ALYNnovation takes medical innovations developed at the ALYN pediatric rehabilitation hospital out of the hospital so that all children can benefit from them.
When ALYN became aware of the hospital’s innovative potential, it was decided to establish a venture for cooperation with startups for commercializing some of the inventions developed there, so that children not hospitalized at ALYN, and even adults, could benefit from them. “The company’s motive was to take rehabilitation outside the hospital. Only later did we think about turning this activity into a source of income for the hospital.”
This attitude is appropriate for the hospital’s background, as described by Mann. “ALYN Hospital was founded in 1932 by an American Jewish doctor named Henry Keller, who visited the Middle East and saw the affected children, both Jewish and Arab. He was told that nothing could be done, that it was from heaven or from Allah, because that was the attitude at the time. In the beginning, Keller only opened the clinic. No official institution recognized it before the polio epidemic arrived.” The epidemic, which struck thousands of children in the late 1940s and early 1950s, increased the demand for hospital rehabilitation.
“The vision of Keller, which has stayed with us to this day, is that we treat every child, regardless of who he or she is,” Mann says. That sounds like a cliche, but it is critical for ALYNnovations activity. “If the shelf product doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, they analyze the problem in the laboratory and find a solution. Because this is the only pediatric rehabilitation center in Israel, we run into all sorts of problems and cultural backgrounds.”
The first cooperation between ALYN and industry involved a wheelchair developed by entrepreneurs and ex-Keter Plastic employees Pablo Kaplan and Chava Rothstein. They contacted ALYN with a proposal to build a special wheelchair adapted for developing countries. “Many children in these countries have no wheelchair at all,” Mann says. “They are not mobile. They sit at home all day unless someone carries them outside. They don’t go out to play, and they certainly don’t walk to school. Five million children worldwide do not take part in society because they can’t walk. The loss of five million children’s education means the loss of $3 billion in GDP to the world’s economy each year.”
Why do they have no wheelchair? The problem is not just the price. “Many chairs are donated for Africa, but they don’t fit the location. The metal heats up in the sun, and the wheels are designed for moving on asphalt, not dirt roads with potholes. We learned about the problem from the Bedouin people treated in our hospital. We always had to wrap the chair in some kind of cloth and strengthen the wheels.”
“Raising donations is hard work”
Cooperation between ALYN’s doctors with their practical experience and entrepreneurs in the plastics industry led to the founding of the “Wheelchairs of Hope” venture, which has sold 3,000 chairs in four continents to date at $100 per chair. The hospital then realized that the accumulated knowledge could be used in products used by many children, and also adults, while extra income would certainly do no harm. Today, 70% of ALYN’s financing comes from payments by health funds for some of the services provided at the hospital, and 30% from donations. ALYN has no government budget, and there are no private medical services at the hospital.