Israel: The Start-up Nation for Medical Innovation

I believe this is one of the most important times in the history of medicine and science and that Israel plays a key role. According to the newest data, more than 1,000 Israeli companies are in healthcare or life-science products, including 700 in medical devices, and approximately half are already generating revenue. I will highlight numerous accomplishments by Israeli medicine and science companies and provide compelling reasons why Israel is a world center in innovation.

Thanks for joining me on this journey to explore the world of Israeli medical and scientific innovations.

I am looking forward to your feedback and comments.

— Dr. Rob Norman

From Jon Medved, Founder and CEO, OurCrowd

It is no exaggeration to say that healthcare is undergoing a revolution no less earth-shaking than the discovery of germ theory or the introduction of antibiotics.  Digital health – the application of digital technologies to healthcare – is transforming our approach to medicine and improving our well-being.  As the global population ages and healthcare demands accelerate, supplies and services cannot keep pace.  Digital health solutions offer the promise of delivering more for less – and hold the potential to positively impact the lives of current and future generations.

Nowhere is this revolution more evident than in Israel, where 100% of the healthcare system is digitized, both at the individual patient level and throughout its organizations.  As The Lancet observed, “With its many start-up enterprises, Israel encourages digital innovation and this culture will help tackle some of the key challenges facing the country’s health systems.” In fact, Israel-based companies are helping healthcare systems in other countries get online and get secure, efficient and cost-effective.  The statistics are impressive:

There has been strong growth in the number of new digital health companies established in recent years, with 385 locally founded companies in 2016.  These companies are an important part of a thriving life sciences startup industry that has had a major impact on the country’s economy with more than USD 7.2 billion in multiple mergers and acquisitions in 2015, a sizeable increase from the preceding year.  Israel was also an early adopter of digital health technologies in clinical practice, with big data analytics, telemedicine, and online patient engagement widely incorporated into daily clinical care.

The latest milestone was the launch of a space laboratory developed by Israel’s SpacePharma, which arrived at the International Space Station in November 2017.  This was the first time that a full lab system was launched to the ISS.

As a leading investor in medical technology, OurCrowd has worked diligently to recognize the potential of Israeli startups and bring them the capital and global growth network they need.  A few examples from the portfolio gave an idea of how exciting we believe this field is:

  • MedAware, which helps ensure patients get the right prescription, saving lives and potentially saving more than $13 billion annually in the U.S. alone
  • Healthy.IO, which is turning smartphones into medical imaging tools for full-fledged diagnostics
  • Zebra Medical Vision, which in November 2017 struck a deal with Google to use its AI algorithms, and also rolled out a new model offering $1 medical scans that can detect liver and lung disease
  • DreaMed, whose groundbreaking cloud-based analytics and decision support technology act as an artificial pancreas to regulate insulin

OurCrowd unveiled the first digital health fund in Israel in late 2016, recognizing the sector as one of the fastest growing in terms of funding and M&A activity.  The fund’s exclusive focus is important given the complexity of healthcare delivery and markets.  OurCrowd is also a partner with Hebrew University, Israel’s leading academic institution, to sponsor an MBA program for biomedical management.  The program is the first of its kind in Israel, and aims to provide new top-notch talent for the forward-thinking market.

We are proud to be part of the medical innovation revolution that has so much potential to improve people’s daily lives everywhere across the globe.  I’m hopeful Dr. Norman’s book will help bring this story of hope and achievement to a broad audience.

 

Introduction

Israel is a country where various religions, cultures, dialects, arts and history collide. Israel is a land where human beings, animals, and the test of “survival of the fittest” exist in its full capacity. Israel is one of the centers of the world for innovation, political and economic gains, and the opportunity for personal and professional growth beyond measure. And Israel is so small one has to squint to locate it on a map.

The State of Israel hasn’t been around long, and the land before 1948 was left dry and barren from a hostile environment. The history of the Jewish people is filled with expulsion, persecution and desecration. With a lengthy exile of some two thousand years, the Jews were left to wander and resort to the one thing they knew best, prayer and faith. The connection to their creator, the Almighty, has served them well by nurturing and sustaining their unbounded love for the land of their forefathers. The Jews had trekked from ancient Egypt across a huge wasteland to Israel, which was essentially another poor area of desolation. The ability to use one’s imagination for a future filled with richness and contentment was as important then as it is today.

If it wasn’t for risk-taking individuals such as David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin, Yitzchak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and others, who had extraordinary vision and tremendous courage to take steps on behalf of their people, Israel would not be in the position it is today. Though the Holocaust may have left us smaller in numbers, it did not diminish our fervent dream to become innovators for change, creativity and to contribute to the world.

And that’s exactly what has happened.  With the highest number of startups per capita in the world, it is no wonder why Israel has been labeled the “Start-Up Nation.” Despite being attacked multiple times in major wars since its inception and in numerous other “smaller battles,” Israel has overcome enormous adversity and has built incubators for success from the ground up. Growth doesn’t happen automatically, and the combination of water, fertilizer, and back-breaking manual labor and ingenuity came together so that the trees, the land and the country’s people grew against all odds. Agriculture becomes challenging with little water at one’s disposal, but through technology such as drip irrigation, Israel has been able to yield high quality crops, clean water, and an overall water surplus.

