The mission of the Legacy Heritage Clinical Research Institute at Rambam (LHCRIR) is to advance excellent clinical research aimed at understanding the causes of, and potentially curing, human diseases.
Fourteenth-century mercantile Italy nurtured and sustained an extraordinary cultural flowering that, over the course of several centuries, would be disseminated throughout Europe and would assume diverse artistic, literary, scientific and other expressions wherever it took root.
Later historians called this era the Renaissance, a term today used to describe any gathering in one place, in part serendipitously, in part deliberately, of especially gifted and productive individuals magnetically drawn to one another and to that place for intellectual or cultural collaboration.
When describing the scientific renaissance currently underway at Rambam, the minds we speak of are 21st-century medical minds. The project is the Legacy Heritage Clinical Research Institute at Rambam (LHCRIR) under the Directorship of biochemist Prof. Michael Aviram, who is also Director of our medical center’s Department of Laboratory Medicine. The place is the industrious port city of Haifa, Israel’s third largest metropolis and a national and international high-tech industry hub.
The conditions for Rambam’s assuming a research leadership role have been brewing for the past hundred years and more – at least as early as 1905, when the Ottoman government chose Haifa as the main Mediterranean station for the Hijaz Railway. That milestone informed the decision by German-Jewish benefactors to open the Technion (now the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology), a project begun just prior to World War I and completed under British rule in 1925.1
More recent historical developments that have steered Rambam to this juncture in time have included the establishment of the Technion’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and the Rappaport Institute in 1969 and 1982 respectively, and the establishment of the MATAM high-tech industrial park at the southern entrance to the city in the 1970s. According to Prof. Moshe Hashmonai, emeritus Director of Surgery at Rambam, these related developments were not, in fact, selfevident at the time:
“Many objected in the early 1970s to the connection of the new medical school with a technical institution […]. I clearly remember [first Chief of Surgery at Rambam Hospital and first Dean of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine] Dr. [David] Erlik’s statement in reply: In future,medicine will be intimately and inevitably intricated with advanced technologies […W]ithin the next 15 years, the concomitant existence of a large medical clinical teaching center, and a foremost technical academic institution, triggered the establishment of the flourishing biomedical industry in Haifa.”2
The Legacy Heritage Fund Limited grant and matching funds will be utilized for 3 related purposes: first and foremost, to attract and recruit on a competitive basis talented and promising research-oriented physicians at various levels of career development; to provide them with the finest laboratory and research infrastructure; and to seed their investigations with intramural research - operating
Because the new Clinical Research Institute at Rambam will require reinforcement by Haifa’s existing high-tech and biomedical industries, and also will most certainly generate new life-sciences enterprises in Haifa and the North, Rambam foresees that it, too, will significantly fuel Israel’s long-term economic and scientific growth.
Legacy Heritage Clinical Research Institute at Rambam
The establishment of the Legacy Heritage Clinical Research Institute at Rambam in July 2008 has jumpstarted Rambam’s plan to build a Biomedical Discovery Tower designed for facilitating trans-disciplinary interactions among physicians, scientists and engineers and for incubating worldclass, 21st-century medical breakthroughs.
The strategic goal is to build a critical mass of research activity necessary for developing Centers
of Excellence dedicated to patient-oriented research discovery.
“For the new Institute, we are recruiting topnotch clinical and translational researchers and will be asking each candidate for membership how he or she envisions collaborating with our established cohort of hospital-based, research-minded physicians,” Prof. Aviram explains. “Theidea is that Rambam’s bedside physicians will have access to the labs, and LHCRIR members will have access to Rambam bedside physicians’ patient data and professional insights.”
Top-priority areas of investigation will include cancer; cardiovascular disease and thrombosis;
diabetes, metabolic and kidney disease; inflammatory, infectious and immune disease; translational genetics; neurodegenerative diseases; and medical-device and imaging technology.
Rambam’s Leading Edge
The Legacy Heritage Fund Limited grant represents the most recent in a series of major social-venture capital investments by Rambam’s Friends that have propelled our medical center to patient-care and scientific-research prominence.
