Life Sciences Thrive In Israel

Israel’s thriving life sciences industry is world-renowned for its groundbreaking innovations, ingenuity and creativity.  It is home to about 1,000 life science companies, with 40 new companies being formed each year. Multinational companies including J&J, Perrigo, GE Healthcare and Phillips Medical, together with local companies such as Teva, Given Imaging, Insightec, Medinol, Disc-o-tech, Kamada and others have been at the forefront in the development and marketing of life-changing medical devices, treatments and medications.

Fast Facts

• First in the world in the quality of scientific research institutions (WEF 2011-12)

• First in the world for the number of medical device patents per capita; fourth for biopharma patents (US Patents and Trademarks Office 2009)

• Second in Europe in per capita of private biotech companies’ products in pipeline

• Second  leading publisher of stem cell research in the world

Why Israeli Life Sciences?

1. Proven record of innovative scientific excellence:

Israel’s life sciences sector is supported by a strong foundation of academic excellence, including some of the world’s leading research institutes; renowned R&D facilities, such as the Technion and the Weizmann Institute, as well as cutting-edge medical centers.Four academics have recently won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Daniel Shechtman of the Technion won the prize in 2010 for his discovery of quasicrystals; Ada Yonath of the Weizmann Institute in 2009 for showing how ribosomes function, which has important implications for developing antibiotics and Aaron Ciechanover and Avram Hershko of the Technion in 2004 for their discovery of Ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation, leading to breakthroughs in the understanding and treatment of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and cystic fibrosis.

2. Fast growing sector:

Prior to 1996, Israel was home to 186 life sciences companies. Today there are about 1,000. 41% of all Life Sciences companies operating in Israel today were established during the last 10 years and over 1/3 of all sector start-ups are already generating revenue.

3. Connections between academia and business:

Seven university-associated and five hospital-linked technology transfer organizations (TTO) provide a valuable bridge to connect researchers and early-stage projects with both investors and partnerships with multinational corporations. Israel is home to the largest and oldest TTO, The Hebrew University’s Yissum, which generates output similar to its counterparts at MIT and Stanford, with over 7,000 patents covering 2,025 inventions (2012). Yeda of the Weizmann Institute of Science is among the top five TTOs in the world and developed Copaxone, a breakthrough treatment for MS, which generated $3.9 billion in sales in 2011.

The technological incubator network houses up to 15 companies each and provides them with a full suite of services and business development, as well as funding of approximately $500,000 for the first 2-3 years of their lives. Active since the early 1990s, incubators were once government-run, but are now fully privatized.Teva, Hadasit (Hadassah Medical Center’s TTO) and two leading VCs established Bioline Rx, which shepherds early stage-projects through the second stage of clinical trials.

4. Support from the government:

Biotechnology is defined as a preferred sector by the Office of the Chief Scientist in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor. As such, the government funds 50% of the approved R&D budget for 2 years along with  other generous incentive packages.

In 2012, OrbiMed, a leading global investment management firm, created Israel’s first investment fund dedicated to life sciences venture capital opportunities with an anchor investment by the Government of Israel. The $222 million fund, OrbiMed Israel Partners LP, invests in biotechnology, pharmaceutical, medical devices and diagnostics companies at varying stages of maturity, from seed through growth equity

5. Pioneering stem cell research & therapeutics:

Israeli scientists have been recognized among the earliest pioneers in stem cell research and have been at the forefront of global efforts to isolate human embryonic stem cells (hESC).

  • 1st to demonstrate in-vitro differentiation of human embryonic Stem Cells (hESC) and generation of human embryonic bodies.
  • 1st to genetically modify hESCs, including a line that represented a model for human disease (Lesch Nyhan disease)
  • 1st clinical trials of cell therapy treatments.

