robotic arm and hand with a pointer finger extended

Kahn Foundation gift will expand Michigan-Israel research partnership.

Consider a future in which robots work alongside humans to search for disaster survivors and seniors monitor their response to bacterial infections in real time.

A $20 million gift from the D. Dan and Betty Kahn Foundation will expand collaboration among researchers at the University of Michigan, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel to help enhance quality of life through advancements in robotics and precision health.

“In partnering with our colleagues at two of the world’s leading research universities, we are able to accelerate the promising potential in these areas of research,” said S. Jack Hu, U-M vice president for research and a manufacturing professor.

Since 2011, researchers at U-M, Technion and Weizmann have collaborated on nearly 50 competitively funded research projects as part of the Michigan-Israel Partnership for Research and Education. The partnership, funded by philanthropic gifts, supports research, fosters innovation and spurs collaboration among the three institutions in fields ranging from biomedical sciences to engineering. With this new gift, the Kahn Foundation has given $25 million to U-M for the partnership.

Representatives of the Technion and Weizmann Institute expressed gratitude to the foundation for enabling the three institutions to work together.

Earlier this month, researchers from all three institutions were in Ann Arbor as part of the seventh annual D. Dan and Betty Kahn Symposium.

The gift will support two large inter-university research projects, the annual symposium and smaller-scale collaborative projects.

“The D. Dan and Betty Kahn Foundation is pleased to support this unique partnership as an outgrowth of the Kahn Symposium that began in 2011,” said Larry Wolfe, foundation president. “We see the partnership as a natural extension of Dan Kahn’s vision and an opportunity for three of the world’s great universities to pursue transformative research advancements in health, science and education. We hope this gift will inspire others to support this cause.”

Collaborative Projects

One project aims to advance the frontiers of autonomous robotic science by discovering new principles, creating new technology and demonstrating innovations in autonomous systems.

“While autonomous vehicles have been pushing the boundaries of what robots can do without any human guidance, the greatest impact robots can have is by being right by our side,” said Alec D. Gallimore, dean of engineering and a U-M professor of aerospace engineering.

“Robots can be designed with physical capabilities complementary to our own. Rather than replacing humans, the robots we envision can make existing jobs easier, increasing productivity, improving worker safety and allowing workers to spend more time on creative and engaging parts of their jobs.”

As part of the second project, researchers plan to develop tools that enhance privacy and computational effectiveness in big-data analytics in precision health.

“We have tremendous opportunities to advance scientific discovery and implementation with the right technical, clinical, regulatory and communication strategies,” said Marschall S. Runge, dean of the U-M Medical School. “If we can increase multidisciplinary collaboration, we can bring cohesion and momentum to this new but fragmented field and establish a strong, stable foundation for future precision health discoveries.”

In addition to collaborative research, the partnership has supported the exchange of 15 early-career researchers between U-M and either Technion or Weizmann.

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