By Joseph Straus,  Contributing Writer

TEL AVIV, Israel – After two decades of preparation, Israel’s med-tech industry  may be ready to take a big leap forward.
“The government now has set two main objectives for the Israeli high tech sector for the next 20 years: to maintain its position as one of the world’s leading innovation hubs, and to scale-up and establish production companies as new drivers of economic growth,” said Avi Hasson, Israel’s Chief Scientist and Chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) during his keynote speech at the 15th Israel Advanced Technologies Industry (IATI) – Biomed conference here in Tel Aviv . “All governments today understand the importance of innovation, and on the one hand, we have to make sure that we stay ahead of this curve. On the other hand, however, we also have to focus on improving productivity of the entire private sector through high-tech innovation, and by establishing manufacturing companies,” Hasson said.


Speaking to some 6,000 participants, including 1,000 overseas delegates from 45 countries, Hasson enumerated some of the achievements of the industry in Israel and charted the course for the decade ahead.

Hasson mentioned two specific areas of focus. First, he discussed encouraging multinational corporations (MNCs) to continue establishing R&D and manufacturing centers in the country and to invest in technological incubators which are seeing increasing involvement of these MNCs. He also suggested establishing a large scale clinical-genetic database, leveraging the near 100 percent penetration of electronic medical records in Israel.

The IIA is the newly established incarnation of the Office of the Chief Scientist, a statutory entity created 40 years ago within the Ministry of Economy to stimulate the high tech sector through public-private partnerships. Using this mechanism, the government built infrastructure and shared risk to achieve economic and social goals.

“The most burning need,” Hasson added, “is for human capital; the engineers, scientists and professionals that will drive this next growth phase. In this context, both the Arab and the ultraorthodox sectors represent largely untapped resources and indeed both populations today are becoming more highly and more relevantly educated.” Hasson said his goal is to build the IIA as a “smart, innovative and experimental governmental entity.” The new IIA will have more flexibility to design and execute new governmental support programs and approvals are expected to be faster and easier. The authority has centralized power to coordinate the entire government effort relating to innovation policy including, for example, arranging for work visas for foreign professionals.

“The Israeli life sciences industry has had a very successful decade and today counts over 1,000 active companies, 66 percent of which were established over the last 10 years,” said Ora Dar, Head of the Life Sciences Sector at the IIA. Dar said there are some very interesting technologies on the horizon for Israel’s med-tech industry but warned that activity in medical devices is contracting due to global consolidation in the space. As a result, she said, “the private sector has scaled back its funding, certainly for me-too technologies and for improvements, and the IIA naturally has to respect and follow this trend.”


The IIA is now seeing robust activity in bio-pharma and diagnostics while digital health has emerged as the second largest high tech health sector after medical devices.

That said, it is hard to define digital health as a stand-alone sector as it crosses over into devices, diagnostics, utilizing big data analytics/neural networks, and deep learning technologies. In fact, said Dar, the convergence of different medical innovation sectors may well be the key trend today.
The trend may be most obvious in brain technologies and oncology, but is also visible in cardiology and other specialty areas. The various “beyond the pill solutions” that a number of pharmaceutical companies are now pursuing are one example.

And the IIA is adapting to this new reality by increasingly working with cross functional teams that bring together a variety of skills sets and expertise in order to evaluate these integrated technologies from a holistic perspective. As lines between sectors are blurring, the IIA continues to categorize projects based on their novelty and risk-level.

Other trends the IIA is noting include an increased number of projects focusing on brain technology, regenerative medicine and cell therapy, immune oncology, genetic diseases, personalized medicine and imaging.

Almost 30 percent of the IIA’s budget is dedicated to life sciences companies, not because of any allocation decision but rather because these companies have been the most deserving of funding within the government’s competitive grant allocation process across all industries. Dar said this reflects both the quality of the life sciences projects and their need for larger budgets as they advance and grow.

The IIA also supports collaborations with multinationals and foreign governments. Here too Dar said she is seeing more activity in the life sciences sector and, again, convergence of technologies, with various traditional IT companies such as IBM, Intel, EMC and Google showing increased interest in leveraging their technology in the life sciences.

Like Hasson, Dar also noted the growing international competition, but said, “this is a good thing, and Israel has unique capabilities, certainly in innovation . . . We have to learn to run faster, and also expand our international collaborations with countries such as China, Japan and South Korea, in addition to the U.S. and countries in Europe.”

The IATI conference was organized by tracks focusing on immuno-oncology, neurological disorders, cardiology, gene therapy and the microbiome, as well as on personalized medicine, robotics in health care, and health IT.

Source: Medical Device Daily