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Presidential conference in Jerusalem peers into the future of medicine

The Fifth Presidential Conference took place recently in Jerusalem, and brought experts from around the world together to discuss the future of medicine, with a focus on brain technology research.

According to the Jerusalem Post, with the theme of Shimon Peres’s recent Presidential Conference being “Facing Tomorrow,” it was only natural that the future of science and medicine was a major topic, and thousands of people listened in rapt attention to a variety of lectures.

Brain science received special focus during the convention as a number of universities, hospitals and technology manufacturers held an exhibition on brain science in a large hall not far from the deliberations. The exhibits represented universities throughout Israel – the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba; the University of Haifa, Tel Aviv University and Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. Among the hospitals represented was Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center.

The brain research panel was moderated by Hebrew University Prof. Eilon Vaadia, director of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences and The Jack H. Skirball Chair and Research Fund in Brain Research (ELSC) at HU. Vaadia called for the evolution of medicine from disease treatment to disease prevention.

“This thing we all have on our heads was involved in what was thought to be intriguing and a mission impossible,” he said. “But now our challenge is realistic. We believe we will be able to understand completely how the brain works,” said Vaadia, who the day before helped inaugurated the new building for ELSC on the university’s campus. “We intend to discuss this wondrous voyage into ourselves.”

The second major scientific forum at the conference was dedicated to the future of medicine. The session was moderated by Rambam Medical Center director-general Prof. Rafael Beyar, a senior interventional cardiologist, expert in biomedical engineering and former dean of the Technion’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine.

“Israel is part of the the effort of bringing medicine forward,” he said. “We lead the world in patents per capita and have 700 companies involved in hi-tech medicine fields, including cardiac mapping, swallowed cameras, surgical roots, focused ultrasound, and bioinformatics” Beyar said.

Prof. Dina Ben-Yehuda is head of the hematology department at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem. A leading researcher in the molecular biology of blood cancers, epidemiology and gene therapy, she recently designed a protein connected to cell death that is now being developed to fight cancer.

“We have to learn to demystify disease,” suggested Dr. Leroy Hood, president and founder of the Institute for Systems Biology and one of the world’s leading scientists in molecular biotechnology and genomics. A key participant in the Human Genome Project, he advocated a “systems approach to medicine.”

“If you want to understand how a radio works, you naturally take it apart. But that isn’t enough. You have to study the electronic circuits. That’s what systems biology is about – components and interactions and dynamics of behavior. Disease is caused by digital information of the genome and environment. Some people respond to drugs, and some don’t. So if you know who is sensitive before taking drugs, you can reduce complications and the costs of medication. This could lead to the democratization of healthcare. Data will be dirt cheap. All parts of the healthcare industry will have to rethink their business plan, and some will become dinosaurs that can’t cope.”

For the full Jerusalem Post article click here.