The beginning of Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering was in 1953, with the appointment of a council that examined the need for establishing a food technology department. The council, headed by Dr. Joseph Braverman, who at the time served as the scientific attaché in the Israeli Embassy in London, recommended establishing an independent “unit,” and in 1954 a unit was established under the almost prophetic name of “Food Engineering and Biotechnology.”
During the first decade of its existence, the unit operated under budgetary, administrative and academic autonomy until the year 1967 when, with the blessing of Technion management, the Department of Food Engineering and Biotechnology was established. The Department contributed significantly to the development of Israeli food industries – both in terms of cooperation and research, and in the training of food engineers who would fill, and still do, key positions in the food and biotechnology industry, the pharmaceuticals industry, the cosmetics industry, standards institutes, etc.
At the end of the 1980s, in light of accelerated development in the area of molecular biotechnology, the Faculty made a strategic decision to increase its activity in this area on several fronts: recruiting new faculty members, establishing infrastructures, encouraging research and curricula. This strategy led to the establishment of the first biotechnology engineering study track and the dedication of the Otto Meyerhoff Biotechnology Laboratories in the Shirley and Arthur Whizin Wing in 1992 – the year in which the Department became a Faculty. In order to reflect the changes taking place in the area of biotechnology, it was decided in 2004 to change the name of the Faculty from the “Faculty of Food Engineering and Biotechnology” to the “Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering.”
With the development of the biotechnology industry in Israel and worldwide, the demand for biotechnology and food engineering studies increased (and with it much stricter admissions criteria to the Faculty), and within about 10 years, the number of students doubled in the Faculty. The Faculty currently has about 500 undergraduate students studying towards a bachelor’s degree, graduate students studying towards a master’s or doctoral degree and a special master’s degree track without a thesis.
The Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering is one of few in the world that combines the areas of biotechnology and food under one roof, offering a combined degree (biotechnology and food engineering) with specialization in one of the two areas, so that Faculty graduates can integrate both in the biotechnology industry (which is relatively young) and the food industry.
Diverse activities are held in the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering that combine a unique merging between engineering-technology research and areas in life sciences and nanotechnology.
Some diverse, fascinating research studies currently being carried out in the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering include the following:
- Development of biotechnology methods to produce pharmaceuticals and food additives
- Controlled release systems used in cancer and cellular therapy
- Development of optical sensors to identify pathogenic bacteria (harmful) in food and water
- Growth of blood vessels and heart tissue to treat blocked arteries or following a cardiac event
- Development of systems to enrich food with essential materials without adversely affecting taste and appearance
- Development of biotechnological methods to make efficient use of cellulose as a renewed energy source
- Development of antibiotic substitutes based on peptides
- Development of novel “green” disinfectant methods to increase safety in food consumption
- Research on the resistance of bacteria to antimicrobial parasites (antibiotics, disinfectant materials and preservatives)
A significant part of the technologies developed within the research framework taking place in the Faculty are currently being implemented in Israeli and international industry.
In recent years, with the retirement of the veteran faculty staff in the Faculty, new young faculty members were recruited, and currently the Faculty comprises 14 senior faculty members, adjunct lecturers who are experts from industry, and junior faculty composed of graduate students. Active research groups work within the Faculty, and the Faculty’s research budget, the majority of which is comprised of competitive research grants, doubled in recent years, a fact that proves the quality of the research being carried out in the Faculty. The accelerated growth in research and teaching areas in the Faculty encouraged Technion management to physically increase the Faculty. With the assistance of the Eastern Seaboard Region of the American Technion Society (including Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore), significant funding was raised and as a result the Faculty is currently housed in a new building comprised of three wings:
The Teaching Wing, which includes a modern auditorium, large lecture halls, a spacious computer farm and the Faculty’s offices.
The Main Wing, which includes modern teaching laboratories (including the establishment of the only Biological Reactors Laboratory in the country, which serves as the main work tool for increasing large masses of engineered bacteria and cells. The Laboratory includes some of the most advanced analytical and separation equipment in the world, with the objective of training students particularly in this area).
The North Wing, which includes research laboratories, enabling the Faculty to expand in years to come.
In addition, the Faculty operates a Pilot Plant that acts as a food engineering and technology teaching facility, serving diverse industries. Semi-industrial equipment may be found in the Pilot Plant that aims at providing students with experience in various processes common in food and biotechnology industries.
For the Faculty’s location, see Map.