20 years of French-Israeli scientific cooperation

Thanks to Maimonides, research teams are developing studies in various scientific fields

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Franco-Israeli scientific cooperation program Maimonides. Its goal is to develop the exchange of scientific and technological excellence between the laboratories of the two countries. The aim is to promote new collaborations, the mobility of researchers and the participation of young doctoral students. This partnership between Israel and France also aims to support research collaborations in innovative areas. In 20 years, France and Israel have funded 112 projects on around twenty different themes.

“Each year, 640,000 euros are awarded to French researchers and 640,000 euros to Israeli researchers to conduct about 6 to 8 studies, which creates a special synergy,” said Professor Avi Domb, senior scientist at Israel’s Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology i24NEWS.

Shlomi AmsalemProf. Avi Domb

Within the Maimonides project, research teams develop studies in the fields of mental and physical health, mathematics, medical imaging, astrophysics, environmental protection, energy, diagnosis of viral diseases or vaccines. For 2024, grants will be awarded in two areas of intervention: marine environmental protection and applied physics.

A special event was held in Paris last month where renowned scientists from Israel and France presented their award-winning research in the presence of the program’s steering committee, chaired by Israel Prize winner Dr. David Harari and French President Professor Michel Cosnard, former director of the National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology (INRIA).

Maimonides, a springboard to success

New doors have opened thanks to the Maimonides program, which turned out to be a real turning point in the career of Israeli professor Shulamit Michaeli, a leading scientist who founded the Bar-Ilan Institute’s Center for Nanomedicine.

“With Maïmonides, I realized that an extraordinary opportunity was in front of me and that we could combine our strengths and skills to advance research. With Gérald Spaeth we collaborated and received a grant for two years, which I also sent one of my students to Paris, for a few weeks at the Pasteur Institute, then we published our work in two major journals: ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ and ‘PLOS Pathogens’, 2021 and 2022,” said Professor Shulamit Michaeli i24NEWS.

This year, Shulamit Michaeli, Gérald Spaeth, specialist in molecular parasitology and head of the laboratory at Pasteur, and Yitzhak Pilpel from the Weizmann Institute of Sciences received an 8.6 million euro grant from ERC Synergy in Brussels. ERC Synergy Grants support projects led by a group of two to four researchers.

Using the unique biology of the protozoan parasite Leishmania as a model system, her project will provide unique insights into the role of genome instability in eukaryotic adaptation by combining experimental evolution, non-coding RNA analysis, network modeling and advanced single-cell sequencing.

“On the one hand, the program strengthens the relationship between Israel and France and makes it possible to apply for larger research grants, as was the case with us at the ERC. It also allows for exchanges between French and Israeli students, getting to know each other and fostering friendship between the countries,” she continued.

Shulamit assures that it is “very prestigious to work with the Pasteur Institute, especially in the field of infectious diseases”.

“In Israel, research is at a very high level, so everyone contributes their expertise; we are on an equal footing with France in this area. It is true that Israel is the nation of innovation, we are still in this movement and we are used to adapting to every situation, taking action and initiating something, even if it is necessary to “think outside the box”. In Europe, the work is much more methodical, so we complement each other well and have found a balance between our ways of doing things,” she said.

JOEL SAGET / AFP
JOEL SAGET / AFPA microscope and samples in a laboratory at the Institut Curie in Paris

The ERC research project, which ends in 2029, aims to uncover complex and dynamic interactions between genomic, epitranscriptomic and phenotypic adaptation of parasites, as well as the role of stress-adapted ribosomes and non-coding RNAs – particularly antisense regulators. that compensate for adverse changes in genetic dosage. Scientists will continue to investigate whether the parasite is able to prepare in advance for changing environmental conditions and changing hosts.

“Studying the evolution of the pathogen in a mammalian host will provide an innovative framework for the discovery of complex biomarker candidates related to Leishmania virulence and drug resistance. Exploitation of genome instability for adaptive purposes is common in other pathogenic microbes and cancer. said Schulamit Michaeli, at i24NEWS.

Unprecedented collaboration with INRIA for 2023

For the coming year, a new Franco-Israeli collaboration will see the day that grants are awarded to researchers. A cooperation agreement in the field of artificial intelligence is expected to be signed soon by Israel with the INRIA Institute for a 6-year project that will start in 2023.

INRIA promotes interdisciplinary research in collaboration with academia and industry and supports various innovation paths, algorithms and quantum computing with a view to founding technological startups. ⁣With the “Pascal” program, 360,000 euros will go to France and 360,000 euros to Israel.

“In the field of AI, Israel has many excellent start-ups, but France has very developed and powerful supercomputers, so we can learn a lot from each other,” said Tom Dan Danino, deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Innovation and Science and Technology, which is part of this new cooperation will be.

Bradley D'coutho
Bradley D’couthoTom Dan Danino, Deputy Director General of the Israel Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology

“The projects will focus on health, agriculture and transport, but we are open to other research proposals; we are trying to build the connection between Israeli and French researchers to then advance research in the field of artificial intelligence. We have an incredible collaboration ahead of us.” ,” he continued.

Prof. Avi Domb hopes that Franco-Israeli scientific collaboration will continue to develop, in particular by promoting professional trips for postdocs to both countries to export know-how and optimize progress on search terms.

Caroline Haïat is a journalist for the French site of i24NEWS

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