Israeli Companies Get ‘Foot In The Door’ Of U.S. Medical Industry

Jefferson University launches global center in Jerusalem that will fund cutting-edge start-up companies

With a view to promoting innovation in the medical industry, Thomas Jefferson University on Tuesday inaugurated a new global center in Jerusalem that will facilitate collaborative projects between Israeli and American researchers. The Jefferson Israel Center will foster partnerships in both the research and academic arenas, with the Israel Innovation Authority providing part of the funding and offering workspaces to start-up companies.

“We’re really attracted by Israel’s incredible ecosystem of innovation,” Dr. Mark L. Tykocinski, Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs at Jefferson, told The Media Line at the initiative’s launch event at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. “Israel today is what Silicon Valley was in the late 1990s. It has more technology start-ups per capita than anywhere in the world.”

The Jefferson Israel Center is the third global endeavor for the Philadelphia-based university, which previously opened similar health-focused networks in Japan and Italy and aims to do the same in India and Latin America.

“The ability to conduct experiments and exams in the world’s leading health institutes and clinics is an important step in the development of Israeli start-ups and companies, beyond the research and development stages,” said Dr. Ami Applebaum, Chairman of the Board of the Israel Innovation Authority, a government entity charged with providing state grants to companies involved in research and development.

At the official opening, representatives from Jefferson University, the Jefferson Israel Center and the Israel Innovation Authority signed a Joint Declaration Letter of Intent that enables Israeli start-ups to begin submitting proposals for financing.

Dr. Zvi Grunwald, Executive Director of the Jefferson Israel Center, noted that many of the anticipated ventures will feature inter-disciplinary collaborations between medical scientists, high-tech companies, and engineers. “The Israel Innovation Authority will contribute one million dollars that will be [distributed] to four different projects,” Dr. Grunwald revealed to The Media Line. “Start-up companies can apply [for a grant] and a successful bid will be awarded $250,000 in order to launch their project.”

Among the industries the new center will hone in on is medical cannabis, a field in which Israel is widely considered to be a global leader.

“That’s an area of particular interest of late,” said Dr. Tykocinski, before highlighting Israeli company Breath of Life Pharma which owns the world’s largest research and production facility in the booming medicinal marijuana industry. He added that Jefferson “founded the United States’ first center for medical research and education in cannabis and has already started working together with Breath of Life in Israel to push that forward.”

One of advantages offered by the center is the potential for Israeli companies to expand their market presence through fast-track entry into the American healthcare market. Dr. Rajesh Aggarwal, Senior Vice President for Strategic Development at Jefferson, told The Media Line Israeli companies will now have a “foot in the door of the U.S. medical industry. Jefferson has 14 hospitals, 4.2 million annual patient visits, and 30,000 employees,” he explained, adding that, “we see if there’s a fit between a company and its technology and what we can do at Thomas Jefferson. If there’s a return on investment for that technology, then not only is it a technology for Jefferson it’s a technology that other health systems may want to purchase.

“We provide the validation and turn it into a commercial product,” Dr. Aggarwal concluded.

As such, the Jefferson Israel Center will not only promote fresh business opportunities, but also seek to turn existing technologies into the next big advancement in the health sciences.

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