Meet the Donors

Moore Foundation Funds Innovative Joint Venture

BSF Moore Tarrant Pix

Ann Tarrant sampling marine life

Dr. Vicki Chandler, Chief Science Program Officer of The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, was familiar with scientists previously funded by the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF). BSF’s Carol Effrat, Deputy Director of External Affairs, and Yair Rotstein, Executive Director, presented her with an interesting concept – what if the Moore Foundation considered funding top scientists who were identified through the rigorous BSF panel system. “The Moore Foundation Science Program invests in the development of new technologies, supports the world’s top research scientists, and brings together new scientific collaborations. We often fund early-stage work or emerging fields,” said Chandler. “I was intrigued by this potential opportunity and asked the BSF to send a number of abstracts from research proposals that were highly regarded by BSF reviewers and were of potential interest to our Science Program.”

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation believes in bold ideas that create enduring impact in the areas of science, environmental conservation and patient care. Intel co-founder Gordon and his wife Betty established the foundation to create positive change around the world and at home in the San Francisco Bay Area. “The Science Program’s flexibility in our approaches to funding enables us to fund new, often unanticipated ideas,” shared Chandler. “We do not accept unsolicited proposals. Instead, we work collaboratively with potential grantees to develop projects that align with our programmatic goals of funding research that could lead to a step change in the field through increasing knowledge and understanding.”

Chandler continued, “The Science Program aims to break down barriers and cultivate collaborations that might not otherwise happen. Our investments are in exceptional people who pursue outstanding ideas, regardless of where they work. One potential opportunity is to support U.S.-international research collaborations because there is little funding available for such collaborations.”

The Moore Foundation made a $1 million investment over three years in a collaborative research project identified by the BSF. They funded Oren Levy, Ph.D., with The Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences in Bar Ilan University, Israel and Ann Tarrant, Ph.D., Associate Scientist in Biology at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts in their efforts to develop a research project using Nematostella to test the molecular underpinnings of circadian cycles.

Dr. Samantha Forde, Program Officer in the Moore Foundation’s Science Program, saw the potential for the Moore Foundation to make a difference by supporting research that was distinct, yet complementary to, the work funded through BSF. The Moore Foundation-funded research provides insights into the evolution of an important regulatory pathway found in all animals. Said Forde, “We found Dr. Tarrant’s and Dr. Levy’s research proposal to develop a novel model system for understanding animal circadian signaling particularly compelling, and it fit closely with one of our current areas of interest. The original proposal also received excellent reviews from external reviewers through BSF.”

Said Professor Levy, “We seek to answer the question, ‘How does the biological clock work?’ My lab will concentrate on the “loss of function” approach to disentangle the multiple functions of essential genes that regulate the circadian clock. Professor Tarrant’s lab will study starlet sea anemones and characterize their daily cycles under a 12:12 hour light-dark cycle and under continuous darkness conditions.”

“I am very interested in understanding the role of the circadian clock in how marine organisms are cued and synchronize their behavior, physiology and metabolism with their environment such as sun light, moon phases, water temperature etc.,” explained Levy. “The staff of the BSF are motivated to promote science collaborations between Israel and the United States. I thank them and The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for the opportunity they have given me and Professor Tarrant.”

Thinking ahead, Chandler explained, “We look forward to continuing to learn more about the exciting research BSF will uncover that is in line with the Moore Foundation’s Science Program goals of funding projects that are scientifically important, that have synergies with other projects that the Science Program funds, and for which the Moore Foundation’s funding can make a measurable difference in advancing the research.”

Learn more about the The Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation here.

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust


February 2015

“Our $1 million gift to the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation was among the very first in our Israel portfolio,” said Jim O’Sullivan, Senior Advisor for the Israel Program at the Helmsley Charitable Trust.  That was in 2012 when The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust had just begun to focus on grant making in Israel.  “We were delighted to find an organization like the BSF who were dedicated to bringing together Israeli and American scientists in joint research programs,” O’Sullivan continued. “Now at the end of the three year grant period, we have been very pleased with all aspects of our partnership.”

The Helmsley Charitable Trust supported five excellent collaborative research projects within the field of life sciences.  Limited BSF funds often meant that exceptional grants were left on the table, frustrating scientists from both countries.  The gift from the Trust enabled the BSF to expand the total number of grants it awarded within its 2011 – 2012 funding cycle from 102 to 107.

