News from Be'er-Sheva:
of the Negev
Eine Einladung der
Die Foerderer der Ben-Gurion Universitaet des Negev (BGU) in Deutschland bieten eine
Reise nach Israel vom 7. bis 14.Juni 1998 zum Preis von 2041,- DM an (Aufpreis ab Berlin
oder Frankfurt 69,-DM, fuer Einzelzimmer 411,-DM).
Effective Herpes Medication
Developed by Scientists at Ben-Gurion University
Natural Medication Based On Microalgae Is Effective
Anti-Viral Treatment For Relief Of Herpes Lesions.
Beer-Sheva, July 24, 1996: Scientists at Ben-Gurion University
have developed the first effective topical anti-viral medication based on microalgae.
Preliminary tests indicate that it is a highly effective treatment for Herpes lesions. The
new product is a natural one, based upon the anti-viral properties of a polysaccharide
found in certain single-cell algae.
The main treatment for herpes today is acyclovir, a synthetic drug
designed to block the replication of viral DNA. Because it also interferes with cellular
DNA, it may lead to side effects. In addition, there are a growing number of reports that
Herpes and other viruses have developed a resistance to acyclovir. The new product is far
less toxic, more effective, and stands a negligible chance of causing the development of
resistant viral strains. Since this is a natural product there is a very small chance that
it will cause unpleasant side effects, even with prolonged use.
Prof. Shoshana Arad, Head of BGU's Institute of Applied Biosciences,
Prof. Jacov Tal, Head of the Department of Virology in the University's Medical School,
and Dr. Mahmoud Huliheil, who undertook the investigation as his post-doctoral project,
worked together on the development of the product. The preliminary tests, carried out at
the Institutes for Applied Research and the Center for Biotechnology in Beer-Sheva, were
confirmed at Hadassa Hospital in Jerusalem and at the Pasteur Institute in Paris.
With the knowledge that polysaccharides (which are carbohydrates
containing more than three monosaccharides per molecule) are effective anti-viral agents,
and Prof. Arad's expertise in microalgal polysacharrides, the team found the one
microscopic cell which has proven effective in treating Herpes; What they have yet to
investigate is why it works.
Arad says that the project had a very casual beginning: "I had
just read an article on the anti-viral qualities of polysaccharides and we were working on
algae polysaccharides. Mahmoud was in the office and I suggested that he look into it for
his post-doctoral project. He did a splendid job and we were all delighted with the
results. In Switzerland I was introduced to Cathy [Dr. Cathy Lawi-Berger, a Pharmaceutical
Consultant] and I told her about our discovery. It was a very fateful meeting. She was
very optimistic about the prospects for success, and introduced me to Dr. Mauvernay,"
(Dr. Rolland Mauvernay, President of Debiopharm).
On May 7, 1996, Debiopharm SA signed a contract with B.G. Negev (The
University's business development company). Debiopharm, whose headquarters are in
Lausanne, will contribute to the BGU team's research during the next three years, will
conduct the toxicity and clinical testing of the product and will develop it for
*** * ***
A Minuscule Desert Crop With Major Industrial Potential
The cultivation of microalgae is an enterprise well suited to the
Negev desert where the extravagant sunlight, the high temperatures and the presence of
huge saline water aquifers provide an ideal environment for the proliferation of these
What are microalgae?
They are microscopic versions of seaweed, which are also algae, but
microalgae are found in sweet water, on beaches and on dry sand as well as in salt water.
What do you do with microalgae?
Traditionally, they have been a common source of fish food. But the
list of possibilities is astounding - from eye shadow to toxic waste disposal, microalgae
provide the basis for a variety of industries - and as research continues, more uses are
being discovered. An important new discovery is the anti-viral cream, a highly effective
treatment for Herpes lesions, developed at Ben-Gurion University.
One strain of microalgae is very rich in beta-carotene, considered
to be effective in reducing the risk of cancer. But there are some 100,000 species and
discovering new uses for these tiny organisms is a major component in the development of
industries based on biotechnology. Microalgae can replace the chemicals that often poison
ourselves and our environment. Their importance in the production of vitamins, natural
dyes, health food products and pharmaceuticals is just beginning to unfold. It is also
becoming clear that they are effective in the biological control of agricultural pests,
sewage treatment, biodegradation of plastics and toxic wastes and may be used as
bio-sensors for medical diagnosis. As the field of biotechnology burgeons, so will the
wealth of applications.
Prof. Shoshana Arad, Head of Ben-Gurion University's Institute of
Applied Biosciences, made a unique contribution to the promotion of algae as a desert
industry when she and her team began streamlining production by using closed systems about
10 years ago. Until then algae production had been limited to open ponds. The closed
systems have a number of advantages; the algae grow much more quickly, the effects of
light and temperature on algae production can be controlled in a more efficient manner,
and closed systems prevent contamination. To demonstrate just how it works, Arad's test
facility on the campus of BGU's Institutes for Applied Research is ribboned with hundreds
of clear plastic sleeves filled with briny concoctions of orange, green, brown and purple
Arad is optimistic about the future of microalgae as a basis for
industry in the Negev: "Whole worlds open up when you do research. Sometimes you
throw a stone and you don't know where it will land." With their recent discovery of
a specific microalgae that is a effective treatment for herpes lesions, Arad and her team
hit a bulls-eye. In another application that promises commercial success, Arad is working
with a leading cosmetics firm on developing a new line of products based upon microalgae.
"Producing the algae for export or exporting our technology represent a very small
portion of the commercial possibilities," she explains. "Our dream is to build a
industrial park for natural products based on microalgae - health food, aquaculture,
pharmaceuticals and much more."
Born in Tel-Aviv, Arad studied biology at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem after completing her army service. She received two Master of Science Degrees -
one in Israel (cum laude) and another at Brooklyn College of the City University of New
York. As she continued in her studies, she developed an interest in algae because:
"Everybody was working on plants. Algae had some mystery!
Her life's work has been dedicated to the "mysteries" of
algae. As a Master's Degree student, in 1973, she was sent to Germany to work on a project
which investigated algae growth techniques on a large scale and under laboratory
conditions. After getting her Ph.D. at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York
(her thesis described her research in Chlorella, a green algae,) Prof. Arad returned to
BGU where she was asked to coordinate the very first Israeli/German scientific
collaboration. The project concerned algae cultivation on sewage effluviant as a means of
waste water reclamation.
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