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Israel Update: A Productive Start Despite an “Oy Vey” Moment in Baggage Claim

Technion University, Haifa, Israel


If anyone knows the Hebrew blessing for the return of lost luggage, please share. I know it goes something like: Baruch Atah Adonai, etc., etc. etc. Thankfully, I packed a carry-on, so I am in good shape for now.

David Brint, FFB board member and my travelling companion, and I are excited to be here. Today was a bright beautiful day, and we were in a modern community called Tel Hashomer, close to Tel Aviv. It’s known for its large defense base and the Sheba Medical Center, which was our first destination for the day.

Sheba is the largest government hospital in Israel and has many retinal disease patients that could be part of future clinical trials. And the hospital clearly has the overall infrastructure and expertise to make them happen. David and I were very impressed.

At Sheba, we met with Dr. Shlomo Noy, director of research and development, and Dr. Ygal Rotenstreich, who is evaluating an algal product, 9-cis-beta-carotene, as a potential treatment for individuals with some forms of retinitis pigmentosa (RP). The molecule is a vitamin-A derivative that is critical for vision, but missing due to certain genetic defects. Ygal has some interesting data on the potential for this molecule to be effective in saving and restoring vision. We will continue to interact with Ygal to determine if and how the Foundation can enhance his early-stage clinical research to get a definitive answer on the molecule’s usefulness.

In the afternoon, David and I were off to Technion University in Haifa, a bustling city in northern Israel known for its manufacturing, business and industry. We were there to meet with Drs. Timor Bassov and Kerstin Nagel-Wolfrum, whom is an FFB-funded investigator visiting from Germany. The researchers are collaborating on the development of a drug that can “read through” genetic defects called nonsense mutations. These defects are like misspellings, and by reading through them, the gene functions normally. Nonsense mutations cause about 12 percent of all inherited retinal degenerations, so this emerging treatment might someday save vision for a lot of people.

This drug is being currently tested in an Usher syndrome type 1C mouse model. We discussed how to advance this and similar drugs into clinic trials, and how the Foundation could accelerate the development process for them. Drs. Bassov and Nagel-Wolfrum are excited to see this project move forward, and there are potentially more effective molecules of this type that Dr. Bassov is investigating.

Tomorrow, we are off to Jerusalem for some touring and dinner with Eyal Banin, an FFB-funded researcher from Hadassah Medical Center, and his family.

I am looking forward to a reunion with my luggage. Hopefully, that will happen tomorrow. I guess I shouldn’t complain. At least I’m not wandering the desert for 40 days and 40 nights…in the same shirt and pants.

Photo courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism.


2 Responses to 'Israel Update: A Productive Start Despite an “Oy Vey” Moment in Baggage Claim'

  1. Candace Alvestad says:

    I am following this trip to Israel with great interest. It includes information on a subject that affects three people in my family (with genetic eye defects). The stories include a bit of humor which makes the reading more engaging. Glad to find this website.

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