Yuval Hart

Krill Prize 2023
The Hebrew University

Yuval Hart

 

Affiliation at the time of the award:

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology

 

Award citation:

“for unique contributions to understanding the computational principles of cognitive processes in health and illness”.

 

My research focuses on the computational principles that govern our cognition. With these computational principles, we can point to concrete mechanistic accounts of cognition in both health and disease.

Dr. Hart’s research in the field of creativity deals with understanding the questions: How do people find innovative and valuable solutions within huge mental search spaces? How does creativity develop in children, youth and adults? What is the brain mechanism of creative search? And what is common and different between creative processes in different people?
In the field of autism research, Dr. Hart’s research suggests that weighing trade-offs between precise encoding of a signal and rapid response to changes in the environment underlies many of the behavioral and brain differences observed between people diagnosed on the autistic spectrum and neurotypicals.

Another area being researched in his laboratory is the weighting of computational transformations in health and disease – in the laboratory, Dr. Hart is looking for ways to remap the activity of brain networks and the contexts between them for computational tasks. This mapping might make it possible to locate early markers for neuronal diseases in the future.

His work applies advanced analysis methods (based on data and mathematical models) to large databases that include many subjects and/or a very high temporal or spatial resolution.

Tomer Koren

Krill Prize 2023
Tel-Aviv University

Tomer Koren

 

Affiliation at the time of the award:

Tel Aviv University

The Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences,

Blavatnik School of Computer Science

 

Award citation:

“for unique contributions in the field of computer learning, understanding algorithms and their improvement”.

 

Dr. Tomer Koren’s research deals with theory and algorithms for mathematical optimization and their properties and uses in computer learning and reinforcement learning. Optimization methods are currently at the heart of the work in the field of Artificial Intelligence – AI, and are used to train almost any learning-based system in a wide variety of fields and applications.

Despite this, there is still much that is still unknown in regards to the generalization properties of these algorithms, and especially their surprising ability to provide insights and predictions about information details that they have never seen before. One of Dr. Koren’s main research goals is to strengthen the theoretical foundations behind the breakthrough successes of computer learning in recent years. This reinforcement is essential to better understand why the learning methods we use today succeed above and beyond expectations (that is, beyond what classical theory promises), and how they can be improved and optimized.

Inbal Talgam-Cohen

Krill Prize 2023
Technion

Inbal Talgam-Cohen

 

Affiliation at the time of the award:

Technion

Faculty of Computer Science

 

Award citation:

“for unique contributions in the study of algorithmic game theory and contract design”.

 

Algorithms are the building blocks of computer science, and in practice they are the mathematical “recipe” that allows the computer to convert input (problem) into output (solution). Algorithms today do not operate in a vacuum, but affect almost every field in the economy and society. Therefore, in the design of the algorithm, its interaction with people, who have their own interests, must be taken into account – the algorithm must encourage them to cooperate in order to succeed in solving the problem. Dr. Talgam-Cohen’s research focuses on the combination of algorithms and incentives and draws from fields of knowledge such as economics and game theory.
In a study conducted by Dr. Talgam-Cohen in recent years, she turns the algorithmic spotlight on “contract design”, a field that won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2016. The study shows how combining algorithms and contracts can not only lead to better algorithms, but also to significantly improved contracts. It may, for example, shed light on the most common forms of contract, enable personalized incentives, and tie contracts to machine learning.

 

Nitzan Gonen

Krill Prize 2023
Bar-Ilan University

Nitzan Gonen

 

Affiliation at the time of the award:

Bar Ilan University

Faculty of Life Sciences, Center for Nanotechnology

 

Award citation:

“for original contributions in the study of the molecular mechanisms that mediate the determination of embryo’s sex in mammals, and future development of artificial testicles for sperm production under laboratory conditions”.

