Good News Friday

It’s been a while since I last posted a proper Good News Friday post, so it’s good to get back into the swing of things.

Bedouin residents of Umm Batin turn trash into cooking gas

We’ll start with green energy, or perhaps it should be considered clean-tech: Israel is teaching the Dominican Republic how to turn trash into cooking gas – but the first beneficiaries of the technology are residents of a Beduin village near Beer Sheva:

Beduin residents of Umm Batin, a village just northeast of Beersheba, are transforming their trash into usable cooking gas in their homes, as part of an Environmental Protection Ministry initiative to bring biogas to their community.

About a week ago, Umm Batin residents received HomeBioGas units produced by Ecogas Israel, whose NIS 8,000 apiece price tag was subsidized by the Environment Ministry. Anaerobic digesters within the machines convert kitchen waste and animal manure into usable cooking gas and liquid fertilizer – optimized for off-grid urban and rural families, according to the company.

Installing the HomeBioGas systems is part of a larger, NIS 80 million investment that the ministry has undertaken to provide communities that currently do not have modern waste treatment mechanisms with trash cans and other necessities.

After learning from the Israeli government about the installation of the units in Umm Batin, the Dominican Republic has decided to purchase 50 of these facilities to install in villages in its own island, the ministry said. Following the earthquake that devastated much of Haiti, the phenomenon of deforestation grew in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, due to the need for wood heating.

“The combination of social justice and environmental justice is a global solution fitting for Umm Batin, for the Caribbean and for every place in the world,” Peretz said. “We found a way to generate cooperation with the Beduin population from remote communities who feel that as a result of this, the country cares about them, and therefore, the chances are great that this project will succeed and become a model for the world.”

The whole idea is brilliant! Disposing of waste by recycling it into fuel solves so many problems, and not just for the poor and deprived. This technology could huge amounts of money and solve energy problems even for modern countries. Kol hakavod to Ecogas Israel and the Energy Ministry for solving two problems in one.

Ice bucket challenge raises funds for ALS while Israel invents treatment

Moving from bio-technology to the biomedical field, an Israeli development for the treatment of ALS (for which funds were being raised recently by the famous “Ice Bucket Challenge”) is being fast-tracked by the American FDA:

( Stem cell treatment developed by Israeli company BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics has been designated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a “fast-track” treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The treatment, called NurOwn, is currently undergoing mid-stage clinical trials in Jerusalem and in the U.S. on patients with ALS, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The FDA’s designation will speed up patients’ access to the treatment.

“The receipt of fast-track designation from the FDA is an acknowledgement of the unmet medical need in ALS,” BrainStorm Chief Executive Tony Fiorino said Tuesday, according to Reuters. “What is so valuable about fast track designation to a small company like BrainStorm is the opportunity to have increased meetings with and more frequent written communication from the FDA,” he said, adding that few other cellular therapies have received FDA approval.

Hopefully this treatment will help thousands of patients of this dreadful disease. Kol Hakavod to the BrainStorm developers and researchers, and to the FDA for recognizing its potential. Once again, Israeli researchers are at the forefront of their field for the benefit of the whole world.

Another Israeli biomedical advance is still in the preliminary stages but holds enormous potential if successful. Israeli scientists are testing the first targeted multi-drug cancer therapy:

Delivering cancer-fighting drugs directly to malignant cells is the best way to fight the deadly disease, and Israeli scientists are working on a better way to do that — linking multiple drugs to a chemical engine that can drive them exactly where they need to go.

The process, so far proven only on mouse cells, uses tiny molecules called peptides to carry cancer drugs into specific cancer cells. In a study published in the European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, the scientists showed that the treatment can deliver two different drugs at once, killing leukemia cells while leaving healthy cells undamaged.

No targeted cancer therapy on the market can deliver more than one drug at once. The scientists say the experimental treatment also appears to be more targeted than existing types. With these advantages, they say, the treatment could make existing cancer drugs deadlier to cancers while at the same time reducing their side effects.

Clinical trials are at least two years away.

“We are talking about a technology for targeted drug delivery that consists of a special platform and multiple drugs that are linked to the platform,” said Prof. Gary Gellerman, a biochemist, who built the “peptide-drug conjugates” along with Prof. Michael Firer, a biotechnologist at Ariel University, who developed the drugs. “The advantages for patients are that we can direct more of the drugs to where they are supposed to go, with no side effects. For the first time, we can target cancer with multiple drugs at once.”

