness of the forces for escalation in the southern arena, the IDF underscored.
Kochavi conducted the test remotely through classified military communications.
The Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Major General Eyal Zamir, led the exercise in the field, together with the Operations Division and the IDF Comptroller Unit.
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) on Saturday night numbed Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in response to a rocket attack on the city of Ashkelon earlier in the evening.
Gaza-based terrorists launched a rocket at the city of Ashkelon, which exploded in an industrial zone, causing damage to a structure.
A pregnant woman was evacuated to the Barzilai Medical Center after being injured while running to the safe room when the rocket siren went off in Ashkelon. She is under observation and is in good condition.
In response, IAF fighter jets and helicopters attacked 12 Hamas terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip, including two sites for the production of rockets, underground infrastructure and a military training complex of the Hamas naval force.
The IDF “takes all terrorist activity against Israel very seriously and is prepared and ready to act as resolutely as necessary, against attempts to harm Israeli citizens and their sovereignty,” it stated.
“The terrorist organization Hamas bears responsibility for what is happening in and out of the Gaza Strip, and will bear the consequences of terrorist acts against Israeli citizens,” the IDF added.
Police sappers arrived at the site of the rocket explosion on Sunday morning to ensure the rocket remains posed no further threat.
The IDF is investigating why the Iron Dome defense system did not intercept the rocket.
The last rocket attack on Israel from Gazza occurred a week ago.
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan congratulated Israeli basketball player Deni Avdija on being selected in ninth place by the Washington Wizards in the NBA Draft.
“You are a real cannon and an Israeli pride. From today, you are also our ambassador and we are all fans of Washington,” he said Thursday.
Avdija, 19, said at a news conference after his election that “being elected number nine is an honor. I’m super excited. I will continue to be with my feet on the ground. The group that chose me and believed in me – I will give everything for it. Wherever I go I try to be the best I can be. I was glad to see my dad’s excitement. I believe in my abilities to succeed in the NBA.”
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) November 19, 2020
“Israel is a small country, to represent the country and be in the highest spot is amazing,” the Israeli ball player told ESPN. “I’m super excited to take my game to the next level.”
As a player selected in 9th place, Avdija will pocket $3.7 million in the first season, $3.9 million in the second season and about $4.1 million in the third season.
The Boston Celtics selected Israeli Guard Yam Madar 47th in the draft.
Minister of Culture and Sports Hili Tropper Conveyed his “warm congratulations” to Avdija and Madar “on their impressive achievement.”
“Dear Deni and Yam, I wish you great success, you are convincing proof that perseverance and talent – lead to excellence. Proud of you! I really hope you meet on the floor of the best league in the world in the coming season,” he said.
Omri Casspi, the first Israeli player in the NBA. was selected 23rd overall in the 2009 NBA draft.