Drexel cancer symposium seeks to foster cooperation with Israeli researchers

Mayor Nutter's mission to Israel laid groundwork for the research effort, which he acknowledged was in areas little known to him.
Mayor Nutter's mission to Israel laid groundwork for the research effort, which he acknowledged was in areas little known to him.
Posted: January 29, 2014

Reuven Reich is in town to cure cancer.

More specifically, the Dame Susan Garth Professor of Cancer Research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is looking for collaborators and funding to develop drugs to attack ovarian and breast cancer and melanoma, particularly in children.

"They are very common cancers in children," Reich said Monday, "and very serious."

The researcher is among 24 Israeli scientists and medical researchers here for a three-day seminar arranged by Drexel University, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and Hebrew University. Also in attendance are about 160 researchers from Drexel and Children's.

The seminar is aimed at creating collaborations among researchers at the three institutions with a goal of improving medical care for children.

The seminar, a year in the making, was formally announced in November at a news conference in Jerusalem. In attendance was Mayor Nutter, who used the announcement to cap a two-week trade mission to London and Israel in November.

This seminar is an example of the types of ties Nutter was striving to secure on his trip.

The mayor was on hand Monday when the seminar got underway at Children's Colket Translational Research Building on Civic Center Boulevard.

In welcoming the researchers, Nutter managed to draw a healthy laugh from the crowd when he related his own college-era interest in pursuing medicine as a career. That is, until he collided with one of the denser prerequisites.

"Chemistry changed my life," Nutter said. "Ultimately, the world is a better and safer place."

Nutter acknowledged knowing little about what was to be discussed at the conference, which was not surprising given how technical and targeted the planned sessions will be.

The researchers heard from experts Monday on childhood disorders and diseases, the nervous system, cardiology, metabolism and nanomedicine.

The researchers had a wide variety of interests and expertise. Julie Mostov, vice provost for global initiatives at Drexel, said some researchers from her school were studying how computer gaming might be used in treating autistic patients.

"We are really looking outside the box," she said.

Yaron Sideman, the Israeli consul general for the Mid-Atlantic region, said the seminar was an answer to those in academia now calling for a boycott of such collaborations to protest Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

"You can't stop science," Sideman said.

The researchers themselves were eager just to begin.

Reich, for one, is hoping for more success than he had the last time he came to Philadelphia.

That was two years ago, when he came to Drexel on a similar mission, to find collaborators and funding.

Asked how it went, Reich shrugged: "No money."


chepp@phillynews.com

215-854-2594

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