Leading health professionals from Israel and around the world, government officials and top Israeli med-tech companies discussed the exciting future of medicine in diverse fields such as bioengineering and cell therapy, remote medicine, the use of artificial intelligence and big data, and more, at the IMPROVATE Life-Saving Technologies conference held in Tel Aviv last week.
Among the speakers at the conference were Israel’s Minister of Science, Innovation and Technology, Orit Farkash Hacohen; Dr. Andrei Baciu, Secretary of State within the Romanian Ministry of Health; and Rosen Plevneliev, former president of Bulgaria. Leading health experts included Prof. Roni Gamzu, Director of the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center; Prof. Ze’ev Rotstein, Director of Hadassah Medical Center, Jerusalem; Nikolay Hadjidontchev, General Manager Of Teva Pharmaceuticals, Bulgaria; Dr. Galia Barkai, Director Of Sheba Beyond, Sheba Medical Center’s Virtual Hospital; Dr. Cristina Berteanu, Director of the Neolife Medical Center, Bucharest, Romania; Milena Stoycheva, a Bulgarian Entrepreneur and Educator; Dr. Yossi Bahagon, a Serial Med-tech Entrepreneur and VC; Bareket Knafo, Head of Israel’s Economic and Trade Mission to Romania and Ukraine; and Dr. Laurentia Nicoletta Gales, Associate Professor of Oncology at Bucharest’s “Carol Davila” University Of Medicine and Pharmacy.
Companies represented at the conference: MDA, IAI Elta Systems, G-medical, Telesofia, Patho-Logica, Innocan Pharma, Biolight, Imedis, Sivan, Rithem Life Sciences, Kadimastem, Pulsenmore, Vayyar, Healables, Precise-Bio, Enlivex Therapeutics, and Hospikol.
Prof. Ze’ev Rotstein, Director of Hadassah Medical Center, addressed the conference on how better data creates better care.
“We are on the verge of being able to constantly monitor patients 24 hours a day - in modern countries - and using AI to interpret this data, and this is exactly the difference between life and death,” Rotstein said. “Big data is enormously important. Big data is not only the clinical data of the patients, but we are deepening our understanding of all the genomics. We know how to perform full gene diagnostics, we know how to perform next generation sequencing of the data, we can collect data on risk groups, and we can provide better or earlier diagnostics to prevent disease or at least detect disease early on in order to be able to treat it.”
Prof. Ronni Gamzu, currently the director of the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv and a former director general of Israel’s Ministry of Health said that the future of medicine lies in a convergence of all scientific disciplines.
“Biology, mathematics, physics - they are all connected. The future is convergence,” said Gamzu. “We can not go ahead with silos and silos. We have great minds, we have a great culture of hi-tech and startup companies, great minds that are reinventing everything - not only medicine, but technology and the internet. All of that can be and should be converged in a way that we reinvent the way that we understand things, confront challenges and progress with therapies. This is what medicine is going to look like in the future. Not only classic medicine, but a convergence of all sciences to rebuild the future.”
Israel’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, Orit Farkash Hacohen said that Israel’s advanced health data records had given it a huge advantage in the coronavirus vaccination roll-out and looking to the future the fact that Israel has the world’s second-largest database of health records was a huge asset for the health, technology and academic communities.
“We need to continue to exploit our data and combine it with genetic data and so on, and connect the data with the academic and scientific communities so that they can access it,” Farkash Hacohen said. “At the same time, we also need to create a regulatory framework that will on the one hand provide access to the technological and academic communities to these health records and on the other hand will safeguard the privacy of each citizen that is part of this database.”
Dr. Andrei Baciu, Secretary of State within the Romanian Ministry of Health described the Israeli healthcare sector as one of the leading in the world in terms of digitalization, and said there were strong opportunities for cooperation between the two countries, especially between Israel’s healthcare sector and Romania’s IT sector where he said a “powerful marriage” could be created.
“We have to identify common goals and start building bridges for our patients at a regional and global level,” Baciu said. “At the end of the day, any and every breakthrough in digital healthcare is going to help the patient community worldwide. It is important to find common projects with very specific goals and from that point on it is only a matter of time to get competitive results at a global level.”
Former Bulgarian President and IMPROVATE advisory board member Rosen Plevneliev said whereas many people around the world feared the rise of machines and Artificial Intelligence, and populist politicians are exploiting these fears, Israel is showing the right approach.