At the turn of the 21st century, a core group of physicianscientists and others had assembled at ambam and already assumed, or were poised to assume, leadership roles. These have included trauma specialist Prof. Moshe Revach, immediate past Director General of RHCC; interventional cardiologist Prof. Rafael Beyar, successor to Prof. Revach and immediate past Dean of the Technion’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine; nephrologist and molecular geneticist Prof. Karl Skorecki, Director of Medical and Research Development at RHCC; 2004 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Prof. Aaron Ciechanover, Chair of our Scientific Advisory Board; Dr. Esty Golan, Chief Administrative Officer and Director of Global Resources; and industrialist Eitan Wertheimer and his wife Ariela, who Co-Chair our capital campaign.
This leadership confronted a densely constructed East Campus urgently requiring physical renovation and expansion, but on the ledger’s credit side, physicians, nurses and patients benefiting from Rambam Medical Center’s physical proximity to the Faculty of Medicine and from the cross-fertilization of medical ideas facilitated by this proximity and by cross-appointments of senior Rambam physicians to the Faculty.
When asked to describe the dynamic at work among the members of Rambam’s 21st-century leadership team, Dr. Golan enthuses, “We have a combination of strong personalities
working in harmony; we have among us a classic visionary, a turbo with a broad perspective, a brilliant strategist, a wise and original thinker –
”Asked to describe her contribution to the team, she says, “I’m a marathon runner; I possess sustained energy and never give up.”
What is the key to the harmony among such strong personalities? Dr. Golan thinks for a moment, then answers matter-of-factly: “We’re Haifaim [from Haifa] — a little conservative, but with lightning in our eyes because what we’re creating here is important, it’s right, we’re all united around the same goal and the work is challenging, nuanced and fascinating.”
Better in Translation
In December 2008, the Legacy Heritage Clinical Research Institute announced the appointment of its first two Members (Principal Investigators). They are immunologist Prof. Yehuda Chowers, newly appointed Head of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Service and Deputy Director of the Gastroenterology Institute at Rambam, and anatomic pathologist Prof. Edmond Sabo, recently appointed Director of the Surgical and Gastrointestinal Pathology Unit at Rambam. Both bring questing scientific minds and clinical problem-solving experience to investigations that naturally translate from the patient’s bedside to the laboratory bench and back again.
Prof. Chowers has recently returned to Israel from a three-year, post-doctoral stint at UC San Diego (UCSD), where he researched diagnostic and therapeutic ionizing-radiation induced damage to the intestinal immune system. In the Legacy Institute framework, he will be collaborating with Rambam’s clinical oncologists, radiotherapists, urologists and gynecologists on genetic and pharmacological studies relevant not only to inflammation in the gastrointestinal system but also to many other medical problems and body organs.
Dr. Sabo is a Senior Lecturer at the Technion’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Assistant Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine (Research) at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University and immediate past Head of the Image and Data Analysis Division of the Molecular Pathology Core at Rhode Island Hospital (the latter institutions both located in Providence, Rhode Island). His research area is computer-assisted image analysis for quantitative pathology. In the Legacy Institute framework, he will be analyzing the nuclear texture of digitized images of gastrointestinal, breast and brain premalignant lesions and malignant tumors, with the aim of developing predictive formulas for disease progression and patient prognosis.
Rambam is deeply grateful to the Legacy Heritage Fund Limited for enabling us to provide Professor Chowers and Dr. Sabo and their teams with the dedicated-research time and first-rate laboratory conditions required for their projects. As significantly for Rambam, the Legacy imprimatur represents international acknowledgment that adequate infrastructure and funding for hospital-based research hold huge promise for the future of medicine in Israel.
1 .For the history of early 20th-century Haifa, the text is
indebted to Ben-Artzi, Dr. Yossi. Haifa, Capital of the North.
Haifa Municipality, 1995, trans. M. Rosovsky.
2 . Hashmonai M. “David Erlik (1909 - 1995): A Founder of
Surgery in Modern Israel.” Dig Surg 2004; 21:447-451