UK to partner with Israel, US, China to combat infectious diseases – The Jerusalem Post

UK to partner with Israel, US, China to combat infectious diseases – The Jerusalem Post

A health worker fills a syringe with Ebola vaccine before injecting it to a patient, in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, August 5, 2019.. (photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)

The British government’s research and development agency – UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – will partner with experts from Israel, the US and China to study the evolution and transmission of infectious diseases.

Led by UKRI’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the joint project will examine the interaction between humans, livestock, crops, wild animals and plants, which can lead to diseases spreading.

Many devastating diseases have proved able to cross the species barrier and infect humans, including Zika, Ebola, African Swine Fever and Anthrax.

UKRI has announced that it will contribute £8.3 million ($10.2m.) to the joint research project. The agency also unveiled new collaborative projects with US experts to examine subpolar ocean currents in the North Atlantic and with Chinese researchers to create products and services to help the elderly.

Participating in the international effort together with UKRI to combat infectious diseases will be the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the US Department of Agriculture and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Understanding, predicting and mitigating complex interactions between humans and other species, UKRI said, will improve the ability to forecast and manage outbreaks, generate new cost-effective prevention and control methods, and enhance food safety and public health. The project aims to recruit researchers with mathematical and computational expertise, in addition to a range of social scientists and life scientists.

Sivasegaram Manimaaran, head of the European and global portfolio at UKRI’s Innovate UK council, told The Jerusalem Post that the UKRI’s latest collaborative project constitutes just one example of deepening collaboration efforts between the research agency and Israel.

“Soon after the formation of the UKRI in April 2018, there was a fund established for international collaboration – all of the constituent councils had an opportunity to play into that and identify opportunities that we were keen to take forward,” said Manimaaran. “For our part at Innovation UK, we did a prioritization exercise. We looked at countries with very strong capabilities, complimentary capabilities that we would like to partner with. Israel was one of those countries.”

In June 2018, Britain’s then-science minister Sam Gyimah signed a government-to-government innovation agreement with the Israel Innovation Authority to develop original ideas in a number of sectors, including artificial intelligence and advanced materials. The multi-year research program is backed by £2m. ($2.46m.) of funding from each country.

Gyimah also announced the opening of the new Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership (BIRAX), with will assist companies that develop innovative solutions for aging societies.

“If you look at research trends, about two-thirds of global research and development was conducted in Europe and the US in 2000,” said Manimaaran. “Now it’s less than half. Other countries are investing heavily and have very specific capabilities. We’re trying to tie British industry into those capabilities, and help those countries work together to take advantage of global markets and opportunities.”

In May, the British government published its latest strategy document for international research and innovation, emphasizing the United Kingdom’s need to play its part in confronting global challenges as an “outward-looking nation,” collaborating with researchers wherever they may be, in Europe or beyond.

“There is this shift in power and investment that goes beyond the traditional strengths of the United States and Europe,” said Manimaaran. “Israel is called a technology hub for a reason, and there is a clear realization that we need to collaborate with the best and work to facilitate that collaboration.”

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