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A scientist from the Weizmann Institute and a scientist from the Technion were selected for the list of "XNUMX leading young scientists in the world"

Kinneret Keren from the Technion and Coby Bennson from the Weizmann Institute were included in the list of the world's top 2004 young inventors in XNUMX. This article also includes an interview with Bennson


The young Israeli scientist, Dr. Kinneret Keren, was added to the TR-100 list - the list of "100 leading young inventors in the world" - thanks to the research work she did at the Technion. The event will be celebrated at MIT University on September 29-30, at a conference organized by the journal, which compiles and publishes the list.
Technology Review is MIT's innovation journal. The TR-100 list is determined by its editors in collaboration with a distinguished team of judges, and presents 100 young scientists - whose age does not exceed 35 - whose work has a dramatic impact on the world.
"Inclusion in the TR-100 list has become one of the most prestigious honors for young inventors worldwide," said David Rothman, editor of the Technology Review. "The inventors who entered the list this year are rare talents, whose inventions and vision will shape the future of technology in the world."
Dr. Keren, who is currently in the midst of a post-doctorate at Stanford University, did her doctorate at the Technion under the guidance of Professor Erez Brown and Professor Uri Sion from the Faculty of Physics. The Technion research team, in which Dr. Yevgeny Buchstab and the researcher Rotem Berman also participated, succeeded, last year, in finding a way to create the first molecular transistor built by DNA. This development may endow the smallest materials and components with unprecedented properties.
The pioneering work of this research team, which was published in the prestigious scientific journal "Science", "made headlines" in the world's leading media outlets, including the New York Times,
US News and World Report and The Los Angeles Times.
Dr. Keren said that working at the Technion was "demanding and meticulous, but also incredibly rewarding. We invented something completely new, something that didn't exist before. Science is usually ninety percent frustration and ten percent celebration. You start with an idea, make attempts and they fail. But there are also those rare and wonderful moments when it succeeds, and lo and behold - you have created something new."
Dr. Keren, born in Jerusalem, is the daughter of a mathematician father and a computer scientist mother. She is the third of four siblings, all scientists. "I have always been interested in science," she says.
A doctoral student from the Weizmann Institute of Science is included in the list of the top 100 young inventors and entrepreneurs in the world

Yaakov Benanson, a research student (doctoral student) in the laboratory of Prof. Ehud Shapira at the Weizmann Institute of Science, was selected as one of the 100 leading young inventors and entrepreneurs in the world, in a list compiled by an international panel of judges and the editors of the magazine Technology Review published by the Institute of Technology of Massachusetts, USA. The list includes young people aged 35 and under whose work in developing innovative technology may affect our lifestyles in the future. Yaakov Benanson is the first Israeli to be included in this prestigious list.

Benanson joined Prof. Shapira's laboratory at the Weizmann Institute of Science as a doctoral student in 1999 at the age of 24. In this framework, he participated in the development of ways to perform calculations using molecules of the genetic material DNA, and various enzymes. This molecular calculation process is intended - according to the vision of the developers - for the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases, including cancer. This research led to the development of the world's smallest biological computer, which appears in the Guinness Book of Records. Recently, this computer was "upgraded" so that today it can diagnose molecular markers related to the processes of cancer development in vitro (that is, not in a living body), and in response release a molecule that inhibits the process. It was this study that put Bennson on the list of the top 100 young inventors and entrepreneurs in the world.

In 1998, Bennson received the Wolf Foundation Award for Excellence in Academic Studies. Today he is included in the dean's list of the Feinberg Seminary which is the university body of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

The list of the 100 leading young inventors and entrepreneurs in the world will be revealed in a special ceremony to be held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as part of the annual convention dedicated to future trends in the fields of science and technology.
"The subject sounded like science fiction to me at first"

Says Yaakov Benanson in a special interview with the Hadaan website

Jacob Benanson
how it all began?

Until ten years ago, the fields of computing and biology were distant fields where the scientists working in them did not talk to each other. In 1994, the first article was published by Prof. Leonard Edelman, who was Prof. Adi Shamir's partner in the development of the RSA encryption, which suggested building computers from DNA. He thought that these computers would replace the existing computers. It was not so successful, but Prof. Ehud Shapira from the Weizmann Institute had an idea to build such computers, which would be used for medical diagnosis.

