Ramat Gan, Israel -
A letter from Prof. Arie Zaban, President of Bar-Ilan University, about the Coronavirus and the status of the University at this time.
Dear Friends and Partners of Bar-Ilan,
We find ourselves in a period unprecedented in our lifetimes. The Coronavirus has impacted all of our lives, and Bar-Ilan University has not been immune. Our primary concern has been to do whatever is possible to protect the health and well-being of the entire staff and student body and minimize the impact on studies and research, while following the guidelines issued by the authorities. We are in frequent contact with the government and our colleagues at other universities to address the needs of our entire campus.
We at Bar-Ilan had anticipated the potential challenges and were able to proactively prepare ourselves. Thus, last week when the government shut all in-person classes, we were able to quickly and successfully transition 90% of our courses online. In response to the growth of the pandemic, we have moved all non-essential and non-laboratory personnel off campus for their safety. In the midst of these changes, many of Bar-Ilan’s excellent clinical faculty and researchers have joined national and global efforts to address and seek solutions to the Corona pandemic.
Bar Ilan’s Azrieli Medical Faculty and students are playing a critical role in the only diagnostic center in Israel’s north. Corona testing at Porea Hospital in the Galilee is done in Bar-Ilan’s research facilities at the hospital. Our team is working to set up an additional testing laboratory in Nahariya, in collaboration with the Galilee Medical Center hospital, to expedite the diagnosis of many more patients in the north. In these facilities many of the Azrieli Medical School students are working alongside the faculty to assist in their efforts.
To mention only a few of our excellent researchers dealing with the Coronavirus:
Professor Amos Danielli, from the Alexander Kofkin Faculty of Engineering, has come up with an instrument that can drastically reduce the time it takes to diagnose the Coronavirus. Currently, doctors require many hours to determine if a person is infected with this potentially deadly illness. Amos’s invention, which rapidly analyzes saliva and has been shown to be effective in detecting other viruses such as SARS and MERS, can make a diagnosis in less than 1/4 of the time. This technology is already being used in Israel’s Health Ministry’s central virology laboratory at Sheba Medical Center. It will hopefully be employed soon for detection of Corona in all Israeli hospitals and in medical centers around the world.
Dr. Baruch Barzel, head of the Center for Network Science at Bar-Ilan, is working with his colleagues to create new mathematics, smart algorithms, sophisticated computational models and high-powered computer simulations of disease outbreaks. They incorporate their discoveries into automated frameworks so they can deploy their tools quickly to offset the spread of health epidemics such as Coronavirus. Understanding the “mobility networks” of viral contagions is crucial to stopping the spread of the disease. An application developed by Professor Avinatan Chasidim is soon to be used by medical staff to help assess which people need to go into quarantine based on exposure to someone infected with Corona.
Dr. Meital Gal-Tanamy, head of the Azrieli Faculty’s Molecular Virology Lab, and Dr. Moshe Dessau from the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine are developing a system of harmless viruses, containing various components such as the Coronavirus envelope protein, to test their response to substances and the efficiency of vaccines against the virus. This research is carried out in collaboration with a Swedish pharmaceutical company that manufactures vaccines.
We are all currently struggling with the uncertainty of what tomorrow holds and the challenges of where we are today. We hope and pray that this period ends soon, with all our loved ones safe and healthy. We will continue to update you as the situation develops.
Wishing each one of you and your families the best of health.
Professor Arie Zaban,
President Bar-Ilan University