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The Technion’s Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering– History at a Glance

The Technion’s Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering– History at a Glance

The Technion’s Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering got its start in 1953, when a council was appointed to examine the need for a food technology department. The council, headed by Dr. Joseph Braverman, who at the time was serving as Scientific Attaché to the Israeli Embassy in London, recommended establishing an independent “unit”. Thus, in 1954 a unit was established under the almost prophetic name of “Food Engineering and Biotechnology.”

A lecture on food chemistry under the direction of Prof. YBS Braverman, head of the Food Engineering Laboratory at the Technion. Photographed in July 1956 at the Technion in Hadar. The photograph is taken from the Yehoshua Nassyahu Historical Archives of the Technion.
A lecture on food chemistry under the direction of Prof. YBS Braverman, head of the Food Engineering Laboratory at the Technion. Photographed in July 1956 at the Technion in Hadar. Photo from Nessyahu Historical Archive of the Technion.

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 significantly contributed to the development of the food industry in Israel – in terms of cooperation and research and in terms of training 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.
By the end of the 1980s, in light of accelerated development in areas of molecular biotechnology, a strategic decision was made to increase the units’ activity on several fronts: recruiting new faculty members, establishing infrastructures, encouraging research and improving curricula. This strategy led to the establishment of the first biotechnology engineering program in Israel and the inauguration 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 2004, in order to represent the innovation made within the faculty in the biotechnological field, the name of the faculty was changed 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 began to rise (and with it came stricter admissions criteria to the Faculty). Within a decade, the number of students doubled.
Currently the Faculty has approximately 500 students (Undergraduates studying towards a Bachelor’s degree and Graduates studying towards a Master’s or Doctoral degree with an additional special Master’s degree track without a thesis).
The Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering is one of the few faculties worldwide to incorporate areas of biotechnology and food engineering under one combined degree (BSc in Biotechnology and Food engineering), with a specialization in one of the two areas, so that faculty graduates can integrate into both the biotechnology industry (a relatively young industry) and into the food industry as well.

The Technion’s Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering embodies diverse enterprises which uniquely merge research in engineering and areas of life science and nanotechnology.

Among the varied studies being carried out in the faculty are:

  1. Development of biotechnological methods to produce pharmaceuticals and food additives.
  2. Controlled release systems used in cancer therapy and cellular therapy
  3. Development of optical sensors to identify pathogenic bacteria (harmful) in food and water.
  4. Growth of blood vessels and heart tissue as treatment for blocked arteries or a post cardiac event.
  5. Development of food-enriching-systems with essential nutrients without adversely affecting taste and appearance.
  6. Development of biotechnological methods to efficiently utilize cellulose as a renewable energy source.
  7. Development of antibiotic peptide-based substitutes.
  8. Development of novel “green” disinfectant methods to increase safety in food consumption.
  9. Research on bacterial resistance to antimicrobial therapies (antibiotics, disinfectants and preservatives).

A significant number of technologies that were developed within the faculty research framework are currently being implemented in Israeli and in international industry.
In the recent years, the retirement of several senior staff in the faculty brought forth the recruitment of new faculty members. Currently the Faculty comprises 18 senior faculty members, adjunct lecturers who are industry experts and junior faculty composed of graduate students. The Faculty houses several research groups and the Faculty’s budget (the majority of which is funded by competitive research grants) has doubled itself in recent years, a testament to the level and quality of the research being conducted in the Faculty.

 Faculty building before renovation
Faculty building before renovation            (photos are courtesy of the department of Public Affairs, Technion)

The accelerated growth in research and in fields of study within the Faculty, provided the Technions’ administration with incentive to palpably expand the Faculty. Significant funding was raised with the assistance of the Eastern Seaboard Region of the American Technion Society (including Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore), and as a result, the Faculty is currently housed in a brand new building comprised of three wings:
The teaching Wing: which includes a brand new state-of-the-art auditorium, large lecture halls, a spacious computer lab and the Faculty’s administrative offices.
The Central Wing: houses modern teaching labs as well as the only Biological Reactors Laboratory in the country. These reactors serve as the main tool in mass cultivation of engineered mammalian cells and bacteria. The lab includes some of the most advanced analytical and bio-separation equipment in the world, with the objective of training students in this field in particular.
The North Wing: Includes research laboratories, which will enable the faculty to expand in the years to come.
In addition, the faculty also has a Pilot Plant which functions as a teaching facility as well as a small scale factory for various industries. The Pilot Plant houses semi-industrial equipment with the aim of providing students with the option of gaining experience in various processes common to the food and biotechnology industry.

For the Faculty’s location, see Map.

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