In London on 7th March 2018, Science Minister Sam Gyimah launched BIRAX Ageing, a £5m fund to advance scientific collaboration between Israel and the UK and cutting edge research into the ageing process and its effect on human health, including age related diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Heart Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and diabetes, afflicting millions of people worldwide. The fund marks the continuation of the BIRAX (the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange) Partnership, which within 6 years has grown into one of the most innovative bilateral science collaborations between two countries anywhere in the world.
The programme creates a community of British and Israeli researchers and academics, fosters new ties between universities and supports critical scientific research into urgent global healthcare issues. The programme officially launched at a reception in London to mark UK Israel Science day.
Ageing is a universal and growing challenge for the global community. The UK government is already addressing the growing challenge of its ageing population through its Industrial Strategy and ageing society Grand Challenge. To meet the challenges and opportunities presented by the ageing population globally, the UK government is harnessing the power of innovation and bringing together industry and academia to create an economy that works for everyone.
In the UK, 18% of the population is over 65 years of age. Israel’s elderly population is expected to reach 14.3% by 2040, and elderly populations worldwide are set to double in the next 30 years.
BIRAX Ageing will officially open its first call for research proposals in April. The call will focus on two broad themes: a) research into the impact of ageing processes on human health and b) using precision medicine and big data to identify innovative biomarkers, algorithms and computational techniques to help prevent the harmful effects associated with ageing.
Science Minister Sam Gyimah said: “The UK and Israel have a strong relationship, and I’m delighted to publically launch BIRAX Ageing, bringing together our brightest and best scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs to help with one of our greatest challenges – ageing populations.
“We are living longer than ever before. In fact, the UK government’s Industrial Strategy highlights that one in three children born in the UK today can expect to live to 100. While our ageing population poses new demands, it also comes with new opportunities to develop new treatments, enhance existing ones and diagnose diseases more quickly. Through BIRAX Ageing, UK-Israel collaboration, and our aging society Grand Challenge, we will improve millions of people’s lives globally”.
Focusing on early stage collaboration, the programme has so far brought together more than 1000 scientists, including PhD and Postdoctoral students, from 120 institutions, and resulted in breakthrough research published in 30 leading scientific publications.
Sir Trevor Pears, Executive Chair of Pears Foundation, said: ‘Our Foundation is proud to have been a founding supporter of the BIRAX initiative. We are excited to see the positive developments that will come out of BIRAX Ageing, which will bring together world class scientists to help make life better for people across the world and strengthen academic relationships between Israel and the UK.”
The programme, a joint initiative of the British Council, SIN (the UK Science and Innovation network) the British Embassy in Israel and the Pears Foundation and UJIA has been strongly endorsed and directed by the UK-Israel Science Council, a group of 26 leading scientists from both countries. The group contains four Nobel Prize winners, three members of the House of Lords, Presidents of universities, and some of the most eminent and distinguished scientists in the world.