Prof. Gary Gellerman of Ariel University

So far, the scientists are focusing on leukemia, prostate cancer, and lung cancer, but they say the treatment should work with any type of cancer.

Prof. Michael Firer of Ariel University

Prof. Robert Langer, a biomedical engineer and a leading researcher of cancer drug delivery at the MIT, called the study “very interesting.” He said “a key next step is to see how it works in vivo [in animals] from a safety and efficacy standpoint.”

If the theories are correct and the treatment works, the impact of this research and the treatment cannot be overstated. We wish the scientists and researchers every success.  Kol hakavod to Professors Gellerman and Firer and to Ariel University for their research.

It will also be very interesting to see if the treatment will be boycotted by those who so object to the settlements and boycott Ariel University for being on the wrong side of an imaginary line on a map.

Solar powered wi-fi charging station for cell-phones

Moving now to something much less vital but nevertheless important in everyday life, an Israeli design student has come up with a solar-powered wifi charging station for cell-phones:

Charge Yourself is the final project created by Bezalel Academy of the Arts student Tal Bahar that functions as a shady bench and solar-powered phone charging station in the heart of an urban jungle.

Ensuring that we have enough battery to make it through the day is a modern day worry that Bahar believes causes a lot of unnecessary stress. So why not kill two birds with one stone and create a design that gives our phones and ourselves a much needed break? The bench-like structure that Bahar came up with has three shaded single wooden seats, each with their own charging surface and phone holder. Each charging surface is powered by solar panels on the metal shade overhang and is able to boost the battery of any mobile device (so no more scrounging around for the right charger). In addition, for those who really can’t live an unconnected minute, there is an extendable phone holder that simultaneously charges your phone and allows you to sort through emails or message a friend.

While Bahar’s Charge Yourself sounds like the perfect solution to our modern day woes, many mobile devices are not yet programmed to wirelessly charge, so it may be some time before we can rest and regenerate on our local boulevard. However, Bahar’s idea is a move in the right direction as Starbucks recently moved to install Israeli tech-powered Duracell PowerMat wireless charging stations in some of its US shops. Mostly, Charge Yourself is an important reminder to the work-until-we-drop generation to take a moment to ourselves every so often, and not just to charge our phones.

What a brilliant idea! Kol hakavod to Tal Bahar. I hope his brainwave takes off!

With all these Israeli innovations, which as mentioned above are of enormous import to the whole world, is it possible that the BDS bigots are making any inroads into Israeli international trade relations? This is an especially pertinent question after a week in which both Sweden and Britain voted to recognize a Palestinian state, with all the implied threats of sanctions being imposed on Israel as “punishment”.

Israeli international trade soars

According to the Algemeiner (h/t David) it would seem this is not so. Former Ambassador Yoram Ettinger asks “Is Israel ostracised?” – and answers in the negative:

The elitist media outlets in Israel, Western Europe and the U.S. are wrong! Israel is increasingly appreciated and embraced — not ostracized — by the global community.

In defiance of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in Britain, and despite the recent Gaza war, Israel’s exports to Britain and the Israel-Britain trade balance, surged by 38 percent and 28 percent respectively between January and August 2014 (as compared to the same period in 2013), expanding employment in both countries. In addition, there were 37 Israeli-British mergers, acquisitions and British stock market initial public offerings during the same period.

Israel’s unique achievements in the area of health care were underscored in the Forbes June 2014 list of 10 health tech companies changing the world. Five of them were Israeli. “It’s amazing that Israel — a country of only 8 million people — produces so many leading health technology companies,” David E. Williams, president of the U.S.-based Health Business Group, told the Grapevine. According to Williams, “Israel’s highly educated technical and medical workers are reared in a society that prizes problem-solving and innovation, placing tremendous value on curing illness and saving lives.”

And it’s not only health-care in which Israel is a leader:

Israel bureau chief for the U.S. magazine Defense NewsBarbara Opall-Rome, sheds light on the global added-value of Israel’s defense industries and Israel’s rising weapon exports, which have grown in recent years. The latest conflict in Gaza revealed Israel’s unique advantage, being the world’s largest and most advanced battle testing laboratory, especially in the area of shielding civilians from short-range missiles and defending tank crews against guided missiles.