The Israeli techniques have been copied by other countries around the world, particularly in certain areas of Asia and Africa lacking access to purified water and clean fruits and vegetables.  Thousands of people from other countries come to Israel each year to train in the Central Arava and other agricultural areas to learn and import the Israeli techniques back to their homes.  As the world’s populations continue to boom, so does the need for cleaner environments and resources to recycle waste proficiently.  Israel has taken on the critical role of constructing solar power generators and seawater detoxification systems. It has proved to other countries that its cutting-edge technology will drastically expand the health and living standards of millions of people worldwide.

Israel has been at the forefront of research and development in many areas, particularly with the rise of technology and the seemingly irreplaceable computer. The original Intel 8088 processor was developed in Israel. More recently, the Kindle reader used by Amazon is successful today because of the technology created in Israel. Artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, medicine, and pharmacology are just some of the many disciplines where Israeli scientists are actively taking key roles in creating and developing new technologies.

Israeli physicians and engineers have tapped into the realm of neuroplasticity and discovered new brain functions and adaptations.  Cancer treatments and other lifesaving devices have emerged from innovators and medical startups funded by the Israeli government.

The realized potential for human creativity and execution of ideas coming from Israel is truly remarkable. The path to greatness for this little country is filled with obstacles, but nothing really seems to deter its people from contributing to our new age of discovery.

Israel is committed to the construction of a better, healthier and peaceful world. Prosperity and freedom are some of the virtues embedded in the foundation with which Israel was created. Though it remains a flashpoint of world controversy, constantly facing terrorism and the threat of war, it remains steadfast in its pursuits.

Since 1948, Israel has truly been a light unto the nations. Israelis depend on strong national leadership; its politicians are dedicated to ensuring that the education, intellectual pursuits, and improvement of health of its citizens take center stage.  An essential ingredient to the success of Israel is that it has worked hard to establish an environment for creativity, with freedom to explore and take risks. Although it is a small country, with perhaps more media attention than any other nation in the world, Israel’s desire for peace and the price it pays for that resolution is not often obvious. Despite the distorted view certain people have of Israel and its people, it continues to yearn for harmony, for growth, and for perpetual contributions to the world.

The collective responsibility in all acts of life along with individual ambition has helped breed the innovations described in this book you are about to read. Israel has created a society based upon meritocracy.  Efforts in ingenuity are expected. From the creation of cherry tomatoes to lifesaving drugs and devices such as the Pill-Cam, Israelis take pride in their passion for technology.  I hope you will enjoy every word forthcoming and that you will come away being more educated in the marvelous innovations coming out of Israel today. The world is changing rapidly, and Israel wants to remain the innovative powerhouse of the globe and always be ahead of the game. Just watch.  You’ll see and be amazed.

— Dr. Michele Melamed

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Author Bio

Dr. Robert A. Norman is a board-certified dermatologist and family practitioner who has been in practice for over 30 years. He is a faculty member for several medical schools (Clinical Professor) and has been honored with numerous service and teaching awards, including Physician of the Year (2005) and Distinguished Service Award (2007) in Hillsborough County, Tampa, Florida, Tampa Bay Medical Hero Award (2008), and the Hadassah Humanitarian Award (2012).  Dr. Norman has written 40 books, including The Blue Man and other Stories of the Skin and Discover Magazine’s Vital Signs–True Tales of Medical Mysteries, Obscure Diseases, and Life-Saving Diagnoses.  His new book is on Israeli medicine–The Start-up Nation for Medical Innovation. He has been the editor and contributing writer of eight books on Geriatrics and Geriatric Dermatology and published over 250 articles in various major media publications.

Dr. Norman has a private practice and is the chief physician and owner of Dermatology Healthcare, founded in 1994, which delivers essential skin care services for nursing home patients. He provides many national and international lectures each year; in October of 2007 he was the chairman and lecturer in Geriatric Dermatology at the World Congress of Dermatology in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 2014 he was a Keynote Speaker at the Australasian Skin Cancer Conference in Brisbane, Australia, and was a co-chairman in Geriatric Dermatology at the World Congress of Dermatology in Vancouver in 2015.  He spoke at the 2016 Pan-American Congress of Neurology and 40th Mexican Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting in 2016 on The Skin:  Our Outer Brain. He also has both MPH and MBA degrees and was awarded the Doctor of Humane Letters after providing the commencement address at a major university.

He is a frequent medical volunteer and has participated in many medical mission trips to serve the poor of southern Jamaica and teaches medical students on each trip. Other trips have included Haiti, Cuba, and Guatemala.  He is the former National Chairman of Doctors for Israel for the Jewish National Fund.

About the Author
Dr. Robert A. Norman is a board-certified dermatologist and family practitioner who has been in practice for over 30 years. He is a faculty member for several medical schools (Clinical Professor) and has been honored with numerous service and teaching awards, including Physician of the Year (2005) and Distinguished Service Award (2007) in Hillsborough County, Tampa, Florida, Tampa Bay Medical Hero Award (2008), and the Haddasah Humanitarian Award (2012). Dr. Norman has written 40 books, including The Blue Man and other Stories of the Skin and Discover Magazine's Vital Signs--True Tales of Medical Mysteries, Obscure Diseases, and Life-Saving Diagnoses.
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