Israel’s tech umbrella: ‘Irresponsible’ cancer-cure claim damages our reputation

Israel’s tech umbrella: ‘Irresponsible’ cancer-cure claim damages our reputation

Harm foreseen to image of Israel’s world-renowned life science industry; company shrugs off criticism, says ‘patent lawyers have deemed our technology innovative’

IATI's CEO Karin Mayer Rubinstein (Courtesy Yoram Reshef)
IATI's CEO Karin Mayer Rubinstein (Courtesy Yoram Reshef)

The umbrella organization of Israel’s high tech and life science industries has slammed as irresponsible and damaging a claim by a team of Israeli researchers that they developed a concept that will pave the way to a cure for cancer.

The vast amount of publicity that ensued for an ostensible breakthrough that, as The Times of Israel established, has not been published for peer review in medical journals, and that overseas experts have said was likely to be spurious, is causing harm to Israel’s reputation in the field of life sciences, the Israeli umbrella group said.

“We welcome all companies that develop breakthrough technologies,” Karin Mayer Rubinstein, the CEO of the Israel Advanced Technology Industries (IATI), told The Times of Israel on Thursday. But, she warned, “The things the researchers have said have damaged the image of Israel’s life sciences industry.” IATI is the umbrella organization that represents Israeli high-tech and life science companies, VCs, multinational companies operating in Israel, incubators and tech transfer arms of Israeli academia.

“It is a very irresponsible statement, and we have had many people from around the world asking to clarify the subject,” she said. “As we understand, there are critical stages of their research that must still be met. These kind of statements are liable to damage Israel’s life science industry, which is positioned globally as one of the most serious and professional in the world.”

“Israel’s life sciences industry is made up mostly of very serious individuals with a rich amount of experience. We expect them to behave in a more responsible manner, especially before they make such kind of statements,” Mayer Rubinstein said. She noted that she “was asked by Israeli life-sciences industry leaders to clarify our position on this matter.”

The cancer-cure claims were made by the researchers at the Nes Ziona-based startup Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies Ltd. (AEBi), to the Jerusalem Post earlier this week. The company’s CEO repeated the claims in an interview with The Times of Israel on Wednesday, but acknowledged that its research had not been published in reputable medical journals because, he claimed, the company could “not afford” to do so.

CEO and founder of the startup Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies Ltd. (AEBI) Ilan Morad, right, with Hanan Itzhaki, the chief science officer, at their lab (Courtesy)

The Times of Israel has reached out to numerous hospitals and experts in Israel to try to evaluate the claims of a dramatic breakthrough, but they refused to comment, with some noting that they had no direct information on the research. Other experts, overseas, however, sounded stark warnings about the researchers’ claims, dismissing them as unreliable.

Dr. Ben Neel, director of Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Health, told the New York Post that “cancer is multiple diseases, and it is highly unlikely that this company has found a ‘cure’ for cancer any more than there is a single cure for infections.” He said that “more likely, this claim is yet another in a long line of spurious, irresponsible and ultimately cruel false promises for cancer patients.”

Ilan Morad, the CEO and founder of AEBi, told The Times of Israel on Thursday that the reaction of the critics who have not seen the company’s results is “like criticizing a book without reading it.”

He reiterated that the firm can start treating patients within clinical trials that it hopes to start “pretty quickly,” and clarified: “We are not saying that the drug will be approved in a year. Our technology is innovative and we have submitted an application for a patent on it. This application is at an advanced stage, and until now the patent lawyers have deemed our technology innovative.”

“We are working on a complete cure for cancer,” Morad had said in an interview with The Times of Israel published on Wednesday, echoing the claims the firm made to the Jerusalem Post earlier this week. “We still have a long way to go, but in the end we believe we will have a cure for all kinds of cancer patients and with very few side effects,” he said.

Morad told The Times of Israel that the firm has not published its research in medical journals, as is the norm, because it “can’t afford” to do so, but that the results of its pre-clinical trials have been “very good.”

“We are a small company,” he said. “Publishing an article takes a lot of effort and a lot of funds, and this we can’t afford.” He added: “If we were a big company with a lot of funds, that would be the first thing we would do. If I have $100,000 what do I spend it on?” he asked. “Advancing the research and finding more and more targeting peptides, or doing many experiments to write an article? What would you do, if you had to choose?”

In the conventional process of development, medical researchers who make a discovery gather their material and submit a paper on it to legitimate medical journals in the hope that the journals’ editorial committees will validate their findings and publish the discovery. The greater the prestige of the publication, the greater the apparent value of the discovery. Researchers do not have to pay for legitimate medical journals to publish their findings.

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