Prof. Shapira returned to academia after running a start-up which he sold to Lotus and decided to focus on the field of biological computing. He combined his knowledge of computers with biological systems. Since his specialization was in the field of 'normal' computers, he was looking for interns in the field of biology, and that's how I came to him."

What is the relationship between computers and molecules?

"At that time, the general trend was to see things in common, for example how biological systems process information. Some of these things are very similar to what happens in computing, which can be described using concepts from the field of computers. For example, they try to identify all kinds of networks in the biological structures, some of them behave like logical gates. You can see a similarity between what happens in living systems and control theory. These are areas that were separate worlds ten years ago. People started to learn from each other and this gave ideas of connection between the two fields. His idea was inspired by the structure of DNA and other polymers that can be represented as a sequence of bits and you can think of performing manipulations on DNA, which are actually manipulations on bits and then you can describe them in terms from the world of computer science."

And what exactly did Shapira want to achieve?

Shapira examined the inherent possibility of building computers from other materials, not from silicon but from molecules - a way to try and process with their help information that is encrypted and coded in the molecules themselves. If I want to detect a molecular signal or several singles, process them and come to a conclusion. In order for a regular computer to perform the calculation, you need to sample the signal, translate it into computer language and write software to run the algorithm. If we had a computer that was itself built from molecules, it would be able to access and process the information directly. For example, a disease such as cancer that can be characterized with the help of all kinds of molecular markers such as mutations or abnormal levels of proteins or other molecules - all these things are signals. If I want to diagnose a cell, whether it is cancerous or not, if I have molecular calculation power, I can do the things where it happens, that is, in the cell itself."

And how did you approach building the computer that diagnoses diseases?

"This is not exactly what we said at the time, but this vision has not changed much in its central elements. At that time it was an idea on paper. He ultimately comes from a computer science background. He came out with a shout and asked a biologist or a chemist to help him realize it. At the time, I was looking for a topic for my PhD. The topic sounds like science fiction to me at first. I consulted with people, and they said that it is possible that we will not be able to fully realize the vision in the near future, but we can move forward in small steps and get closer to its realization and we may have important scientific achievements in themselves.

That's how we worked. At the beginning we defined a simple problem that was not related to the implementation of the medical system but a simple calculating machine - a finite automaton made of a DNA molecule. There were all kinds of attempts but no one built such a computer. Basically we defined a problem at the logical level of mathematical definitions and we had to find a molecular implementation for it, transfer it in a test tube and see that it does what the mathematical model does. We thought about it for quite some time and came up with a solution. I can take credit for the development of the implementation itself. Prof. Shapira gave the direction and the mathematical definitions and I developed the implementation and built it, and checked that it works. In the end we built the computer and published an article in Nature in 2001 and in May 2004 we published a second article in which we described the operation of a prototype for the biological computer that diagnoses a disease and produces a drug for it."

And I understand you were able to build a prototype?

At that time, even when we started working, he did not have a laboratory, but only an office like computer people have. We were guests in Irit Sagi's laboratory, and with a very small budget and in a relatively short time we got positive results. This is the work published in 2001 on the realization of a computational machine with the help of molecules that appeared in Nature.
Thanks to this initial success, Udi Shapira got a biological laboratory in the biological chemistry department and since then we sit in both departments but we do all the work in biological chemistry.
The work we did then had no use, but an intellectual exercise and since then we have worked on the subject in all kinds of ways. We put the vision of a machine that knows how to diagnose diseases aside. It seems somewhat unrealistic. Really a year and a half ago when we thought about what could be done, maybe take a small step in that direction. Again we considered in the process of thinking. Udi Shapira and I and students, and in the end we again came to a solution on paper of a prototype of the future machine that knows how to diagnose diseases in cells. It still works at the test-tube level, under sterile conditions, but it performs detection operations of disease markers and provides a diagnosis.
If the disease is characterized by 5 different markers, the computer should give a positive diagnosis provided that all 5 are present at the same time. In the beginning there is a phase of collecting the signals, then we calculate all the results of the tests - to reach a diagnostic conclusion based on the results of the tests. We implemented the entire decision tree in molecules and relied on technologies we developed in the first computer that apparently had no visible application. 50 percent of this prototype is based on that computer.
The prototype we built releases a chemical that is a drug (of course it would function as a drug in the presence of a real cell). From the moment we had a plan on paper, we approached the implementation and did it in a record period of less than six months. Everything worked the first time. I do not remember anything like this in my experience and that of others. An article about this experiment was also published in Nature in May of this year. As a result of this publication, I was actually recommended as a candidate for the list and was eventually selected as a member of the list.
I take it this was a team effort?