 

The field of embryo sex, male or female, has fascinated humanity for generations. The sex of the embryo in mammals is determined on the basis of the sex chromosomes: the embryo carrying XY chromosomes will develop as a male while the embryo carrying XX chromosomes will develop female. While most of the time the distinction between female and male is easy and clear, many applicants get the gender determination procedure wrong, meaning that there are people who are XY but female, and people who are XX but male. Hundreds of genes are known to be involved in the process of sex determination and the transformation of the primary gonads into testicles or ovaries. Mutations in many of these genes cause a syndrome called DSD – disorders of sex development, which is characterized by a mismatch between the sex chromosomes, the gonads and the sex anatomy. One in every 4,000 babies are born with DSD, and all of them are infertile. Despite many years of research, more than 50% of sex reversal cases have not been genetically diagnosed .
Using innovative genomic methods, in Dr. Gonen’s laboratory, they investigate the involvement of elements in the genome that do not code for genes but are involved in the process and can provide a basic explanation (in cases that have not been explained to date) for deciding whether testicles or ovaries will develop. Also in the laboratory, embryonic stem cells are used in an attempt to create An artificial testicle that will serve as a research and treatment model for cases of gender determination problems and infertility, and in the hope that in the future a path will be broken to create artificial sperm that will allow infertile people to give birth to a biological child.

Viviane Slon

Krill Prize 2023
Tel-Aviv University

Viviane Slon 

 

Affiliation at the time of the award:

Tel Aviv University

The Sackler Faculty of Medicine,

Department of Anatomy and Anthropology

 

Award citation:

“for her contributions in the development of research methods and tools in the study of the genome of ancient humans and the evolution of the human genome”.

 

Sequencing the DNA of ancient humans is an important tool for researching the genetic history of humanity and for understanding who were the people who lived in the world in prehistoric times. What was the social organization in their communities? What was their interaction system with the environment? But it is actually rare to find prehistoric human remains.

Another promising way to investigate the past is the extraction of DNA from sediments (particle sediments), such as soil accumulated in a cave, since at any archaeological site sediments may represent thousands of years of human presence in a place. Dr. Slon’s research deals with improving the methods for collecting sediment samples from archaeological sites and the methods required to process the genetic data – with the aim of studying the genome of ancient humans in new ways. The study of ancient DNA from sediments may become a standard procedure in every archaeological dig, which will open new avenues for researching our history and the evolution of the genome.

Yotam Drier

Krill Prize 2023
The Hebrew University

Yotam Drier

 

Affiliation at the time of the award:

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Faculty of Medicine, Department of Immunology and Cancer Research

 

Award citation:

“for original contributions in the field of cancer research and their combination with the development of new algorithms for data analysis, the development of new experimental methods and the prediction of relevant changes”.

 

Cells tightly regulate the levels of each gene, and dysregulation can lead to diseases such as cancer. Dysregulation can be caused by genetic alterations, epigenetic alterations (chemical modifications on the DNA), or changes in chromosomal folding. Our chromosomes are extremely long linear DNA molecules, folded neatly into the cell nucleus, and this structure is important for proper gene regulation. While the role of genetic alterations in genes in disease is well understood, much less is known about epigenetic and structural alterations

In Dr. Dreyer’s laboratory, they aim to fill this knowledge gap by studying these alterations in multiple cancer types and a few genetic diseases. They combine experimental techniques to systematically characterize epigenomes and chromosomal folding, computational algorithms to integrate these data and predict events that drive disease, and experimental validation of these predictions.

Ido Goldstein

Krill Prize 2023
The Hebrew University

Ido Goldstein

 

Affiliation at the time of the award:

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Food and Environmental Agriculture

The Institute of Biochemistry, Food Sciences and Nutrition

 

Award citation:

“for unique contributions to the study of the genetics of hunger and to understanding the dynamics of fasting and its breaking and its consequences in metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity”.

 

In Dr. Goldstein’s laboratory, the body’s reaction to fasting is studied. During fasting, a series of processes are activated in the liver to provide energy to the rest of the body’s organs. The supply of energy occurs thanks to the production of fuel (such as glucose) by the liver. The production of fuel in the liver is made possible thanks to thousands of genes that are activated during fasting and drive complex metabolic processes.

