Israelis confident about joint projects

June 22, 1994|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Sun Staff Writer

A delegation of Israeli scientists and government officials toured the state-of-the-art aquaculture arm of the Center of Marine Biotechnology in Baltimore yesterday and expressed optimism about chances for a fruitful venture in international research.

"After seeing what I saw this morning, I have no concerns," said Dr. Max Herzberg, chairman of Israel's Biotechnology Commission. "I have no fear that the project will not go through."

At stake now is a slice of $30 million that Israel and the United States have committed between them over the next three years to launch joint research projects in biotechnology, agriculture, telecommunications, the environment and the conversion of defense industries to civilian manufacturing.

A U.S. commitment of $15 million was made this week by Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown during a meeting with the Israeli commission.

Decisions are yet to be made on where the U.S. share of the research will be conducted, who will do it or which projects will be underwritten. Proposals are to be submitted next fall to the U.S.-Israel Science and Technology Commission and selected by early 1995.

The Center of Marine Biotechnology, or COMB, will be the major research component of the $160 million Columbus Center, a marine science, teaching and exhibition complex scheduled to open next spring on Piers 5 and 6.

Maryland expects the Columbus Center to eventually grow into an international research center that will spin off jobs and industries here.

Dr. Rita Colwell, president of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, said COMB is already experienced in international research. COMB, which is a part of the institute, is developing proposals and a budget for cooperative research with the Israelis. They would include genetic engineering to improve aquaculture, a search for and development of new drugs from marine organisms, and the production of food thickeners by splicing seaweed genes into fast-growing bacteria.

The Israeli delegation toured the Columbus Center, now under construction, in the afternoon. Yesterday morning, the group had visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, which gave the mission a deeper meaning, Dr. Herzberg said.

"As Israeli scientists we have a sense of fulfillment that we have reconstructed a scientific community able to cooperate on an equal footing with the greatest nation on Earth," he said. But the two visits reminded the delegation that "technology without soul is a catastrophe."

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