5 Sep 2018

International collaboration to investigate diabetes epigenetics

L-R: Professor Mark Cooper (Monash), Professor Stephen Jane 
(Monash), Professor Paul Zimmet (Monash), Mr Sami Sagol,
Professor Naftali Stern (Director of Endocrinology,Tel Aviv
Medical Center), Dr Tamar Shahal, Prof Sam El-Osta (Monash)
A new Israel-Australia research centre involving a major collaboration with Monash University was officially launched 5 September 2018 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

The Sagol Center for Epigenetics of Metabolism and Aging cements the relationship between Monash University and the Tel Aviv Medical Center, Israel’s largest health institution, where the centre will be based. The initiative was made possible by the generosity of the Sagol family in Israel and is the vision of philanthropist Sami Sagol.

It is part of a collaboration that began last year, and will embed scientists from Monash’s Department of Diabetes, while Israeli scientists will be trained at Monash University. 

Paul Zimmet AO, Professor of Diabetes at Monash, will become the centre’s Co-director (honorary) with Professor Naftali Stern, Director of the Institute of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Hypertension at Tel Aviv Medical Center.

Epigenetics, a burgeoning new field, refers to changes in the genetic material surrounding genes that are induced by the environment.

Professor Zimmet, an international leader in diabetes research, believes some of these translate into adult disorders such as ageing, obesity and type 2 diabetes and may be passed down between generations or acquired during a lifetime.

“If you think of type 2 diabetes, for example, everyone thinks it’s all genetic,” Professor Zimmet said.

“But only about 20 per cent of risk of type 2 diabetes has been shown to be associated with genes. There’s a whole belief now that the role of environment makes up a considerable part of that risk.”
The centre will aim to reveal epigenetic changes in body organs that contribute to ageing and disease, attempt to discover which changes are experimentally reversible then strive to develop practical therapies to reverse such changes to delay ageing and diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

It is part of a network of research centres established in academic and medical centres by the Sagol family, focusing on the advancement of research on longevity and quality of life.

Ambassador of Israel to Australia, Mark Sofer said the project catapults Australian-Israeli scientific medical collaboration into a new era.

“One cannot commend highly enough the initiative of the Sagol Family and the amazing professionalism of Professors Paul Zimmet and Mark Cooper and their team at Monash University in Melbourne and of Professor Naftali Stern and his team at the Tel Aviv Medical Center,” Mr Sofer said.

Victorian Minister for Innovation and the Digital Economy, Philip Dalidakis, said it was wonderful to see Monash University spreading its knowledge and expertise all over the world.

 "Monash is a world leader in medical research and we're proud to see this great University collaborating with other world leaders and further strengthening our relationship with Tel Aviv,” Mr Dalidakis said.

The initiative was made possible by the generosity of the Sagol family in Israel and is the vision of philanthropist Sami Sagol.

“Sami Sagol is a visionary philanthropist and a strong believer in the interchange of information and research between nations to strengthen relations between nations, as well as to improve scientific knowledge,” Professor Zimmet said.

“We are now trying to raise funds from Australian philanthropic donors here to further support the Monash side of the program.”

Dignitaries attending the opening include:
• Professor Ronni Gamzu, Director General, Tel Aviv Medical Center
• Mr Ron Huldai, Mayor of Tel Aviv
• Mr Chris Cannan, Australian Ambassador to Israel
• Mr Yuval Rotem, Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the former Israeli Ambassador to Australia
• Mr Ken Ryan AM Agent to the United Kingdom Commissioner to Europe and Israel
• Professor Naftali Stern, Director of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Hypertension, Tel Aviv Medical Center
• Professor Paul Zimmet AO, Monash University and Honorary President, International Diabetes Federation
• Professor Mark Cooper AO, Head of Department of Diabetes, Monash University
• Professor Stephen Jane, Head of Monash University’s Central Clinical School
• Professor Sam El-Osta, Department of Diabetes, Monash University.

Professor El-Osta, recognised internationally for his work in epigenetics, will play a large role in overseeing the research.

The Monash professors, and scientists from Tel Aviv University, will speak at a scientific symposium held after the opening ceremony.

Professor Stephen Jane said, “This represents a wonderful opportunity for Monash University to establish meaningful collaborations with Tel Aviv Medical Center and Tel Aviv University, further enriching the rich relationships between Israel and Australia. Professors Zimmet and Cooper have been instrumental in this process, and further discovery into the causation of diabetes through the study of epigenetics has enormous therapeutic potential.”

Tel Aviv, Israel
Professor Paul Zimmet AO
Contact details: +61 439 651 502 or Paul.Zimmet@monash.edu
Media, Monash University
Contact details: +61 3 9903 4840 or media@monash.edu

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