When it comes to cutting-edge scientific research, fast-pace growth and development, and entrepreneurial daring, no one does it better than Israel: the Holy Land of Biotechnology. Whether it is bioreactors, animal vaccines, life-saving medical devices, revolutionary drug-delivery techniques, pioneering stem cell research, or brain cell therapies, the pace of innovation in Israel’s biotechnology industry is unparalleled. Boasting over 180 biotech companies led by some of the top academics in the world, biotechnology in Israel is booming.
Israel Life Science Companies
Emerging in the 1970s, biotechnology is the science which applies discoveries in molecular biology and immunochemistry to diagnosis and therapy. Just over a decade ago, the number of life science companies in Israel numbered 186. Today, Israel is home to over 1,000 life science companies, with over 1/3 of start-ups already generating a profit. The following facts demonstrate how Israel has earned its reputation as a biotech leader and why it has been dubbed “the start-up nation.”
Israel leads the world in the quality of scientific research institutions, including the world-renowned Technion and Weizmann Institute of Science.
Israel ranks first in the world for the number of medical device patents per capita and fourth in the world for biopharma patents
Israel ranks second in Europe for per capita private biotech company products in pipeline
Israel leads the world in stem cell research
Israel is home to the oldest and largest technology transfer organization (TTO), which in 2012 alone generated 7,000 patents covering 2,025 inventions. Twelve more TTOs bridge researchers and early-stage projects with investors and multinational corporations
The Weizmann Institute of Science, ranked among the top five TTOs globally, generates over $3.9 billion in sales for its breakthrough treatment for mesorah (Copaxone); Israel’s Teva Pharmaceuticals is the largest generic pharmaceutical company in the world, generating over $18 billion in annual sales
In the past decade, four Israeli academics have won the Nobel Prize in chemistry; their scientific breakthroughs include Daniel Shechtman’s 2010 discovery of quasicrystals; Ada Yonath’s 2009 demonstration of how ribosomes function (with important implications for developing antibiotics); Aaron Ciechanover and Avram Hershko’s 2004 discovery ofUbiquitin-mediated protein degradation, leading to breakthrough understandings in the treatment of cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and cystic fibrosis.
Since biotechnology has been deemed a preferred sector by the Office of the Chief Scientist in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, the Israeli government funds 50% of approved R&D budgets for two years, as well as offering additional generous incentive packages. In 2012, the government of Israel made an anchor investment in OrbiMed, a leading global investment management firm, which established Israel’s first investment fund dedicated to life sciences venture capital opportunities. The $222 million fund invests in biotechnology, medical devices, pharmaceutical, and diagnostics companies at varying stages of maturity.
Stem Cell Research
A pioneer in stem cell research and therapeutics, Israel is the clear frontrunner in global efforts to isolate human embryonic stem cells (hESC). With their capacity to generate any cell type which may be needed in the human body, it is believed that embryonic stem cells may one day treat or cure a variety of the world’s deadliest diseases. Israeli scientists’ accomplishments in the field include:
Being the first to demonstrate in-vitro differentiation of hESC and generation of human embryonic bodies
Being the first to genetically modify hESCs, including a line that represented a model for human disease
Conducting the first clinical trials of cell therapy treatments
BioMed 2013 Conference
It is appropriate, then, that Israel is set to host the 2013 International Biotechnology Conference, which will take place in Tel Aviv from June 10-12. Panel discussions and presentations led by Israeli medical device and biopharma companies will explore hot-button issues in modern medicine and biotechnology and showcase to the world what Israel has to offer and share with the biotech industry.