Scientists across the globe are tasked with eradicating disease and poverty, reversing the consequences of global warming and sustaining economic growth despite depleting irreplaceable natural resources.  Israeli and U.S. scientists continue to be the top problem solvers, focusing on creative, “out-of-the-box” approaches and solutions.

The BSF funds research in these program areas:

Transformative Science
The “Transformative Science” research area is considered high-risk in terms of chances of success, and with potentially groundbreaking results that can truly transform our lives and the lives of generations to come.

Although opening up the possibility of significant change, these types of transformative research studies often do not receive funding.  They are dismissed by the established scientific community as “impossible to achieve” or “leading to a dead end.”  This situation is currently seen as one of the key obstacles facing science today.  Yet, recognizing the clear need for this type of research, the BSF now funds a transformative science program to help ensure these kinds of breakthrough projects can and do receive the support they need.

Physical Science and Mathematics

Funding of Physical Science and Mathematics research includes physics, chemistry, mathematics, materials and nanotechnology.

As examples of the types of research funded through the Physical Science and Mathematics program, BSF-funded scientists have developed a breakthrough new portable electrochemical battery that can produce thousands of hours of power and will soon replace the expensive regular or rechargeable batteries used today in hearing aids and sensors, and eventually cell phones, laptop computers and even electric cars.  This unique battery was developed by a BSF-funded team of researchers at Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania State University in the U.S., and Kyoto University in Japan.

Another BSF-funded project led to the development of a ‘nanoglue’ that can bond materials that don’t normally stick together. This research, led by scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, could have major benefits for everything from computer chips to energy production.

Health and Life Sciences

Searching for answers and cures to diseases that plague our world, funding of Health and Life Sciences research includes medicine, biology, psychology and biomedical engineering.

As examples of the type of research funded, the BSF played a key role in the worldwide use of PET (Positron Emitting Tomography) to identify functional disorders, indicating cancer.  The development of this basic oncological diagnostic tool and multi-billion dollar business was almost abandoned, due to a lack of abundant short-lived isotopes required for the imaging.  With funding from the BSF, Professor Shlomo Rozen at Tel Aviv University and Professor Michael Welch at Washington University developed what became the single most important source of these special isotopes, and secured the development of the method until other sources were later discovered.

In the promising area of stem cell therapy for reversing brain defects, BSF-supported collaborative research between Professor Joseph Yanai at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Professor Theodore Sorkin at Duke University has succeeded in reversing brain birth defects in animal models, using stem cells to replace defective brain cells. Neural and behavioral birth defects, such as learning disabilities, are particularly difficult to treat because the prenatal teratogen – the substances that cause the abnormalities – act diffusely in the fetal brain, resulting in multiple defects. Profs. Yanai and Sorkin’s teams were able to overcome this obstacle in laboratory tests with mice by using mouse embryonic neural stem cells. These cells migrate in the brain search for the deficiency that caused the defect, and then differentiate into becoming the cells needed to repair the damage. The scientists are now developing procedures for the least invasive method for administering the neural stem cells, which is probably via blood vessels, thus making the therapy practical and clinically feasible.

Natural Sciences

Finding answers to the challenges that face our planet, funding of Natural Sciences research includes atmospheric and earth, oceanography and limnology, environment, energy and ecology.

As examples of the types of projects funded in the Natural Sciences area, research into the biological processes of plants can help breeders better select which plants to grow in different climates, which in turn will lead to increased crop yield. This research, being carried out by Dr. Rachel Green of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Prof. Robertson McClung of Dartmouth College, may have applications for human medicine as well, as the ‘biological clocks’ of plants and animals work the same way.

Another collaborative project at South Dakota State University in the U.S. and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel involves organic solar cells, which have opened up one of the most hopeful prospects for wide-spread clean renewal energy due to their low material and fabrication cost, as well as their lightweight and mechanical flexibility.  As part of this project, the researchers are creating a new family of light harvesting and carrier transport materials using seleophene based conducting polymers.  These novel polymers will have great potential in advancing organic solar technology by improving light harvesting, carrier transport and solar energy conversion.

Social Sciences

Tackling the economic challenges that face our world today and living to learn together as one on this earth funding of Social Sciences research includes economics and sociology.

As examples of the type of research funded, in the area of sociology, a research team at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and the University of Texas in San Antonio are exploring the propensity, distance and diversity of internationalization. Another team of scientists at Tel Aviv University and the Georgia Institute of Technology are studying partisan and neoliberal convergence across developed nations.

Focusing on economics, researchers at Tel Aviv University and Harvard University are working together to study the economic value of digital rights.  Another team of scientists from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Harvard University are exploring counter-examples to quantitative descriptive models of economic behavior.