Israel – A Biomed And Hitech Success Story

`Looking at the size of the country and population alone, you wouldn’t expect to hear much about Israel’s medical biotechnology industry. Yet, the startup nation continues to make biomed advances at a faster rate than almost any other country.

In fact,  Israel, with just 2.5% of the population of the US, now leads the world for medical device patents per capita, according to the US Patent Office. It is also a close second to the US in biopharma patents per capita.

The foundations of Israel’s biomed success starts with its very strong talent pool. The country possesses an educated and progressive population, and is an acknowledged world leader in the quality of its scientific research institutions. These include a number of medical centers and seven universities in the country that offer advanced degrees, such as Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Weizmann Institute of Science, and Tel Aviv University. As a result, the country has the highest percentage of engineers in the world, as well as the highest number of physicians per capita.

The country also has a long tradition, and a healthy respect for scientific research. Indeed, Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, was a biochemist, who went on to establish the Daniel Sieff Research Institute in Rehovot (later to be named the Weizmann Institute).

That combination of engineers and doctors led Israel to being home to two of the first commercial biotech startups in the world: InterPharm founded in 1978 and Bio-Technology General, which was founded in 1980. Both were Weizmann Institute offshoots.

Photo credit: CC-BY snre, Flickr
Photo credit: CC-BY snre, Flickr

Israel also benefits from a streamlined system, facilitated by technology transfer entities within educational institutions, which helps commercialize academic-based technologies. About 150 new technologies are licensed from Israeli universities and research institutes each year.

If you’re in Tel Aviv next week, you can meet many of the movers and shakers in Israel’s biomed industry at the MIXiii Israel Innovation Conference on May 20-22, 2014. For the first time, the conference is combining Life Sciences and High-Tech into a single event.

NovellusDx, a Jerusalem-based company, is one of a number of Israeli startups combating cancer. They’re challenging the “one drug fits all” approach typical in cancer treatment with an assay, a highly advanced analytic procedure, that permits more targeted therapies by  measuring the  impact of a drug or drug candidate on a specific tumors.

Then there’s, Solubest, which believes it’s cracked the “French Paradox” with the discovery and development of the active compound responsible for antiaging and regulating metabolism  found in red wine. Solubest uses nanotechnology to significantly improve the bio-performance of poorly soluble and insoluble drugs, which can be applied to the manufacturing of a wide range of pharmaceuticals.

IonMed Ltd. are promoting a new product based on cold plasma, which can quickly seal and disinfect wounds with minimal scarring and recovery time rather than using painful stitches, staples or glue.

Pneumedicare is going to present a new monitoring system for hospital patients requiring continuous, non-invasive and accurate monitoring of ventilation in order to prevent respiratory complications. Crucial real-time feedback can also help doctors know about the effectiveness of a particular treatment much faster.

KAHR Medical, based at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem will be presenting a new platform of drugs, called DSP- hexamers which may facilitate new treatments of multiple autoimmune diseases.

Imexco is using ground-breaking nanotechnology to revolutionize pain detection and analysis with their Neuro-CPDTM – Chronic Pain Detector, which promises to localize and classify sources and types of pain, to help doctors provide faster and more accurate treatment.

Israelis can take as much pride in the achievements of our biomed companies as the high-tech companies that have garnered so much international media. You may not have ever heard of these companies, but they’re improving and even saving lives around the world.

About the Author
Jonah Balfour is an avid fan of technology, Apple, and Israel. He has worked with some of the hottest Israeli startups and is an evangelist for the Israeli tech industry as a whole.