Wide-ranging Colton Vision Bears Abundant Fruit Thursday, October 15, 2009
Breakthrough heart research is latest benefit of family's extensive philanthropy at TAU
Judy and Stewart Colton
In only a few years, a simple protein injection will grow new blood vessels in the heart, replacing risky and expensive open-heart surgery. Lucky patients who are thus spared bypass operations may want to send Stewart and Judy Colton a thank you note.
The Coltons, long-time Tel Aviv University supporters, became interested at an early stage in Dr. Britta Hardy's research at the Sackler School of Medicine's Felsenstein Medical Research Center seeking a method to spare diabetics from painful amputations. They encouraged her work at every step in its evolution, lending friendship as well as funding, to propel her scientific advances.
The result? New science with the potential to save countless millions of lives around the planet. And Dr. Hardy's research is but one of scores of TAU projects that benefit from the Colton family's philanthropic vision.
Nurturing medical pioneers
The work of Prof. Rina Rosin-Arbesfeld of the Sackler School of Medicine's Department of Anatomy and Anthropology is another significant example. Rosin-Arbesfeld is currently testing a gene therapy for highly lethal colon and rectal cancer, work that was begun with Colton family support. Her revolutionary treatment uses an existing antibiotic to deactivate mutations in a gene that, when functioning normally, suppresses the appearance of tumors. Tests in a lab setting have shown such promise that the research is now funded by the Chief Scientist of the Israeli Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Colton funding, through an American partnership to support the development of commercial technologies for TAU, has also been instrumental in Prof. Ehud Gazit's work in the development of drugs to treat prevalent degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Type 2 diabetes. Gazit's research at TAU's Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology studies the way nanoassemblies — tiny aggregates of proteins — form and cause damage to surrounding tissue. His patented technology to manipulate nanoassembles has been licensed to the German company Merz Pharmaceuticals, a leading international player in the area of Alzheimer's disease research and treatment.
Science, security and song
The generosity and partnership of Stewart and Judy Colton isn't bounded by science. With their help, Tel Aviv University researchers and students continue to make great leaps in fields as diverse as medicine, politics, music, security and law — disciplines reflecting the Coltons' lively intellectual curiosity.
Over the last 20 years, the Colton Family Foundation has awarded numerous scholarships and grants. At TAU's Buchmann-Mehta School of Music, for example, scholarships have supported promising musicians and an accomplished opera singer. These, plus PhD research and post-doctoral appointments in other disciplines, have received a total of 45 grants to date. And the Colton Family Foundation allocates thousands annually to assist its former grant recipients in their continuing scholarship after they join TAU's academic faculty.
Once such recipient is Prof. Eyal Zisser, the current head of TAU's internationally respected Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. Colton family support has allowed Zisser and many other influential analysts to pursue significant Middle East research essential for the security and well being of the State of Israel.
"Science, security and song — it's a wonderful, long-range philosophy for philanthropy, and an important vision for the State of Israel as well," says Roni Krinsky, president of TAU's American Friends organization. "This exceptional family recognizes the value of a well-rounded Israeli society, and their interests reflect a true picture of Tel Aviv itself — a hub of culture, business, high-tech, and cutting-edge science."
A matchmaker in medicine
Among the most recent Colton family projects are the Stewart and Judy Colton Chair of Law and Security in the Faculty of Law and the Colton Family Next Generation Technologies Institute, the latter a part of Ramot, TAU's technology transfer company. With the Coltons' gift, the Institute is able to provide seed money to develop high tech and biomedical technologies, still in the lab stage, that offer promising commercial potential like Dr. Hardy's cardiac research.
The Colton family's vision has inspired major corporations to follow suit. In 2007, corporate giant Johnson & Johnson began matching Colton support dollar for dollar. J&J funding enables Ramot to turn even more ideas and inventions into real-world applications, including technologies currently under development to treat or cure diabetes, cancer, and diseases of the central nervous system.
"The Colton Institute for Next Generation Technology was designed to help us advance our research to the point of commercialization," says Dr. Ze'ev Weinfeld, head of Ramot. "This is a unique vision, because their efforts support TAU scientists and advance medicine in society at the same time."
In 2006, Tel Aviv University conferred its most distinguished honor, Doctor Philosophiae Honoris Causa, on Stewart Colton. "TAU is a remarkable institution," he says. "I rarely have a conversation with a researcher or a thinker there that does not leave me impressed with serious intentions, both in academic advancement and real-world potential."
A former chairman of American Friends of Tel Aviv University, Stewart currently serves as a vice-chairman of TAU's Board of Governors and Judy is also a member of the Board of Governors. The family's active engagement with the university spans several decades, including a committed relationship with the Jaffe Center, predecessor of today's Institute for National Security Studies.
Residents of Short Hills NJ and Stockbridge MA, the Coltons contribute their time and energy to other Israeli philanthropic activities as well. Stewart is on the Board of American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic, and both he and Judy are active members of the Board of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ.