As The First International TEDMED Host, Israel Seals Spot As Startup Nation

By Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels April 26, 2013 Comments

Millions of people worldwide tune in to watch TED lectures on a variety of subjects. The conferences are normally held in the US. Now the first country to be given the prestigious honor of holding a TEDMED (a TED event on the subject of health and medicine) outside the US was Israel. The conference was held last week, occurring simultaneously with the annual conference in Washington DC.

The TED, or Technology, Entertainment and Design conferences that are viewed globally are renowned for riveting speeches given by outstanding individuals on innovative topics, carrying the slogan “ideas worth sharing”.

Streamed live to the Washington TEDMED conference, TEDMED Israel sported three local speakers chosen for their impressive innovation in the fields of medicine and health, and shared in some of the live speeches at the US conference. 

A vision shared by two borthers

When Yaron Eliram, a lawyer by profession, decided that he wanted to bring TED to Israel he harnessed the help of his brother, Dr. Eitan Eliram, advisor to the Prime Minister in Nanotechnology and New Media, to get the wheels moving. Together they contacted the TED organization and got the first international TEDMED conference up and running in just under two months, hearing of TEDMED curator Jay Walker’s appreciation for the medical community of Israel.

With the wind in their sails, the Eliram brothers succeeded in securing a meaningful location for the prestigious event, the state-of-the-art Peres Center for Peace, and a number of remarkable speakers to wow the global viewership. Although the US TEDMED conference spans three and half days, TEDMED Israel lasted only over three hours, yet the variety of the topics was still astonishing.

Knowing how to play with our DNA

Two of the speakers, Omri Drory of the Genome Compiler Corportation and Dr. Ido Bachelet from the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials at Bar Ilan University, spoke of revolutionary uses for our genetic code that are shaping the future of medicine.

The Genome Compiler Corporation “democratizes creation”, according to Drory and it does so by allowing biologists to write out their own DNA sequences. For those who don’t know, DNA is a molecule that contains our genetic code that can be arranged in infinite sequences of four letters: G, A, T, and C. When these letters are arranged in different sequences they can produce or weaken certain traits in an organism, and this is called “writing” DNA.

The Genome Compiler that Drory presented at TEDMED is basically a DNA design start-up. The Genome Compiler software is available online for anyone to use (although experience is valued because playing with DNA can be dangerous) and allows the user to create and then physically order any DNA sequence they wish. This allows biologists to play around with DNA to make it into all kinds of different shapes, tastes, colors, smells and even effects. While the uses for such a program may only be fully understood by the experienced biologist, Drory spoke of a number of international DNA compiling competitions like iGem in which students compete for the most unique feats in biological engineering.

Creating “microscopic doctors” that swim around the body

Dr. Bachelet’s speech was no less eye-opening, as he discussed the creation of natural nanobots from DNA sequences that can be injected into the bloodstream. As the father of a chronic hospital patient, Dr. Bachelet felt the need to create a biological “robot” that could help his daughter during her healing process. Instead of having to go through the painful experience of being constantly hooked up to machines, Dr. Bachelet and his REBIT team set out to create a nanobot out of a DNA sequence that could be injected into the patient to do all of the necessary work.

Dr.Bachelet ordered a DNA sequence from a site like the Genome Compiler and began tweaking it to make it act like a microscopic robot that can be turned on and off as needed. Not only can these nanobots be controlled by simple hand gestures, Dr. Bachelet is working to make them self-destructible after they have completed their task in the blood stream. Although his project is still in development and has yet to be safely tested on humans, his and Drory’s “nano-size” thinking seems to echo the future of medical developments.

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