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Fruitful Partnerships Between BGU and Philly Schools

Fruitful Partnerships Between BGU and Philly Schools

April 13, 2015

Medical Research

Jewish Exponent — Prof. Jacob Gopas, lecturer and researcher at BGU’s Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Genetics, and Dr. Glenn Rall, a professor specializing in blood cell development and function at the Fox Chase Cancer Center under the auspices of Temple University, have a long history of successful collaboration together.

Though Prof. Gopas and Dr. Rall have known each other for several years, through their parallel research on the measles virus, their official collaboration began two years ago when they received a $150,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to pursue research on how cells respond after being infected with measles.

“There are collaborations that happen because you want to do one experiment together because somebody offers something you don’t have, and then there are collaborations that tend to be more career-long kinds of things. I suspect in Jacob’s case with me, this is one that is going to have some tenacity,” says Dr. Rall.

“Beyond that, some of the science we’ve done is pretty cool and important.”

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Prof. Jacob Gopas presents research at the Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Prof. Gopas will soon be visiting Philadelphia to attend the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting and to work with Dr. Rall on publication of their findings.

They are hoping to show how cells produce antibodies to fight off viruses, producing ribonucleic acids, known as microRNAs. While the research is focused for now on learning more about the basic understanding of the cell reactions, their findings could in the future help advance cures to viruses.

This academic Philadelphia-Israel connection began in 1984, when Dr. Alton Sutnick, then-dean of The Medical College of Pennsylvania — which later, along with Hahnemann Medical School, became Drexel University College of Medicine — met the then-dean of BGU’s Faculty of Health Sciences Prof. Shraga Segal, through a mutual acquaintance.

A year later, Dr. Sutnick visited BGU and an unofficial partnership struck up between the two schools, mainly through their medical departments.

Upon his return to Philadelphia, Dr. Sutnick became involved with AABGU, which he currently serves as a national vice president, and he continued working to promote partnerships between BGU and area schools.

The formal affiliation agreement between BGU and the Fox Chase Cancer Center was signed in 2003, and a separate one with Drexel University was signed in 2009.

So far, the partnerships with both schools have resulted in at least 27 research collaborations, 16 joint publications and over 100 visits between faculty members, plus several student exchanges and countless friendships.

Dr. Sutnick, who has since traveled to BGU numerous times over the years, called Beer-Sheva “a bright light at the edge of the desert” and considers the city his home away from home.

One beneficiary of the expanded partnerships is Joan Bloch, an associate professor at Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, who lives in Cherry Hill and whose daughter, Deborah, attended BGU’s Medical School for International Health.

Joan Bloch has been visiting her counterparts at BGU annually since 2008 and will be spending some of her sabbatical next year there, looking at the tools being developed in Israel for improving maternal and infant health locally and globally.

“I’m grateful how supportive both Ben-Gurion University and Drexel have been, and taking part in the collaboration is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done professionally,” says Bloch. “I never thought that I would integrate my love of Israel with my love of nursing and my love of teaching and practice and research — isn’t it amazing that I’m able to do that?”

Read more on the Jewish Exponent website >>