Yael Mandel-Gutfreund, Ph.D., left, on the screen live from Technion in Haifa, Israel, and Manuel Ares, Jr., Ph.D., right, from University of California at Santa Cruz, live 10 time zones apart but work together via videoconference on their project about RNA binding proteins. All genes (made of DNA) produce a chemical called RNA (a cousin of DNA). The RNA carries out the function of the gene under the guidance and control of RNA-binding proteins. In their Helmsley Charitable Trust funded work, the Mandel-Gutfreund and Ares labs work together to create computer programs that predict where each of many known RNA-binding proteins bind to any given RNA and this information is critical for understanding how RNA-binding proteins control the function of genes. Yael Mandel-Gutfreund, Ph.D., left, on the screen live from Technion in Haifa, Israel, and Manuel Ares, Jr., Ph.D., right, from University of California at Santa Cruz, live 10 time zones apart but work together via videoconference on their project about RNA binding proteins. All genes (made of DNA) produce a chemical called RNA (a cousin of DNA).  The RNA carries out the function of the gene under the guidance and control of RNA-binding proteins. In their Helmsley Charitable Trust funded work, the Mandel-Gutfreund and Ares labs work together to create computer programs that predict where each of many known RNA-binding proteins bind to any given RNA and this information is critical for understanding how RNA-binding proteins control the function of genes.

“With the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s interest in the life sciences,” continued O’Sullivan, “we have followed the progress of the scientists in these research projects. The BSF offered a robust peer review process through which we had confidence that we were funding scientific ventures of the highest quality.  In addition, because of their strong financial procedures, we were comforted to know that our funds were well managed and properly distributed to the laboratories.”

The Trust’s funding underwrote work in the areas of neurobiology, genetics, biochemistry, and plant sciences.  Of the 10 scientists, they represented Ben Gurion University, Hebrew University, the Technion, and Tel Aviv University in Israel and Stanford, University of California Santa Cruz, University of Delaware, and the University of Pittsburgh in the United States.

BSF Helmsley Michal Hershfinkel BSF-Helmsley-Elias-Aizenman
Michal Hershfinkel, Ph.D., from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Elias Aizenman, Ph.D., from University of Pittsburgh are working on ways to prevent seizures. Zinc is packed within sections of neurons, and is released during neuronal activity. They have identified a protein in neurons, called a zinc sensing receptor or mZnR. In their Helmsley Charitable Trust funded project, they show that mZnR up-regulates chloride transport during a single seizure event. Such a process may provide a self-inhibitory drive during the onset of excessive neuronal activity and thus stop the development of seizures. Several studies have linked brain zinc deficiency to enhanced susceptibility to seizures. Their work might provide a novel pharmaceutical target for regulating neuronal excitability during seizures.

Today, the Helmsley Charitable Trust has redefined its support in Israel.  Said O’Sullivan, “We now strive to help Israel maintain a vibrant economy for years to come.  We work directly with elite Universities in Israel to fund their top identified strategic needs.  Our major focus is in science, technology and medical research and our staff is engaged and initiating new grants by invitation.”

Of his relationship with the BSF, its staff and funded scientists O’Sullivan said, “I can’t stress enough that their programs for funding collaborative research are effective.  With our grant, they delivered on all that they had promised.”

Tatyana Polenova, Ph.D., from the University of Delaware and Amir Goldbourt, Ph.D. (pictured) from Tel Aviv University use their Helmsley Charitable Trust funds to study charged metal atoms, called metal ions. These proteins are called metalloenzymes and they are involved in all aspects of cellular life by facilitating many important chemical reactions. In some cases, metal ions facilitate reactions, such as in the case of vanadium-containing enzymes studied by the Polenova group, and are important in the design of new materials for biotechnology applications. In other cases metal-activated enzymes are blocked by a drug containing a different metal, such as the lithium drug that is used for the treatment of bipolar disorder. Studying its environment can illuminate how it works and aid in designing new alternative drugs free of lithium’s numerous side effects. BSF Helsmley AmirGoldbourt-3

Learn more about the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley

Charitable Trust Funds Five New Research Projects

November 2013

Recognizing the importance of advancing collaborative science between the United States and Israel, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has authorized a grant of $1 million to the United States – Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) to fund five research projects in the areas of neurology and neuromuscular diseases, drug development, and agriculture.

The five projects selected for funding bring together some of the best scientific minds in the United States and Israel to unlock the mysteries of disease and find new treatment options and cures. The projects are focused on the following areas:

Neuromuscular Diseases

A research team at the University of California, Santa Cruz is working with scientists from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel on research aimed at understanding the causes of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and muscular dystrophy, both neuromuscular diseases for which there are currently no cures.

Behavioral and Psychological Disorders

Researchers at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Stanford University are focused on learning how a variety of factors, including hormones, pre- and post-natal experience, drugs, maturation, diet, aging, disease and stress influence brain organization and function. This research is important not only for understanding normal and abnormal behavior, but also for designing treatments for behavioral and psychological disorders ranging from addiction and stroke.

