Israeli researcher among three winners of EU's new Marie Curie prize

An Israeli researcher is one of the three winners of the European Commission's new Marie Curie Prize for outstanding achievement in research, announced today at a ceremony in Nicosia.
Dr Sarit Sivan, a senior research fellow in the department of biomedical engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, won the prize in the 'Innovation and Entrepreneurship' category. She has developed an innovative treatment for lower back pain resulting from the degeneration of discs in the spinal column.
Dr. Sivan was selected for her work on materials that can restore the biomechanical function of degenerate discs in spinal columns. Disc degeneration caused by the gradual loss of some of its main components, mainly due to ageing, leads to a decrease in biomechanical function affecting the spine. Lower back-pain, arising largely from degeneration of the intervertebral disc, is an enormous clinical and economic problem. It is often treated by expensive and invasive surgery.
During her Marie Curie fellowship at the University of Oxford (UK), Dr Sivan developed and successfully tested biocompatible gel-like materials that can replace, through a non-invasive injection, the lost disc components and mimic their functioning.
The Jury praised Dr. Sivan's scientific expertise, innovativeness, entrepreneurial approach and her ability to exploit basic science findings commercially. She developed multiple innovations, an impressive number of patents and contributed to the creation of a company currently running clinical trials on related research.
The other two winners were Dr Gkikas Magiorkinis from Greece, in the 'Promising Research Talent' category, honoured for his work on tracing how the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) has spread around the world, and Dr Claire Belcher from the United Kingdom, for 'Communicating Science', for her study of the Earth's geological past and its impact on plant and animal life – a subject she has brought to wider attention through regular appearances on television and in the media
Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, presented each scientist with a trophy at today's ceremony, which is taking place in the context of a conference focused on the future of the Marie Curie Actions and Horizon 2020, the Commission's proposed €80 billion programme for investment in research and innovation. Under the proposal, over €5.75 billion would be allocated to the Marie Curie Actions in 2014-2020. The scheme has supported the training, mobility and skills development of more than 65,000 researchers since its launch in 1996.
"We have created this new award to highlight the excellence and talent of Europe's best young researchers," said the Commissioner, adding: "It is vital that we continue to invest strongly in European research, which contributes to solving great societal challenges in areas such as health and the environment, and which is also important for the European economy. I hope the Marie Curie Prize will encourage other researchers and inspire more young people – especially girls – to consider a career in science."
The aim of the Prize is to encourage scientists to expand their field of excellence to innovation, entrepreneurship and science communication. It will also raise the profile of the winning researchers and their host institutions, while increasing the prestige of the Marie Curie Actions.
Nominations were restricted to current and former Marie Curie Actions researchers funded under the 6th or 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP6 and FP7). Since Israel signed a Science and Technology Association Agreement in 2007, its researchers, universities and companies have had full access to the Seventh Framework Programme, in the same capacity as those from EU member states. 
Marie Curie Actions, which have a budget of €4.7 billion in 2007-2013, promote research careers in Europe through schemes managed by the European Commission's Research Executive Agency. (EU Neighbourhood Info)
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Press release
FAQ on Marie Curie actions
EU Neighbourhood Info Centre press pack – Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Partner Countries: towards a Common Knowledge and Innovation Space
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