According to Opall, “over the past five years, Israel has had military sales of around $7 billion annually, and it puts Israel in the top five of the world’s arms-exporting nations. … India is one of Israel’s biggest customers, buying everything from ship and air defense systems to anti-tank missiles and drones.”

After the latest Gaza operation, Bloomberg reported that Shiite Azerbaijan is the leading supplier of oil to Israel and a major buyer of advanced Israeli military systems, despite criticism from its neighbors, Iran and Turkey.

The California-based Entrepreneur magazine suggests that “one country that stands out from the rest when it comes to research and development is Israel. In fact, it ranks second only to Silicon Valley for startups. … The pool of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) talent in Israel is huge. There are 140 scientists, technicians and engineers for every 10,000 Israeli employees, compared to 85 per 10,000 in the USA. … Israel is flush with entrepreneurs, second in numbers only to Silicon Valley. The country is filled with people with courage, drive, creativity, boldness and tenacity, who will move mountains to achieve their goals and dreams.”

srael’s educational standing in the world was noted by the recent OECD 2014 Education at a Glance study, published by Yahoo Finance in September: Israel ranks fourth in the world as far as post-high school educated population (46.4 percent of the population), trailing Japan (46.6 percent), Canada (52.6 percent) and Russia (53.5 percent), but ahead of the U.S., Korea, Australia, Britain, New Zealand and Ireland.

The respectable, growing slate of more than 250 high-tech global giants with R&D centers in Israel proves how integrated Israel is in the global economy. These companies include Intel, Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Motorola, Computer Associates, Qualcomm, HP, EMC, GE, AT&T, Xerox, Dell, AMD, Marvell, Cisco, GM, Google, Oracle, Paypal, McAfee, Polycom, Telefonica, Ebay, AOL, Yahoo, SanDisk, SAP, Siemens, Philips, Deutsche Telekom, Samsung, etc. A recent arrival in Israel is Russian Internet Security giant Kaspersky Labs, which will inaugurate its first Israeli R&D center in Jerusalem.

And the good news looks set to continue into the coming year:

2014 is shaping up to be an Israeli record year for raising capital, with Israeli IPOs on Wall Street surpassing $3.5 billion. Two of the top 10 Wall Street IPOs were Israeli companies — Mobileye ($890 million) and Israel Chemicals ($507 million). Intercontinental Exchange, the global network of exchanges and clearing houses, acquired Israel’s SuperDerivatives for $350 million, as its R&D center. Pulse Secure acquired Israel’s cyber company, Mobile Spaces, for $100 million.

On September 22, despite the war in Gaza and because of Israel’s brain power and cutting edge and game-changing technologies, Intel announced an additional $6 billion investment in its existing Israeli arsenal (four R&D centers and two manufacturing plants), which will develop the next generation of Intel’s chips.

And the obvious conclusion:

And where does that leave the anti-Israel BDS movement, the Gaza conflict and other conventional and terrorist threats? Based on Israel’s track record, they are bumps in the road of unprecedented growth and acceptance.

This is the best news of all, and a great way to start the Jewish new year. May the good news continue to roll in!

Wishing you all a Good Winter (as is traditionally wished at the end of Sukkot) and Shabbat Shalom!

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4 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. Reality says:

    a wonderful blog as always filled with hope.I honesrly think that if a country signs on to BDS or explicitly informs people where things are produced in Israel,they should be boycotted by us and we should refuse to sell them anything.Let them continue to get their oil gas &medicines(ha ha ha) from the likes of Qatar,Iran,Iraq.Even if Ebola breaks out in Sweden or Britain we can say that as they recognised the Palestinian(non)State perhaps they should look to them for aid.

  2. cba says:

    Thank you for that lovely good news!

  3. peteca1 says:

    some wonderful news there. I really hope that they succeed with the cancer treatment. Even if they can cure only some types of cancer – it gives the world a LOT of hope. Blessings to everyone!!

    Pete, USA

  4. Pingback: Israel assists the Middle East through oil and trash | Anne's Opinions

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