Faßmann: “Partnership opens up excellent opportunities for Austrian scientists”
Vienna (OTS) – Austria and Israel work closely together in research. With 1.3 million euros, Austria is now funding four cooperation projects over the next three years that will start shortly. This sum is complemented by appropriate funding from the MOST. The research areas range from rock carvings in alpine regions and the Israeli Negev desert to the protection of cultural heritage and genetic defects to therapies for butterfly children.
The cooperation is based on a bilateral agreement signed on the occasion of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s trip to Israel in 2018, the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF), the Science Fund (FWF) and the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) was signed. Heinz Faßmann, Minister for Education, Science and Research and Klement Tockner, President of the FWF, played a leading role.
“I am pleased that the joint efforts of my department and the FWF are now bearing fruit and that the first Austrian-Israeli research projects can start soon. We have thus given Austrian researchers the opportunity to cooperate with excellent partners from Israel, which is one of the most successful research nations in the world, ”says Heinz Faßmann and he adds:“ I wish the scientists whose project we will be funding in the next three years I all the best for your work. “
The Ministry of Education, together with the FWF and the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology, also set up a Joint Committee (Mixed Commission for Scientific Cooperation).
“The aim of the cooperation with Israel is to promote closely integrated, Austrian-Israeli research projects and the use and merging of the scientific systems of both countries. Israel will continue to play a major role in European research programs in the future, ”said FWF President Klement Tockner. He emphasizes: “Scientists on both sides benefit from this research cooperation. For me it is proof of the good and constructive cooperation that, despite the formation of a new government in Israel and the corona pandemic, we have succeeded in approving four projects and getting them on track. “
First call for proposals The first call for proposals from both countries took place from the end of April to the end of July 2019 and covered the subject areas “Genetics ‘and Epigenetics’ Contribution to Human Health” and “Heritage Science – Cultural and Natural Heritage”. A total of 28 applications with an application volume of 8.3 million euros were received. A parallel assessment procedure was agreed between the FWF and MOST. Due to the corona pandemic and the formation of the Israeli government, the decision-making process was delayed. After a virtual agreement between the FWF and the MOST, four projects with a volume of 1.3 million euros have now been approved. Two projects each come from one of the two subject areas.
The Israeli-Austrian cooperation projects in detail
“Stone Cultural Heritage in Austria and in Israel / Stone Cultural Heritage in Austria and in Israel” Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Institute for Natural Sciences and Technology in Art Project leader: Katja Sterflinger-Gleixner Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Department of Biotechnology Engineering project manager: Ariel Kushmaro
Katja Sterflinger and Ariel Kushmaro’s project examines the main factors for the weathering of culturally and historically valuable rock drawings in the alpine regions of Austria (Dachstein region) and – in a climatic comparison – in the Israeli Negev desert. In particular, the biogenic weathering factors are taken into account and examined using molecular biological methods. The results of the study are an essential basis for better protection or protective treatment of the rock surfaces. At the end of the project, the joint presentation of the results to the state authorities responsible for monument preservation is planned.
“Conflicts and Challenges for the Protection of the World Heritage / Conflicts and Challenges of World Heritage Protection” TU Vienna, Institute for Spatial Planning, Research Area Finance and Infrastructure Policy Project Leader: Karin Hiltgartner Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning, Planning Policy Lab Project Leader : Nir Mualam
To ensure sustainable protection of the architectural heritage, action must be taken in many areas. Numerous standards, guidelines, recommendations and laws at local, national and international levels have been enacted since the second half of the 20th century. However, these are often overlapping and contradictory, which makes implementation difficult. The research teams around Karin Hiltgartner and Nir Mualam deal with the management and protection of cultural heritage from a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective. On the basis of Austrian and Israeli case studies, new knowledge for the development of measures and concepts at supranational, national and local level will be gained.
“Resetting the Epigenetic Status of the DM1 Locus / Resetting the Epigenetic Status of the DM1 Locus” CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) Project leader: Stefan Kubicek The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Shaare Zedek Medical Center Project leader: Rachel Eiges
The project deals with an autosomal dominant form of muscular dystrophy (myotonic dystrophy type 1; DM1), which affects large areas of the body’s function through muscle weakness and muscle wasting. The disease is based on a genetic defect in the DMPK gene, which leads to epigenetic changes in the cells of DM1 patients in the form of hypermethylation of the DNA. This project aims to identify the enzymes and signal chains that are responsible for hypermethylation. The aim is to restore the normal epigenetic status in the affected myoblasts and thus create the basis for future therapeutic approaches.
“Effect of epigenetic modulations on the EB phenotype / Epigenetic modifiers of disease phenotypes: epidermolysis bullosa as a paradigm” Salzburger Landeskliniken Betriebsgesellschaft mbH, University Clinic for Dermatology Project manager: Verena Wally Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Internal Medicine Division Project manager: Eli Sprecher
Epidermolysis bullosa (EB) is a rare hereditary skin disease in which the structural stability of the skin is severely impaired. This makes them highly sensitive (“butterfly children”) and blisters and wounds occur even with low mechanical loads. The aim of the present project is to determine not only the genetic causes of EB, but above all the epigenetic factors and processes that contribute to the various manifestations of EB. This will not only provide important insights in the field of basic research, but also have significant clinical implications. Since these processes can serve as therapeutic goals, there is a clear potential to positively influence clinical progress.
MOST Ministry of Science and Technology The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) is responsible for investments by the State of Israel in scientific research in areas of national priority and thus plays a central role in promoting scientific progress and development in Israel.
FWF The Science Fund The FWF is Austria’s central institution for the promotion of basic research as well as artistic-scientific research. It supports – according to international quality standards – outstanding research projects as well as excellent scientists who dedicate themselves to the acquisition, expansion and deepening of scientific knowledge.
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