Tech Nation

OurCrowd raises $25 million in 'crowdfunding,' BrainStorm begins clinical trials for ALS therapy and Israel again ranks 34th in network readiness.

Yael Engelhart

OurCrowd "crowdfunding" firm raises $25 million

OurCrowd, an Israeli startup that aggregates capital to invest in hi-tech companies, said Monday it had raised $25 million in what it called the biggest-ever round of "crowdfunding." The company, which is based in Jerusalem and has previously raised $43 million for the 36 companies in its portfolio, said the latest funds would be used to expand operations in Israel and abroad and to co-invest with its clients. OurCrowd started by investing in early stage Israeli companies but said on Monday that four of its last 10 investment were in startups based outside of Israel. (TheMarker staff)

FDA approves BrainStorm clinical trials of ALS treatment

BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics said Monday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the start of a mid-stage clinical trial of its adult stem cell treatment for patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. The Phase II trial for treatment of the disease, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, will be launched initially at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the University of Massachusetts Memorial Hospital in Worcester. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Connell O’Reilly Cell Manipulation Core Facility will manufacture BrainStorm’s NurOwn cells for the two clinical sites. The trial will also be conducted at the Mayo Clinic, the Petah Tikva-based company said on Sunday. The trials are expected to start soon. (TheMarker Staff)

New York State delegation in Israel promoting incubator competition

Officials from New York State arrived in Israel this week to expand ties with the high-tech industry here and to promote a competition designed to lure businesses to Buffalo, the largest city in upstate New York. The international competition, called 43 North, will provide a collective $5 million to 11 successful entrants, including $1 million to the top finisher, from any industry other than retailing and hospitality. The funding will be provided in exchange for a 5% equity stake in the participating firms. Businesses can be at any stage in their development and will be provided with office space for a year. If they remain Buffalo, which is situated on Lake Erie near the Canadian border, they will be exempt from state taxes for 10 years. The application deadline is May 31. (Inbal Orpaz)

Israel remains in 15th place in IT readiness ranking

Israel maintained its 15th spot from last year in the World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index published last week The index, which measures countries’ ability to leverage information and communications technology for growth and well-being, gave Israel a high score was on the economic impact of information technology, for which it ranked fourth worldwide. Its lowest score was for workforce skills, where it was 39th. At 15th place overall, Israel was one spot behind Taiwan but was just ahead of Japan, Canada and Australia. The top spot in the rankings this year went to Finland. “The country benefits from a rather skilful labor force (39th), despite some concerns about the quality of education (56th), that — coupled with favorable conditions for innovation and entrepreneurship (14th) and a high capacity of companies to innovate (4th) — result in very high technological capacity,” the report said about Israel. (TheMarker staff)

Emblaze founder Eli Reifman freed from prison

Eli Reifman, the founder of Emblaze, an Israeli startup that once aspired to be a leading maker of cellphones, was released from Hermon prison in the north on Monday after serving four years for fraud and document counterfeiting. He was charged in connection with a $6.3 million loan and was freed after his sentence was reduced. Reifman was a high-profile entrepreneur in the 1990s, but questions began to be raised over the conduct of his company. Reifman declared bankruptcy in 2011. (Jasmin Gueta)

Bloomberg