“Israel is on the cutting edge of using the rise of the machines, building the right algorithms, developing the right products and getting the right systems in place, and that helps people in the most sacred place - saving human lives,” President Plevneliev said.
As for the potential of Israeli companies seeking to do business in the medical technology sector, President Plevneliev expressed the belief that the European market holds huge opportunities for Israeli companies.
“The European Union has amazing potential because of the sheer size of its market, because of the opportunity to really transform technology standards for 27 countries with over 500 million people living with the same regulations and standards. The EU is behind [on medical technologies and big data] and is over regulated, but as it gets rolling it brings a huge market to Israeli companies.”
IMPROVATE co-founder and CEO Ronit Hasin Hochman said: “The conference showed how Israel is at the forefront of medical technology and is able to improve lives around the world, something that is very much in line with IMPROVATE’s mission.”
MDA-NET combines the knowledge and experience accumulated in Israel in the field of disaster preparedness and response and medical emergencies with the advanced and innovative technology of the start-up nation. The company implements a comprehensive solution for improving and streamlining work processes in PSAPs through integration of data and systems, integration of media and AI.
Uri Shacham, head of the Red Cross in Israel, a paramedic with over 25 years of experience in emergency medicine and disaster response and one of the leaders in innovation at Magen David Adom, said: “Emergencies are becoming more and more complex nowadays and emergency organizations have to respond to a lot of incidents in parallel. Our command-and-control system is a next generation system that combines all the information out there from response teams, citizens and lay rescuers in the field who have data and visuals from their phones, and connects that information with decision makers. This brings big data into the system and enables us to make better decisions and save lives.”
Compared to other systems around the world, MDA’s system is unique in the innovative thinking it brings to the table. “We at MDA-NET say that if there is a new technology or a new technology adopted by the crowd, we are interested in implementing it into our system. Because when a citizen uses a technology on a daily basis, he will use it in an emergency situation,” Shacham added. “We want to bring whatever is out there to assist us in helping others. We believe that this creates a chain of survival beginning at the emergency dispatch, through to the emergency ward and on to specialist physicians and creating a constant flow of information.”
Ilan Bublil is Director of Marketing at ELTA Systems, a group and subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, one of Israel’s leading defense and technology companies. He presented TAMAR, a modular solution developed from defense and advanced sensor technologies during the COVID-19 pandemic at the request by the Israeli government. TAMAR remotely measures at safe distances and with a high level of accuracy a person's vital signs such as body temperature.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we took our in-house technologies and converted them to life-saving solutions. We responded to a medical need by giving it a 'defense solution'. I think we are going to hear a lot more about the defense industries providing their innovative and reliable solutions to the medical world,” said Bublil.
GMedical develops and markets medical-grade health monitoring solutions to healthcare providers and consumers. The company is involved in four verticals: R&D of mobile remote patient monitoring technologies In Israel; Remote Patient Monitoring Centers in the United States; Big data and A.I analytics. Dr. Yacov Geva Managing Director and CEO said: “Since COVID-19, we are in a different era, the world is going toward telemedicine.”
Hospikol focuses on improving communication in hospitals between the patient and the care team, while allowing management to analyse and improve efficiency and patient satisfaction. Boaz Amram, head of global BizDev at Hospikol said: “Driven by AI, machine learning algorithms, Hospikol is an easy-to-use system which enables patients to receive effective and prompt care from the care team member.”
Dr. Rami Cohen, CEO and Founder of Telesofia Medical, which improves patient outcomes using auto-generated videos that are personalized based on demographic and clinical data said: “Videos are a great tool to convey messages and information, but in medicine there are a lot of small details that really matter. Telesofia is able to automatically generate a personalized video for each individual patient showing them what they need to do.”
Enlivex Therapeutics is a clinical stage macrophage reprogramming immunotherapy company developing Allocetra, a universal, off-the-shelf cell therapy designed to reprogram macrophages for the treatment of life-threatening diseases such as solid cancers, sepsis, COVID-19 and many others. CEO Dr. Oren Hershkovitz said: “One of the things about cell therapies is that they are very expensive therapies and we need to reduce costs. That’s one of the things we are involved in at Enlivex.”
Kadimastem is a leading cell therapy company developing a treatment for ALS and a cure for diabetes. Asaf Shiloni, CEO of Kadimastem and an expert in cell therapy, said: “We can take stem cells and differentiate them into any cell type. We focus on two cell types - astrocytes, a type of cell found in the brain, that we use for treatment of ALS, and the second cell type are insulin producing cells, and based on those cells we are developing what will be a treatment for diabetes.”
