Klinische Pharmakologie / Psychopharmakologie

 
 

 
 

Israeli Science:
News from Be'er-Sheva:

Ben-Gurion University
of the Negev


Eine Einladung der Ben-Gurion Universität

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 marketing.

*** * ***

Microalgae

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 colorful micro-organisms.

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 microalgae.

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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