The partners in the first development were also Prof. Ehud Keinan from the Technion who was a research partner, Prof. Zvi Levana from the Weizmann Institute, Dr. Tamar Paz-Elitzur and Dr. Rivka Ader.
Those who were also involved in the development of the solution (in the area of ​​planning on paper) were Udi Shapira, myself and the master's student Binyamin Gil who contributed his part in the calculation phase where we translate the diagnostic decision into the administration of medicine. Another student was Uri Ben Dov, a computer scientist who designed the DNA sequences. Dr. Rivka Ader is a research associate with us and participated in some of the experiments.
Is this some award or just prestige?

The list of the 100 leading young inventors and entrepreneurs in the world will be revealed at an event at MIT University on September 29-30, at a conference organized by the journal that compiles and publishes the list. This is a gathering with the participation of about a thousand people - people from industry, biotechnology and scientists. Come see what's new in science and also honor the winners. It's a matter of honor, not a monetary reward."
Kobe Benanson's race to the top of science

By Oded Harmoni

The "smallest biological computer in the world", invented by a 29-year-old Israeli, will carry out diagnoses inside the patient's body and eliminate cancer cells. He has already entered the Guinness Book of Records

Bennson in the laboratory at the Weizmann Institute, this week. "In Israel, we, the scientists, are only remembered when there are awards - and even then it gets a line and a half in the newspaper, when every 'star is born' fills the pages"
When Kobe Bennson entered the cafe on one of Tel Aviv's boulevards, no one batted an eye at him. It is hard to imagine that the thin guy, who looks young for his age (soon to be 29), in a simple plaid shirt, is already today a world-renowned scientist whose invention is the basis for a major technological change for humanity. Only about an hour later, when he tried to draw with imaginary lines on the nearby wall how the molecule-based calculation machine he had developed would work, and his eyes sparkled, he was seen in a different light, even in the eyes of the bored waitress in the corner, who stole intrigued glances. The computer that Benson invented with a group of researchers at the Weizmann Institute performs calculations using molecules of the genetic material DNA and various enzymes, and in the future, they hope, it will be able to make diagnoses inside the patient's body and eliminate cancer cells once it is detected. "The world's smallest biological computer", as Benenson's project and the subject of his PhD is called, has already entered the Guinness Book of Records.

Last week Bennson went to the USA to receive one of the most impressive awards for a scientist of his age, after an international panel of judges and the editors of the magazine "Technology Review" chose him as one of the hundred young inventors and entrepreneurs leading the world today.

The Technology Review of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is one of the oldest and most respected newspapers in the field that combines technology and science. The magazine's vision is to promote and understand emerging technologies, and their impact on the world of business and society. The list of 100 young inventors of the magazine is published for the fourth year, but despite her young age she has already earned her a name and a lot of respect. Past winners include scientists, innovative high-tech people and exceptional developers such as the founders of "Google", the biochemist Ben Davis, Adam Arkin and David Schaefer who are developing innovative treatment for AIDS, the founder of "Napster" Sean Fanning, and also the founder of the WINAMP standard Justin Frankel, who have since been selected For the list he founded a company called "JizzSonic", which developed the "God's effects processor" - a computer processor that creates effects and noises for electric guitars.

This year the list includes young inventors (up to the age of 35) from all over the world, and to date only a few former Israelis have appeared on it. Bennson, and the nanotechnology researcher from the Technion, Dr. Karen Kinneret, 32 years old, (now a postdoctoral student at Princeton), who was awarded the prize this year, are the first Israelis to enter it due to their invention while doing research in academic institutions in Israel.

Nature's programs

How do you become one of the world's leading inventors? Bennson was born near Siberia. In 1991 he came to Tel Aviv with his father, a geography lecturer, and his mother, a freelancer in the field of software. The family settled in Neve Tzedek, along with other immigrant families who felt the neighborhood "like a commune". "I was in the XNUMXth grade when we arrived," he recalls. "I became a Zionist before the Aliya, during the revival and perestroika, when the national consciousness was clearer and everyone looked at their own heritage. I studied Hebrew, so I didn't need to go to the studio, and I landed straight at the Herzliya Gymnasium. It was difficult for a few months, but I managed," he says.