Veterinary pathologist Dr. Emmanuel Loeb, CEO and founder of Patho-Logica, a service company that supports projects in the early stages of development of laboratory animal experiments, said that within 20 years Israel will be one of the most important countries in the world in the field of drug development. “There are two driving forces; first of all, good academia with well trained people, and second, we are an innovative country with a lot of curiosity, lot of need for development and solving complex problems. We see unbelievable developments in cancer therapies involving biological therapies that are replacing chemotherapies,” Dr. Loeb said.
Precise Bio is leading a revolution in the field of bio-convergence and tissue engineering. Precise Bio’s unique 3d printing technology together with cell biology, biomaterials and a comprehensive multi-disciplinary approach enable bringing 4D biofabriacted tissues to the clinic. “We are entering a new era of bioprinting where tissues will be printed and transplanted in the body,” said CEO Aryeh Batt
Innocan Pharma is a pharmaceutical company, developing several patent-pending Cannabinoids Delivery Systems to enhance the potency and efficacy of CBD as a therapeutic device. “Big pharma is looking for innovative agile cannabis based startups and this is very promising for us,” said Ron Mayron, Executive Chairman & Co-Founder and Iris Bincovich, CEO of Innocan Pharma.
Vayyar Home is a unique touchless, camera-free solution for the elderly enhancing wellbeing either at home or in senior care facilities. The platform gathers rich data that supports instant fall detection and 24/7 activity monitoring - without cameras, buttons, cords or wearables - identifying signs of deteriorating physical or mental health, improving dementia care, and delivering timely interventions that save lives. “Privacy is mission critical in the home care space. Seniors don’t want to have cameras around all the time and we can monitor them and provide rich data without the need for cameras,” said CEO and Co-Founder Raviv Melamed.
IMedis has developed Duali-Q, a revolutionary medical innovation that promotes early detection of cancer and other life-threatening diseases using AI technology. Aviel Blumenfeld, CEO and Co-Founder of IMedis, said: “Radiologists won’t be replaced by AI, but radiologists that use AI will replace radiologists that don’t use AI.”
Yaacov Michlin, CEO of BioLight Life Sciences, a TASE-listed company investing in the best Israeli innovation in ophthalmology said “Ophthalmology is an innovative and fast-growing field. Israel is a global leader in hi-tech and entrepreneurship and it produces exciting innovation from its academia, and hospitals. When you put all that together you get a very powerful innovation hub in ophthalmology. BioLight currently has 9 portfolio companies based on this innovation hub and it plans to expand focusing on the convergence between ophthalmology and engineering harvesting the best Israel can offer in these areas”
SIVAN is a leader in the e-health industry, and developed MOOVCARE – a medical application that detects relapses and complications in the follow-up process of lung cancer patients. It was the first digital therapy that was proven to improve life expectancy and to be reimbursed in France. Hilit Hochman, chief communication officer, said “digital therapies such as MOOVCARE provide the physician with all the information about the patient on a weekly basis, improving the monitoring of cancer patients.”
HEALABLES.IO is a digital health company devoted to reducing the burden of inflammatory illness and chronic pain. It leverages AI and e-textiles to deliver a synergy of bioelectric therapy and behavioral health that will redefine state-of-the-art care and make it accessible via telemedicine. Chief Medical Officer Andrew David Shiller said: “We are designing this technology and building a platform that is very suitable to research and applying it to populations, and making it accessible and affordable, reducing the burden of chronic illness, so that we reduce health care costs.”
Rithem Life Sciences is a technology company that is set to address needs in resuscitative medicine. The need for a company making resuscitation an at home need has been magnified by the events of the pandemic. CEO Dr. Jonathan Rosenblum said: “We are aiming to get a defibrillator into every home. Our defibrillator is small enough to fit in a kitchen drawer. Our goal is to keep it as inexpensive as possible to remove the cost factor from preventing ownership.
Pulsenmore has developed a handheld at-home ultrasound scanner that allows high quality images to be created anywhere, forwarded for clinical review or streamed to a doctor as part of an online consultation. Chief Commercial Officer Jordan Rubinson said “Pulsenmore has taken the next step in terms of accessibility and affordability of ultrasound, and we have essentially moved it out into the home so that patients can take high-quality images and transmit them to their doctors.”