Thanks to these changes in gene expression, we are able to survive prolonged fasting of up to two months! On the other hand, if these processes take place without control, the liver will produce fuel even in states of satiety, and this situation may cause the development of diseases such as diabetes (a disease in which increased and uncontrolled production of glucose occurs). Dr. Goldstein uses advanced techniques of molecular biology, metabolism and genome-wide sequencing to study the complex networks of gene expression that enable the body’s response to fasting.

Shay Moran

Krill Prize 2023
Technion

Shay Tamar

 

Affiliation at the time of the award:

Technion

Faculty of Mathematics

 

Award citation:

“for unique contributions in machine learning research and generalization theory”.

 

Machine learning, better known to most of us as Artificial Intelligence – AI is applied in a wide variety of fields – starting with engineering challenges such as autonomous components and ending with social political fields that include sensitive personal data such as the management and accessibility of information on social networks such as Facebook or Twitter.

Dr. Moran’s research focuses on one of the most important branches of machine learning, which is called generalization theory and aims to quantitatively understand how machine learning generalizes from the individual to the general. This branch has made a significant contribution to the revolutionary technological breakthroughs that the field has experienced in recent years.

The latest breakthroughs in generalization theory demonstrate phenomenas that cannot be explained using previous techniques and sometimes even contradict classical principles in learning and statistics. The latest breakthroughs in generalization theory demonstrate phenomena that cannot be explained using previous techniques and sometimes even contradict classical principles in learning and statistics. One of the main reasons for this is that the classical generalization theory is based on definitions that focus on the worst case, and is therefore too pessimistic. This means that in practical machine learning problems the input usually does not fit the worst case, and experiments show that it is often possible to successfully learn based on training on far fewer examples than the number required by the predictions of the classical theory. Dr. Moran’s research aims to develop generalization theories that complement classical theory and enable more accurately model modern learning tasks, including tasks involving sensitive data.

Aviv Tamar

Krill Prize 2023
Technion

Aviv Tamar

 

Affiliation at the time of the award:

Technion

Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering named after Viterbi

 

Award citation:

“for the development of algorithms for automatic robotic learning using reinforcements”.

 

A robot that washes the dishes in the sink for you, folds the laundry and takes the dog out for a walk, this is not a dream – in a laboratory for robotic learning, Dr. Aviv Tamar investigates how machines can learn to perform tasks automatically by “reinforcement learning”. His research might have a great impact on our lives in the coming decade.

Dr. Tamar’s research deals with teaching robots how to learn and act in human natural environments. That is, how robots can learn new tasks quickly and using prior knowledge, and how can they learn about the physical world through playing with their surroundings.

To achieve these goals, Dr. Tamar’s research group develops fundamental learning algorithms that uses a technique called reinforcement learning. In the laboratory, these algorithms are applied to a variety of robotic tasks, including motion planning, object manipulation, and assembly.
One of Dr. Tamar’s main contributions is in the development of algorithms that allow robots to explore their environment automatically, making their learning in new tasks simpler and faster. Through research collaborations, Dr. Tamar’s lab team is working to discover how to use reinforcement learning to solve Real-world problems outside of robotics, including improving Internet performance and strengthening blockchain security.

Leeat Keren

Krill Prize 2023
Weizmann

Leeat Keren

 

Affiliation at the time of the award:

Weizmann Institute of science

Faculty of Biology, Department of Molecular Biology of the Cell

 

Award citation:

“for the development of innovative technologies for molecular imaging and for revealing the defense mechanisms of cancer tumor cells against an immune response, with the aim of developing innovative treatments for cancer”.

 

The development of cancer is a complex process that depends on the interrelationships between the individual cells of the tumor, the cells around it and the immune system – which can act both to promote and to suppress the invasion and development of the tumor. All participants are thought to be important in tumor biology, yet their interactions and relative contributions are largely unknown.

In Dr. Keren’s laboratory, they study the way in which different cells of the tumor and the immune system communicate as a system to collectively define the development of cancer and results as a response to treatment. For this purpose, Dr. Keren’s laboratory develops innovative technologies to perform complex imaging, which provides unparalleled molecular observation both on the tumor and on immune cells. In the laboratory, samples are taken from patients to identify mechanisms that help the tumor cells to successfully escape the immune response, and also develop innovative treatments in order to direct the power of the immune system against cancer.