Solutions Based on Polymer Technology to be Discussed at International Conference


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REHOVOT, Israel -- May 7, 1996 -- New ways to combat pollution in Mediterranean countries with the aid of polymers will be discussed at the MEDNET International Conference on Environmental Impact of Polymeric Materials, opening next Sunday, May 12, at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

The conference is the first major international attempt to tackle the pressing pollution problems in the area on a regional basis through the use of polymer technology.

"This meeting will give scientists a chance to foster joint efforts in approaching environmental issues," said Prof. Abraham Warshawsky of the Weizmann Institute, co-chairman of the meeting's organizing committee.

Polymers can be used to clean up the environment because these giant carbon-containing molecules are hollow in structure and can therefore absorb various pollutants. On the other hand, because many polymers, such as plastics and nylons, are not biodegradable, they constitute a major environmental problem. Ways to reduce pollution caused by these materials will also be reported on.

Nearly a hundred scientists from France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and seven other European nations, as well as the United States, Jordan, the People's Republic of China, Guatemala and Israel, will be participating. While the Mediterranean region will be a major focus, many of the approaches are relevant to other parts of the world. Besides the environmental impact of polymers, the meeting will address their applications in agriculture and medicine.

Some of the specific topics to be discussed during the sessions on polymers and the environment will include:

    * Filtering pollutants out of drinking water with the help of polymeric membranes -- report from an experimental project in France

    * Extracting toxic metals, such as mercury and zinc, from the sea off the coasts of Italy and Spain;
    * Developing biodegradable plastics as a possible approach to reducing the amounts of solid waste;

    * Reducing pesticide use thanks to transparent polyethylene sheets that eradicate pests in the soil by harnessing solar radiation.

Highlights of the sessions on medicine and agriculture include:

    * Pharmacologically active polymers for healing tendons and ligaments;

    * Biological substitutes for damaged tissue;

    * Controlled delivery of biomolecules for cancer therapy;

    * Polymeric particles for oral delivery of insulin;

    * New packaging materials to keep agricultural products fresher.
MEDNET, the Mediterranean Network of Polymer Science and Technology, founded in 1991, promotes cooperation between research institutions in Mediterranean countries, and provides a framework for dealing with problems common to the region.
Co-chairing the Organizing Committee together with Prof. Warshawsky is Prof. David Vofsi of the Weizmann Institute.

The gathering is also the 23rd Aharon Katzir-Katchalsky Conference, held in memory of the noted Weizmann Institute scientist who was killed in 1972 in a terrorist attack. The opening address will be delivered by the late professor's brother, Weizmann Institute Professor Ephraim Katchalski-Katzir, a former President of Israel.
In addition to MEDNET, the conference is being sponsored by the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the UNESCO Regional Office for Science and Technology for Europe, the Maurice and Gabriela Goldschleger Conference Foundation at the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Israel Ministry of Science and the Arts, Iscar New Line Ltd., the Aharon Katzir-Katchalsky Center at the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Israel Plastics Manufacturers Association.

Prof. Katchalski-Katzir holds the Theodore R. Racoosin Chair of Biophysics, and Prof. Warshawsky the Rebecca and Israel Sieff Chair of Organic Chemistry.

      The Weizmann Institute of Science is a major center of scientific research and graduate study located in Rehovot, Israel.