A delegation of business officials from South Carolina came to Israel looking for deals, and they found one — an investment in NeuroQuest, an Israeli company that is developing blood-based immune biomarkers for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. NeuroQuest is to receive $500,000 in a funding round led by Charleston-based InterTech Group, headed by Jonathan Zucker, and the Maryland/Israel Trendlines Fund, managed by the Baltimore based Maryland/Israel Development Center.
And most important for the South Carolina group, said Zucker, NeuroQuest is also in serious discussions with the South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA) about a grant to support opening a US development center in Charleston, SC as the base of its clinical and regulatory work.
If and when that happens, Zucker’s mission will be complete. That mission, he told The Times of Israel, consisted of two parts — one, to bring South Carolina government and business officials to Israel to show them the wonders of the land, both spiritual-historical and technological. And, he is seeking to get Israeli companies to consider South Carolina for their home base in the US when they decide it’s time to open a U.S. facility.
With the mission, South Carolina joins an increasing number of US states, counties, cities, and even Native American tribes who are coming to Israel to search for business partnerships — persuading Israeli start-ups and established companies to open American offices in their localities, providing jobs and technology that will help revive distressed urban centers, and help suburbs and exurbs thrive, while providing leading-edge research and business opportunities for companies and institutions.
Many localities have a private or publicly-backed organization to promote tech relations with Israel. One of the most successful is in Maryland, where the Maryland-Israel Development Center (MIDC), has partnered with Israel’s Trendlines Group, which has several incubators that include companies in the medical device, biotech, and alternative energy and environmental technology areas (NeuroQuest is actually a Trendlines portfolio company). Zucker works closely with the MIDC, as well as with the American Israel Chamber of Commerce–South East (AICC-SE), which covers states in the southeast US, helping Israeli companies to open facilities in the region.
While South Carolina has certainly not been left out of the game — the state already hosts numerous Israeli start-ups, said Zucker — the time has come to expand trade and tech relations with Israel, he said. “There is a lot of talk here about turning South Carolina into a tech hub, and we think the Israeli model is a great one for us to follow. The business executives we brought were very impressed with the technology they saw and I am sure that there will soon be some important announcements regarding Israeli companies working with South Carolina.”
The NeuroQuest announcement is just the beginning. According to Zucker, neuroscience is a natural for cooperation between the state and Israel, because South Carolina already has an established industry in the field, with several companies and a major neuroscience program at the Medical University of South Carolina.
And NeuroQuest is a company on the move. The company is moving quickly towards an important validation trial for novel blood-based immune biomarkers for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, NeuroQuest said in a statement. The company’s biomarker platform for neurodegenerative diseases is based on the research of Prof. Michal Schwartz, chair of Neuroimmunology at the Weizmann Institute of Science who pioneered the concept of Protective AutoImmunity, in which cells of the adaptive immune system contribute to maintenance can help repair damaged tissue. Tests have shown that the system is very effective, and will in the near future provide a new approach for a simple, inexpensive, and early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
The NeuroQuest deal is just one example of what Zucker believes will eventually blossom into a major relationship between Israel and South Carolina. “Everyone knows Israel is in a rough neighborhood, and is essentially an island nation, with no neighbors it can really trade with,” said Zucker. “Israelis have learned that they need to export or die, and they have been forced to innovate and export those innovations. Israelis ‘get’ business more than anyone in the world, and we in South Carolina want a relationship with people who ‘get it.’”