Few people realize that more than one out of every four of the biotechnology solutions in use today have Israeli roots.
“Research in Israel is present in between 25% and 28% of the world’s successful biotech-based solutions,” according to Ruti Alon, a General Partner at Pitango Venture Capital and co-chairperson, with Dr. Benny Zeevi, Managing General Partner, Tel Aviv Venture Partners, of the upcoming IATI-Biomed Conference, set to take place in Tel Aviv in May. “Many of the patents in pharmaceuticals that are now being used to treat cancer, heart problems, and much more were developed at Israeli institutions like Hebrew University or the Weizmann Institute,”
Some of the solutions and patents developed in Israel are part of the main treatments in some of the world’s most devastating diseases.
Exelon, for example, is a treatment for Alzheimer’s that helps patients cope with the disease and remain independent longer. Marketed by Novartis, the drug is based on research that was conducted at Hebrew University. Doxil, sold by Johnson and Johnson, effectively helps treat numerous cancers, and it, too, was developed at Hebrew U, along with researchers at Hadassah Medical Center. And, of course, there’s multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, developed at the Weizmann Institute and marketed by Israel’s own Teva Pharmaceuticals.
Many of Israel’s biotech and life science solutions were first introduced to the world at the annual IATI-Biomed Conference, now in its 15th year.
“Having been involved in life science investments for many years, I realized the value of what we have here, but finding ways to get the rest of the world to realize it proved challenging,” said Alon. “So we organized the conference in order to create a ‘business card’ for the Israel biotech and life science industries.”
If anyone would know the value of those industries, it would be Alon, one a general partner at Pitango, along with Pitango founder Chemi Peres. Pitango is one of Israel’s biggest venture capital funds (the firm has $1.6 billion under management and investments in over 180 companies). Pitango is also the biggest investor in life science companies in Israel, and currently has a dozen life science firms in its active portfolio.
Among them are BrainsGate, which has developed a device that enhances blood flow to patients’ brains for up to 24 hours, which can help millions of stroke victims around the world; AposTherapy, which has developed a nonsurgical, drug-free method to treat musculoskeletal abnormalities and injuries for athletes; and LifeBond, which is developing a line of biosurgical products for prevention of surgical leakage and bleeding.
Israel’s biotech and life science industries are indeed thriving, according to numbers from conference sponsor IATI, the Israel Advanced Tech Industries group. Currently there are about 1,380 active life sciences companies in Israel, most of them (66%) less than a decade old. Ninety-eight new life sciences start-ups were established in Israel on average in each of the last seven years.
About 100 of those start-ups will show off their technologies and developments at the conference, which will take place over three days (May 24-26) in Tel Aviv. Because there is so much to cover, said Alon, the conference will be split into nine tracks, with top experts from Israel and around the world presenting research and papers on areas like immunoncology, medical robotics, neurological disorders, health IT, and even genetic editing.
“It’s a new format for conferences like this, but we think industry members, as well as the many visitors from abroad, will find it easier to work with, as it will give them a greater opportunity to engage with the areas they are specifically interested in,” said Alon.
Previous conferences have annually hosted over 6,000 industry senior executives, scientists, and engineers, including approximately 1,000 participants from over 45 countries.
An all-star line-up of speakers will include executives and experts from companies like Roche, Pfizer, IBM, Sanofi, Novartis, Mayo Clinic Ventures and Bristol Myers to present on issues like biotherapeutics, oncology, cardiology, pharmaceutical development, government approval and compliance, and much more.
“Participants will be able to enjoy roundtable discussions, panel presentations, networking opportunities and product demonstrations, exploring innovation and trends that are shaping the future of healthcare systems and the life science ecosystem,” said Alon.
And over the years, the conference has more than fulfilled its role of presenting Israel’s life science and biotech to the world.
“A few years ago, we invited the CEO of Irish med-tech giant Covidien (now a part of Medtronic) to speak at the conference,” said Alon. “It was his first visit here, and he and his staff were quite surprised to see what Israel was doing in this area. They ended up buying four Israeli firms before they were acquired – and yes, the Medtronic people will be at the conference too.”