Epilepsy and Neurological Disorders

Scientists at Ben Gurion University and the University of Pittsburgh are focused on understanding the mechanisms for the effect of zinc in the brain, which may provide a novel pharmaceutical target for regulating neuronal excitability during seizures which occur in epilepsy and other related neurological disorders.

New Drug Therapies

Enzymes play a key role in all forms of cellular life by catalyzing biochemical reactions. Metalloenzymes, which utilize metals for their function, constitute one-third of all proteins. Many diseases involve hyper or hypo-activity of these enzymes, such as metabolic disorders, mental disorders and cancer. The aim of this research, led by scientists from Tel Aviv University and the University of Delaware, is to gain an understanding of the structure of metalloenzymes’ active component, which is very important for the development of new drug therapies aimed at treating a wide variety of diseases and disorders.

Preventing Disease in Agriculturally Important Crops

Researchers from Tel Aviv University and Stanford University are collaborating on a project aimed at gaining fundamental insight into the biochemical mechanisms that regular innate plant immunity and pathogen virulence (the relative ability of a microorganism to cause disease). This research can lead to the prevention or elimination of harmful bacterial diseases in agriculturally important crops throughout the world.

“The Helmsley Charitable Trust has long recognized that leading-edge research can and will benefit the lives of people worldwide,” says trustee Sandor Frankel. “The opportunity to partner with the United States – Israel Binational Science Foundation enables us to connect with some of the best and brightest scientists in the United States and Israel and provide the vital funding needed to advance this important research.”

Adds Yair Rotstein, Executive Director of the BSF, “We are truly grateful to the Helmsley Charitable Trust for their commitment to the BSF and their support of Israeli and U.S. scientists. The Trust’s funding ensures selected scientists can continue to collaborate in these important areas of research.”


The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation

Gilbert Foundation Renews Support

February 2015

Martin Blank and Richard Ziman were hand picked by Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert to run their foundation.  “My relationship with Rosalinde and Arthur goes back to my cub scout days,” related Martin Blank, co-trustee and COO of The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation. A professional relationship grew over the years with Martin providing legal expertise for Gilbert’s growing real estate business.  Richard Ziman also had a close relationship with the Gilbert’s through his real estate expertise and he now serves as CEO and co-trustee of the Foundation.

Knowing of the Gilbert Foundation’s interest in funding UCLA and UC Berkeley and their long tradition of funding programs in Israel, in 2011 Gary Leo, the then executive director the American Friends of the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation, introduced Blank and Ziman to the work of the BSF.  Said Blank, “It was easy to agree, given our long history of support for research and for Israel.  Providing support for the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) gave us the opportunity to serve many of our funding priorities at once.”  Blank and Ziman established The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation – BSF Multiplier Research Grants Program and the Foundation provided funding over three years for two research projects.

Based on that success, in 2014 the Gilbert Foundation renewed The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation – BSF Multiplier Research Grants Program for another three years.  Martin commented, “Renewed funding just made good sense to us.  With research it’s hard to evaluate outcomes.  Because of the research milestones already achieved and the important American and Israeli universities institutions involved, we renewed our partnership.”

“We also liked the innovative model,” Martin continued.  “The BSF has a rigorous method of qualifying scientific research.  They explained to us that too often excellent research is not funded due to the limitations of the BSF endowment.  Our multiplier gift can help to overcome this limitation. It increases the number of excellent research collaborations that can be supported between qualified Israeli and American scientists. We hope that other funders will also adopt this innovative model.”

BSF Gilbert Story, Eskin and HalperinOne scientific team receiving support through The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation – BSF Multiplier Research Grants Program is Professor Eran Halperin from Tel Aviv University and Professor Eleazar Eskin from UCLA.

Said Professor Eskin, “Eran and I met at a scientific conference in 2001 and have been close friends and collaborators since then.  Many of our most important research contributions have been jointly authored papers.  This includes our work on a problem called haplotype phasing in 2003 that led us to become involved in the first whole genome map of human variation that was published on the cover of Science in 2005.  We have continued to work closely and publish together.  Our groups are closely linked.  We have many joint projects, regular conference calls and visits, and collaborations between our students.  One of my Ph.D. students was a post doc in Professor Halperin’s group and one of his post docs was recruited to UCLA as a faculty member.  We have very complementary perspectives and ideas.”

