Vision impairments are set to grow at an exponential rate for individuals around the world over the coming years, but thanks to a renewed focus on Israeli innovation, the Startup Nation is set to bolster its vision health pedigree in a more sustainable manner.
Available data is undoubtedly a cause for concern when it comes to assessing global eye health projections. According to Vision Atlas data, cases of vision loss will grow by 55% between 2020 and 2050, affecting nearly 1.8 billion people. Worryingly, those who experience blindness will rise to 61 million from 43 million in 2020.
Instances of low vision among global populations can carry a variety of different causes, and require different sophisticated treatments. But following the launch of a brand new pre-seed and seed-stage startup investment fund focusing on digital health and medical device startups, it’s clear that Israel is positioning itself as a long-term player in the future of eye care.
The fund, which is affiliated with Sheba Medical Center, the largest hospital in Israel, offers access to the hospital’s innovation center for the startups that receive funding, helping to accelerate the growth of new healthcare solutions.
Named Shoni Health Ventures, it’s hoped that health-focused startups can secure new ways to develop, pilot, and commercialize their products.
“Sheba realized that there’s a gap in early-stage innovation — there’s a lot of diamonds in the rough, and no one is picking them up,” explained Eran Lerer, CEO and managing partner of Shoni. “The early stage is very risky, and it’s usually a stage for angel investors.”
Looking to Long-Term Sustainability
It’s this commitment to pre-seed and seed-stage funding that highlights Israel’s more sustainable and long-termist approach to healthcare innovation.
In a recent HIMSS Insider interview with Ran Balicer, chief innovation officer at Clalit Health Services, this is a more conscious effort to deliver a healthcare system that offers practicality and cutting-edge services long into the future.
When discussing building a more sustainable healthcare system in Israel, Balicer noted that “one way in which we are using this trove of data to provide better care is through the concept of predictive, proactive care.”
Today, in too many instances you have a ‘sick care’ system, rather than a healthcare system. We only bring the patients in when they have the discomfort.”
This commitment to fundamentally altering the relationship between humans and their healthcare services is a key part of Israel utilizing innovative healthcare startups to challenge the industry over the coming years.
We’re also seeing strategic partnerships emerge as part of Israel’s commitment to innovation. Notably, June 2023 saw Israel and the United Arab Emirates sign a health agreement between Sheba Medical Center and the UAE’s largest health firm PureHealth in order to cooperate on factors like research, medical technology, and medical tourism.
While Balicer spoke of ‘proactive care’ in a more literal sense, these are incontrovertibly proactive moves from Israel to position itself at the forefront of medical innovation. In terms of eye care, we’re already seeing evidence of Israel’s long-term approach paying off today.
Tapping Into Israel’s Commitment to Vision Care
Israel has evolved into a leading nation when it comes to eye health. At Tel Aviv’s annual Biomed Conference in 2023, we saw a significant presence among ophthalmologic-focused companies.
“I think we can see how this industry has matured in Israel, both on the management side, and in the sense of understanding what to develop, and how to develop it,” said Dr. Barak Azmon, an ophthalmology entrepreneur ahead of the conference.
“In Israel, there are around 70 startups in the ophthalmologic space. It’s probably more than in the Silicon Valley or any other region alone.”
Azmon notes that as many as nine ophthalmology companies in Israel are set to launch new products in the field throughout 2023–many of which can be regarded as pioneering technology.
As recently as last year, we saw ForSight Robotics complete a $55 million Series A funding round to grow its status as a pioneer in the world of ophthalmic robotic surgery. The company became the first in the world to deliver robotic cataract surgery and has been committed to growing out its services to improve accessibility on a widespread scale.
As vision impairments are set to increase by an astounding 55% by 2050, the necessity for advanced care solutions has never been greater.
In establishing a more focused pre-seed and seed-stage investment startup fund focused on healthcare innovations, it’s hoped that we’ll begin to see successes like that of ForSight Robotics emerge from the Startup Nation’s melting pot of forward-thinking tech firms.
With more ophthalmologic firms preparing their products for launch in 2023, it’s clear that Israel’s commitment to eye care is growing.
With a more sustainability-focused and proactive approach, it is hoped that the innovations of tomorrow can help to address the growing number of visual impairments before they cause discomfort in patients. It’s through this level of advanced care that Israel can show it’s truly a world leader in pioneering new approaches to healthcare.