Thursday 24 October 2019


The British Council and the British Embassy, Israel, have given the go-ahead to seven, new, three-year bilateral scientific projects in the field of research on ageing.  The work will be carried out by top institutions in the UK and Israel.

The projects will be awarded nearly £2.8 million in total from BIRAX, a £10 million programme to support cutting edge UK-Israeli research.

BIRAX Ageing will look at the effects of ageing on human health, and the use of precision medicine and big data in ageing research. It will bring together scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Hadassah Medical Centre, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Centre, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, King’s College London, and Queen’s University Belfast.

The projects will focus on various aspects of ageing and how it affects diabetes, vascular disease, neuro-degenerative disease such as Multiple Sclerosis, brain imaging, as well as the use of technology for macular disease research.

British Ambassador to Israel,  Mr Neil Wigan said: “I am excited that seven new projects have been selected for the first call of BIRAX Ageing, the latest phase of our flagship science research programme. These cutting-edge research collaborations not only position the UK and Israel at the forefront of ageing research world-wide, but also reaffirm the close connection between British and Israeli academic communities and establishments. Through these meaningful and sustainable collaborations, we can together tackle universal ongoing challenges”.

 BIRAX Ageing research looks at the global challenges of ageing, bringing together world-class and complementary scientific capabilities to promote healthy ageing. It aims to establish and grow a substantial new academic community and support ground-breaking collaborative research in the field of ageing, funding both research mobility and joint research projects over the next five years. This crucial research will be generously supported by the Pears Foundation, The Israel Ministry of Science and Technology, The Parasol Foundation Trust, Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust, The Rosetrees Trust, Diabetes UK, The British Heart Foundation, and MS Society.

 Sir Trevor Pears, Executive Chair of the Pears Foundation, added: “Since its establishment in 2011, the BIRAX Initiative has earned its excellent reputation for successfully nurturing UK–Israel scientific exchange for the advancement of knowledge. We are proud to have been the founding partner of this important initiative, which will have an enduring impact and legacy, and are delighted to be part of a family of committed partners”

 BIRAX was initiated 8 years ago by the British Council, British Embassy in Israel and the UK Science and Innovation Network in collaboration with the Pears Foundation as a founding partner.  So far, BIRAX has funded 19 research projects tackling some of the world’s most challenging health conditions and diseases by employing pioneering regenerative medicine and stem cell therapies and using the most advanced and cutting-edge technologies. The ground-breaking science has been made possible through the generous support of a broad family of partners and supporters including the Israel Ministry of Science and Technology,  the British Heart Foundation, JDRF, MS Society, Parkinson’s UK, Alzheimer’s Society, the Medical Research Council, The Parasol Foundation Trust, The Rosetrees Trust, Weizmann UK, Clore Foundation Israel, Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust, The Wolfson Foundation, The Maurice and Vivienne Wohl Philanthropic Foundation, The Kahn Foundation, UJIA, Celia and Edward Atkin, The Sheila and Denis Cohen Charitable Trust, The Barbara and Stanley Fink Foundation, and The Glycobiology Institute of Oxford University.

The funded projects are:

Age-related bone fragility in type 1 diabetes – the role of bone cell senescence

Principal Investigators: Professor Lynne Cox, University of Oxford, Professor Rivka Dresner Pollak, Hadassah Medical Center

The overall aim of this research is to understand bone fragility in ageing patients with type 1 diabetes who are currently at high risk of bone fracture and premature death, and to develop new treatments.

Microstructural MRI of the ageing brain

Principal Investigators: Professor Heidi Johansen-Berg, University of Oxford, Professor Yaniv Assaf, Tel Aviv University  

The project will explore neurodegenerative processes in age related disease such as dementia by understanding the processes behind “healthy” brain ageing. Owing to dramatic developments in brain imaging methods for providing quantitative measures of brain microstructure, in particular, in Prof Assaf’s lab in Tel Aviv, these methods could be particularly powerful ways to detect subtle changes in brain structure occurring with ageing, providing early indicators of age-related neurodegeneration. No database of microstructural imaging yet exists. 

This project aims to create the first database of microstructural imaging and to initiate a brain database in Israel.

How does ageing-associated niche stiffening disrupt nucleus mechanotransduction signaling and suppresses the regenerative capacity of adult CNS progenitor cells? 

Principal Investigators: Professor Robin Franklin, University of Cambridge, Dr Amnon Buxboim, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

This project seeks to find answers that will provide clues as to how the effects of age might be reversed therapeutically. It will examine how the brain is able to induce harmful in central nerve system stem cells, and how are the physical signals of the brain transmitted to a central nerve system stem cell to change its function.

 Vascular Ageing, Rejuvenation and Healthspan Extension

Principal Investigators: Professor Manuel Mayr, King's College London, Professor Eli Keshet, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

This project proposes a novel anti-ageing approach to combat age-associated deterioration of vascular function. The knowledge gained in the project will be leveraged for the development of new anti-aging treatments.

Cellular senescence, aging and diabetes

Principal Investigators: Professor Masashi Narita, University of Cambridge, Professor Ittai Ben-Porath, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

This project addresses in depth the roles of beta-cell senescence in aging and diabetes. The researchers aim to uncover whether beta-cell senescence contributes to, or, alternatively acts to counteract diabetes.

Algorithms for diagnosis and management of age-related macular degeneration

 Principal Investigators: Professor Tunde Peto, Queen’s University Belfast, Professor Anat Loewenstein, Tel Aviv University

This project aims to investigate the performance of new automated software algorithms to monitor AMD and detect progression, towards implementation in routine patient’s management; and to investigate the potential for machine learning to identify factors and biomarkers associated with long-term AMD treatment response.


About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 80 million people directly and 791 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.