Spotlight on Teva:


Teva Pharmaceuticals is among the top 15 pharmaceutical companies in the world and is the world’s largest generic pharmaceutical company with about $18 billion in annual sales in 2011. Headquartered in Israel, Teva operates in 60 countries and has 46,000 employees worldwide. Recent acquisitions include Tayio, the third largest pharmaceutical company in Japan, in 2011; Germany’s Ratiopharm in 2010, which turned Teva into the leading generic pharmaceutical company in Europe and Barr Pharmaceuticals in 2008, which enhanced Teva’s leading position within the US generic pharmaceuticals market.

Breakthrough Medical Devices and Biopharmaceuticals

Israel’s breakthroughs are often a result of several converging technologies including physics, mathematics, computer sciences, nanotechnology and others.

  • Pillcam, the first miniature ingested camera which diagnoses and photographs abnormalities in the gastrointestinal tract was introduced by Given Imaging.
  • Galil Medical‘s minimally invasive cryotherapy solutions freeze and ablate benign cancerous tissue, thereby hastening a patient’s’ recovery.
  • Teva‘s Copaxone for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis and Azilect for Parkinson’s disease are revolutionary drugs developed in Israel.
  • Medinol’s closed cell stent is used worldwide for heart catheterization.
  • Rebif, a treatment for Central Nervous System disorders was developed by the Weizmann Institute and Serono.
  • Insightec developed the ExAblate 2000 non-invasive surgery, which uses MR guided focused ultrasound to treat uterine fibroids. (Pictured: ExAblate procedure courtesy of Insightec)
  • Exelon, a drug for the treatment of Alzheimer’s originated at the Hebrew University and was developed and marketed by Novartis.
  • A chemotherapy drug for the treatment of ovarian cancer, Doxil, was developed at the Hadassah Medical Center and sold to Johnson & Johnson.
  • Microneedle based systems for the painless intradermal delivery of drugs was implemented by NanoPass which collaborated with GlaxoSmithKline on optimization of its platform for vaccine delivery.

Cutting-Edge R&D by Emerging Companies

  • The NovoTTF, a portable, wearable device that delivers an anti-mitotic, anti-cancer therapy as patients maintain their normal activities, was developed by Novocure.
  • Ventor, acquired by Medtronic in 2009, created a unique aortic valve prosthesis which can be implanted “off pump”, on a beating heart.
  • The superDimension i-Logic System, acquired by Covidien in 2012, uses Electromagnetic Navigation Bronchoscopy (ENB) to provide minimally invasive access to lesions deep in the lungs as well as mediastinal lymph nodes, enabling physicians to diagnose benign and malignant lung lesions and avoid the need for higher-risk procedures.
  • Kamada’s D1-AAT drug with AAT (Alpha-1 antitrypsin) protein, which treats Type 1 diabetes, is a breakthrough treatment of the disease, which may greatly reduce the body’s need for insulin. (Pictured: Kamada factory courtesy of Kamada)
  • Vaxil‘s lead therapeutic vaccine ImMucin is a novel treatment for various forms of cancer.

International Awards

  • Lunguard Ltd, an unique disposable PFT (Peristaltic Feeding Tube), that is monitored and controlled 24/7 by the bedside CMU, was cited as part of  2011 Red Herring’s Top 100 Europe list.
  • NuLens, which offers IOL, an accommodative intra-ocular lens and enables post-cataract vision restoration, was selected as one of Red Herring’s 100 European companies in 2009.
  • Neurosonix received the European Association of Cardiac-Thoracic Surgery Techno-College Innovation Award for its EmBlocker, which uses ultrasonic energy to non-invasively divert emboli flow away from the cerebral arteries.
  • EarlySense, developer of the EverOn patient supervision system for post-acute care was the winner of a 2010 Popular Science Best of What’s New award.
  • Scientific American Magazine listed Dr. Beka Solomon of Tel Aviv University and her research into the use of antibodies in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease as one of the 50 most significant breakthroughs in 2007.
  •  Dr. Shulamit Levenberg, Head of the Biomedical Engineering Faculty at the Technion, was named by Scientific American Magazine in 2007 as one of 50 top research contributors for her work in implanting blood vessels in muscle tissue without the body’s rejection of the implanted muscles and for her efforts in tissue engineering using embryonic stem cells.