Novel Solutions Coming Soon: Innovative Technologies in the Field of Bio-Convergence
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) has partnered with the Soroka Medical Center to develop novel technologies in the bio-convergence space, a field that combines biology with computational technologies and engineering.
Be'er Sheva/Israel – Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and Soroka Medical Center have announced a strategic collaboration for the development of novel technologies in the field of Bio-Convergence (a field that combines biology with computational technologies and engineering). The selected projects under the collaboration will be funded by the British philanthropic fund Rosetrees Trust.
BGN Technologies, the technology transfer company of BGU, will accompany the projects from their inception in various commercialization aspects including intellectual property protection and business development activities.
One of the first projects to be chosen is led by Prof. Lital Alfonta from the Department of Life Sciences at BGU and Dr. Orna Staretz-Chacham, the Metabolic Clinic, Pediatric Division, Soroka University Medical Center. The project aims at developing a non-invasive home test for immediate monitoring of the orphan condition Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD).
MSUD is a serious genetic condition caused by a deficiency of the enzyme Keto-acid-dehydrogenase. Blood tests show high levels of three amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine), that can lead to life-threatening cerebral oedema and dysmyelination in affected individuals. The disease is more common in Ashkenazi Jews, and in the Bedouin population in the South region of Israel. Children with MSUD must remain on a special diet that restricts the consumption of those three amino acids.
Currently, the amino acid levels of children with MSUD are monitored weekly at the hospital, and the results arrive only after several days. Prof. Alfonta is developing a technology based on bioelectrochemistry, which combines optimization of protein function with synthetic biology tools in order to create accurate and specific sensors for immediate monitoring of the relevant amino acids.
This will enable real-time diet recommendations and forgo the need for a weekly hospital visit. In addition, neonates are routinely scanned for amino acid levels, and the novel technology can supply immediate results. Immediate monitoring of amino acids is especially crucial in the developmental phase of people (i.e. children and neonates)
A joint team from both institutes mapped the daily medical needs of Soroka on the one hand, and the current challenges of the pharma and Healthtech industries on the other. In response to these needs and challenges, the collaboration tailors applied, Bio-Convergence projects with large potential for future commercialization.
Josh Peleg, CEO of BGN Technologies, said, "In addition to the synergy between disciplines and strengths of the two institutions leading to innovation in the field of Bio-Convergence, this unique collaboration also emphasizes applicable technologies. The first step is mapping the needs of current medicine, both in hospitals and the biopharma industry, after which we turn to the researchers in order to find a solution to the problem. The involvement of BGN Technologies from the initial stages of project selection will enable to maximize the commercial feasibility of the funded inventions. In addition, we will accompany each project in terms of business development and intellectual property protection. Our role is to bridge the existing gap between academia and industry."
Bio-convergence is a multi-disciplinary combination of biology, engineering, electronics, artificial intelligence, computational biology, physics, nanotechnology, materials science, and genetic engineering. The synergy between biology and engineering is considered today as the forefront of medical science and development.