In their funded project they are working together on methods for the analysis of genetic data, specifically sequencing data. Related Eskin, “Over the last few years, it has become clear that genetic data itself is not going to provide the entire answer. With the additional funding, we are expanding our current goals to address the problem of analysis of genetic data in conjunction with other data types such as epigenetic data (changes to the DNA along one’s lifetime) and RNA expression. There is strong evidence that these additional signals can provide more insights to the mechanisms of the disease, for example, epigenetic changes have been shown to be strongly related to certain diseases and environmental effects.”

“Further,” he continued, “The project enables an exchange of ideas and collaborations between not only myself and Eran but also between our students.  Everyone involved benefits from this collaboration of Israeli and American scientists.  This is our first BSF project and we are very grateful for the support of our collaboration.”

This is one of the many reasons why Blank and Ziman of the Gilbert Foundation love their job.  Arthur and Rosalinde Gilbert gave them an incredible opportunity and these accomplishments by Professors Eskin and Halperin are just another example of the Gilberts’ legacy through The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation.

Learn more about Professors Eskin and Halperin’s research here.

Learn more about the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation.

The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation

February 2011

The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation are Ambassador Council members.  The Foundation’s grant to AFBSF established a collaborative partnership benefiting BSF grantees at UCLA and UC Berkeley and their Israeli counterparts. Each year, the BSF and The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation will provide complementary funding for BSF grantees in the U.S. or Israel or will split the funds between these universities.

The Foundation was started by the late Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert who were passionate philanthropists, inveterate art collectors and astute business people.  Born and raised in England, the Gilberts immigrated to Los Angeles in 1949 and became successful real estate entrepreneurs. They committed their efforts to significant charitable endeavors locally and in the State of Israel while assembling one of the world’s preeminent decorative arts collections.

In  1996, a year after Rosalinde passed away, Arthur donated their world-renowned collection of snuff and decorative boxes, decorative gold and silver, micro-mosaics, Judaica and enamel miniatures to England. This collection, the most lavish gift ever given by a non-citizen to England, is housed in the Gilbert galleries at The Victoria and Albert Museum in London and at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Arthur Gilbert was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1999.

Upon Sir Arthur Gilbert’s death in 2001, a substantial portion of the Gilberts’ fortune was donated to The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation to continue their humanitarian and charitable endeavors—two of which uniquely intersect the BSF’s mission:

•       Education, economic development, and scientific research in Israel

•       Research programs at UC Berkeley and UCLA

The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation is committed to providing and connecting resources to organizations that promote and improve health, education, economic, and cultural opportunities to communities in  California and Israel, and this grant demonstrates their ongoing commitment to groundbreaking and important charitable endeavors.

“We’re grateful for the support and involvement of The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation in helping expand BSF research projects at UCLA and UC Berkeley,” said Yair Rotstein, Executive Director, BSF. “One of our key goals for is to expand our endowment beyond our governmental grants and The Gilbert Foundation gift is a premier example of how we can accomplish that goal.”

“We believe in the mission of the BSF and look forward to working with them for many years to come,” said Richard Ziman and Martin Blank, Co-Trustees of The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation.


Endowment for the Neurosciences (ENS)

February 2017

Brain power meets philanthropic power

Thanks to our partnership with the Endowment for Neurosciences, two promising young scientists aim to advance what we know about the brain and neurological disorders.

For more than 40 years, the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) has awarded grants to U.S.-Israel scientific partnerships, paving the way for transformative breakthroughs, and helping Israel become one of the world’s great scientific hubs.

There are many times, however, when even the most promising scientific proposals face the possibility of going unfunded because the number of outstanding applicants outweighs available funds.

Joshua L. Plotkin

Joshua L. Plotkin

That’s where support from the generous philanthropic community in the United States comes in. We work hard to match highly-qualified scientific projects with private philanthropic resources. One of these trusted philanthropic partners is the Endowment for Neurosciences (ENS). Recently, the ENS approved a $50,000 gift for two young scientists whose work could bring about drastic changes in our understanding about neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The two scientists, Joshua L. Plotkin and Joshua A. Goldberg, are focusing on the brain’s ability to initiate behaviors that are beneficial and appropriate, and suppress those that are not. This is referred to as “action selection.” This is one of the most important jobs of the brain, and when it’s not done properly, neurological disorders can occur.

While the general parts of the brain that are important for action selection are well known, the details of how these brain regions interact to guide action selection are unclear. The project aims to identify very specific components of brain circuitry. These locations can be looked at as specific targets for potential therapeutic intervention in the vast number of neurological disorders where action selection is impaired.

Joshua A. Goldberg

Joshua A. Goldberg

The team’s BSF proposal was considered excellent by BSF’s panel and ad hoc reviewers. However, due to lack of available funds, BSF sought assistance from other philanthropic resources to provide the scientists with the resources they needed. With the new ENS gift, Plotkin and Goldberg will receive funding and can continue their project together for another year.

