Sam Gyimah, Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, launched today the new call for proposals under the flagship programme for UK-Israel scientific collaboration, BIRAX Ageing.
BIRAX (the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership) is a £multi-million initiative of the British Council and the British Embassy in Israel investing in world-leading research jointly undertaken by scientists in Britain and Israel. The BIRAX Regenerative Medicine Initiative has so far committed almost £8 million to 19 cutting edge projects directly involving over 100 researchers in both countries. The projects pioneer techniques using stem cell and regenerative medicine therapies to tackle some of the world’s most challenging conditions and diseases including cardiovascular and liver disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s.
This year BIRAX has turned its attention to Ageing research. Ageing was chosen by the UK-Israel Science Council as the new priority for being one of the world’s greatest challenges. The statistics on ageing are staggering: according to the United Nations Population Fund, the number and proportion of older people are growing faster than any other age group. Currently one in nine people in the world is aged 60 or over, and this figure is projected to increase to one in five by 2050. With age being the single biggest risk factor for many life-threatening diseases, including heart failure, stroke and dementia, developing strategies for successful ageing is a rapidly rising priority of societies and welfare systems the world over.
The aim of BIRAX Ageing is two fold. Firstly, it aims to advance innovative scientific research into ageing and its impact on human health and to encourage the use of cutting edge technology, big data and personalised medicine in ageing research. Secondly, it will seek to develop meaningful, sustainable and mutually enriching scientific collaboration between researchers, labs and institutions.
BIRAX continues to draw its strength from the strong support of our long standing partnerships. We are grateful to BIRAX’s founding partners, The Pears Foundation and the UJIA, and to the philanthropic foundations and leading UK medical research foundations that joined us in 2015. Without the support of the British Heart Foundation, JDRF, Parkinson’s UK, MS Society and Alzheimer’s Society, as well as Weizmann UK, Clore Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space in Israel, BIRAX would not have been the success it is today. We welcome on board Diabetes UK, Arthritis Research UK, Dementia Discovery Fund, the Rosetrees Trust, Brighfocus Foundation and Dunhill Medical Trust who have joined us in BIRAX Ageing.
British Ambassador to Israel, David Quarrey:
"Ageing is one of the biggest challenges facing both our countries, at every level of society and in every area of life. As both our Governments put ageing high on their priority lists, we want to see our scientific communities combining their expertise through research projects that will help us develop effective strategies for successful ageing. BIRAX Ageing is designed to do just that: to bring our scientific communities together in projects that will help us cope better with the ageing process and our ageing societies".
Sir Trevor Pears, Executive Chairman, The Pears Foundation, said:
In the past six years, The BIRAX Regenerative Medicine Initiative has gone from strength to strength, supporting ground breaking research and long lasting scientific collaborations that would not have taken place without it. As BIRAX turns its attention to Ageing research, I am certain that it will make an invaluable contribution to this developing research field and will bring us a step further in our strive to improve the lives of older people around the world.
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said:
“Cutting-edge science is a global endeavour and, while competition between labs can fuel progress, it’s far more productive to bring the world’s best scientists together to work towards a shared goal. The BIRAX initiative on ageing is timely given the changing population demography. The BHF is delighted to be a partner in this initiative that makes it possible for top UK cardiovascular scientists to work with colleagues in Israel and jointly tackle the impact of ageing on heart and circulatory diseases.”