Four new joint British-Israeli medical research projects using stem cells to tackle degenerative diseases have been awarded £1.5 million in funding.

The announcement this week by the British Council allows the institutions to work together on the new three-year bilateral projects to develop stem cell therapies to treat diabetes, heart disease, leukaemia and Anaemia and Alzheimer’s.

The universities include the University of Edinburgh, the Weizmann Institute for Science, Technion, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Exeter University, University of Cambridge and the University of Glasgow.

They are the latest additions to the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange programme (BIRAX), a £10 million initiative of the British Council investing in world-leading research jointly undertaken by scientists in Britain and Israel.

BIRAX was initiated 6 years ago by the British Council, British Embassy in Israel and the UK Science & Innovation Network in collaboration with founding partners Pears Foundation and the UJIA, and is regularly championed by both countries’ diplomats.

David Quarrey, UK Ambassador to Israel, said: “I am excited that four new projects have been selected for our flagship science research programme, the BIRAX Regenerative Medicine Initiative.”

He added: “I am delighted that our valued partners, including some of the UK’s leading medical foundations, have reaffirmed their partnership with us as we work together to deliver world-class, cutting-edge collaborative research projects that will both bring the UK and Israeli academic communities closer together, and take us a step closer to making the world’s most debilitating diseases a thing of the past.”

Sir Trevor Pears said the initiative “continues to earn its reputation as a successful model for promoting academic collaboration between the UK and Israel through its commitment to science excellence”.

One of the four projects involves regenerating new blood vessels to restore healthy tissue, while another – half funded by Weizmann UK – looks at how ageing affects the blood and immune system by examining mutations in blood stem cells that affect their function.

“Facilitating collaboration between the UK and Israel is a core part of our mission,” said Weizmann UK director Sheridan Gould. “Projects like this really go to show that science knows no boundaries.”

Likewise scientists from Exeter and Jerusalem will “combine two powerful new technologies developed by the investigators to ask whether insulin-producing cells can regenerate in some people with long-standing type 1 Diabetes,” with the final project seeking to combat Alzheimer’s disease.