“We are very grateful for this,” said Plotkin, who is an assistant professor at the Stony Brook (NY) University School of Medicine. “It shows how much BSF believes in what we are trying to do.”

Added Goldberg, a researcher with the Departments of Medical Neurobiology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, “at a time when it’s often difficult to get scientific funding in Israel, this will give us what we need for further study and evaluation. When we apply for BSF funding again next year, we will hopefully know even more than we do now about the circuitry of the brain.”

Steven J. Greenberg, MD

Steven J. Greenberg, MD

For Dr. Steven J. Greenberg, president of the ENS as well as a board member of the American Friends of the Binational Science Foundation (AFBSF), this project exemplifies the important role that philanthropists can play in assisting promising scientists.

“There is no question that the neurosciences offer many avenues for more study, exploration and understanding,” Dr. Greenberg said. “I am very happy to help BSF in efforts such as this, where scientists from the United States and Israel work together, and I am looking forward to seeing what Joshua Plotkin and Joshua Goldberg discover.”

Dr. Yair Rotstein, BSF Executive Director, praised Dr. Greenberg and the ENS for their support.
“This means a great deal to BSF and to the international research community,” said Rothstein. “The ENS supports the neurosciences, and it is an example of our willingness to work with philanthropists and organizations with interests in many scientific fields. Israel and the United States produce many of the best scientists on earth. By working with us to bring these scientists together, foundations such as the ENS are playing important roles in the future of science.”

January 2013

Neuroscience Research Receives Significant Support

The Endowment for the Neurosciences (ENS) presented its second gift to the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF).  Said ENS president Steven J. Greenberg, M.D, “We are delighted to again partner with the BSF.  We applaud their commitment to world-class neurosciences research.  The collaboration between scientists in the United States and in Israel creates a dynamic scenario for advancing scientific discovery.”

The three year grant by the Endowment for the Neurosciences will fund a research study titled “Neuronal Mechanisms of Behavioral Imprinting” led by Yoram BenShaul, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Stephen Shea, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, in Cold Spring Harbor, New York.

The collaborative research team will study how the nervous system develops in part according to experiences, particularly those associated with dramatic and important life events that leave an enduring mark on the brain. These experiences can trigger lasting changes in responses to specific sensory stimuli, sometimes permanently, a phenomenon known as ‘behavioral imprinting’. Because it is robust, behaviorally relevant, and temporally discrete, behavioral imprinting presents a unique opportunity to study the neuronal mechanisms of memory storage.  In doing so, Shea and Ben-Shaul are opening the door to the investigation of a fundamental and pervasive neurobiological process. Namely, how certain significant stimuli or events lead to memories that alter behavior, sometimes in a prolonged and even irreversible manner. Understanding the neuronal mechanisms underlying these memories carries direct implications to understanding how behavior is shaped by experiences.

“I applaud the desire of the Endowment for the Neurosciences to support Israeli and American collaboration by generously funding this research initiative,” said Dr. Yair Rotstein, BSF Executive Director.  “Through Dr. Greenberg and the interest, enthusiasm and commitment of ENS to support one of the outstanding approved but previously unfunded BSF neuroscience research projects means that this scientifically worthy project can go forward.  ENS plays an important leadership role in forwarding global neuroscience research.”


September 2011

Steven J. Greenberg, M.D., president of the South Carolina-based Endowment for the Neurosciences (ENS), announced a gift from the Endowment to BSF, “I am pleased to provide support that will foster collaborative research between these two great nations in the area of Life Sciences, with particular focus on the fields of neurology and neurosciences funded through the BSF.”

The BSF is currently funding 41 projects in the area of neurological sciences.  Among the projects underway, scientists in Tel Aviv University and the California Institute of Technology are probing the role of the immune system in schizophrenia.  In another study at Ben Gurion University, the University of Haifa and the University of Michigan, research teams are working on the neurobiology of disrupted contextual odor discrimination in an animal model of post-traumatic stress disorder.  Scientists at the University of Haifa, Rambam Medical Center and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Israel, along with a team at Wake Forest University Health Sciences in Winston, North Carolina, are exploring imaging and psychophysics of endogenous analgesia in migraine pathophysiology and treatment.

“The support of Dr. Greenberg and the Endowment for the Neurosciences means a great deal to the BSF and to the international research community,” said Dr. Yair Rotstein, BSF Executive Director.  “The Neurosciences is a key area of focus for the BSF and grant funding from ENS enables us to support the most promising neurological research and partner with leading scientists in the U.S. and Israel to advance this important area of study.”