Before the army, he looked into reserve options and ended up at the Technion, where he was accepted into a unique program for outstanding students. "To this day it is difficult for me to define exactly what I am academically. I have a hard time with scientific definitions. I started studying biology and chemistry and found myself also focusing on computers, as an autodidact who programmed by himself. I did it in high school too. I did my master's in biochemistry," he says. "I believe in interdisciplinary research. There are people who walk with their heads against the wall and focus only on their field and not on other fields. It doesn't suit me. Today, people are beginning to understand the combination between the fields."

Benenson's interdisciplinary perception led him to the laboratory of Professor Ehud Shapira at the Weizmann Institute, a computer expert and one of the institute's most prolific researchers. "Shapira was just looking for something to do with biology, since he came from the computer field. He thought about how DNA could be coded and turned into a type of computer other than silicon chip based computers. I read about Shapiro's ideas for building a molecule-based computer in Haaretz. I thought it had no basis. But then I entered the website and saw that there was something to it and that there was a real possibility of making a molecule-based calculating machine. After I consulted with the dean of my faculty at the Technion, I joined Shapira as a chemist-biologist and together we tried to make the molecular calculating machine."

Shapira saw in his vision a revolution, and Bennson, then 25 years old, was entrusted with the engineering-biochemical solution - to build a molecular system that could perform basic calculation operations. "We realized that nature also has a natural computing system. There is a logical calculation using a series of molecules. But nature's programs are quite similar to Microsoft's programs - they are a kind of patch on patch, until it works. Nature is not able to rewrite itself - the programs and the molecules - but only to develop solutions one on top of the other. 95% of the genetic code is actually garbage and only 5% is really important," he says, demonstrating with his hands.

"We created a connection between molecules and a system that contains many substances. Mixing the materials creates a chain of actions and reactions, which activate the molecules and create yes and no situations. This is how the calculation is made. Three years ago we managed to develop a machine of molecules, which locates patterns of numbers and this was the first significant event", he says; The event then received an article in the journal "Nature". "It was also difficult for them to deal with our claims, and at first they did not accept the article and it went through four opinions before it was approved for publication. It was my first publication in Nature," says Benanson, who managed to repeat his experiments several times in the laboratory and prove their feasibility.

After building the first calculating machine, based on a mixture of molecules that created a simple calculation operation, the team of researchers tried to go one step further - to create a molecular processor that could at a later stage perform analysis and diagnosis of molecular signs, such as diseases within the body and in response release a molecule that inhibits the process. The team developed a processor that can pick up external signals from molecules and determine if the signals are normal or require treatment. The mechanism they developed is capable of detecting up to 10 different molecular markers.

"This is the same logic of examining a patient. Such a molecular machine can actually diagnose the patient and check for good cells and make a decision to kill the diseased cells or release a drug. The computer actually needs to process information and make a decision. Nature itself fails to make these decisions in cases like cancer and then the systems fail." Bennson is quick to clarify that this is not a molecular computer that will be available in the near future. "There are still many steps until then."

When the golem will stand up against its creator

Benanson says that he is not afraid of a stage where the cocoon will rise up against its creator and the molecular computers will control the person: "I don't think we will reach such a stage, it is very far." Today, Bennson and Shapiro's development is still in the test-tube stage. The critics of the process, who previously did not believe that it could exist, now claim that they do not see a continuation of the experiment. Benanson, for his part, thinks "that we should continue to struggle and prove that it will succeed".

On the way to this struggle Benanson is trying to complete his doctorate and deal with the publication that fell in part. "I hope that enthusiasm for research is not a passing fad. For me, the win is an important event, but it is more important to continue the research. For some reason, in Israel we, the scientists, are only remembered when there are awards - and even then it gets a line and a half in the newspaper when every 'star is born' fills the pages", he complains.

5 תגובות

  1. oak:
    Continuing with Roy's words - if the science teacher doesn't know what to do, you can tell him that you heard that other schools organized workshops for entrepreneurship and suggest that he organize such a workshop at your place.

  2. Hi, my name is Alon and I'm in the XNUMXth grade at Nitzani Hanegev School [in Kibbutz Beit Kama] I live in Givat Bar.
    And I like to invent and I have many ideas but I don't know where to turn and how to actually develop them.

    I'll thank you if you can help me.

    Alon Barzilai

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