Ever since the founding of the modern state in 1948, Israel has been a center of research and development, discovery, and innovation. This has held true to today as Israel is still a nexus for medical technological innovation, drug development, and new therapies. Medical startups and medical tourism are soaring as Israel remains on the forefront of novel medical technologies.
What Makes Israel Special?
As outlined by Dr. Rachelle Fishman, Israel has several important assets that contribute to its status as a leader in medical innovation. One of these is the fact that Israel has traditionally been a nation of immigrants. The best and brightest of many nations, such as the former Soviet Union, have come to Israel to flee persecution, seek a better life, or live in their religious homeland.
This “brain drain” from other nations has benefited Israel enormously. Not only have discoveries been made and inventions built by individuals, but these researchers have contributed to Israel’s many high-ranking universities as well. As Dr. Fishman points out, these academic institutions often form their own research authorities, pursuing scientific advances and technological innovations.
A Times of India article also notes additional factors that contribute to Israeli excellence in technological innovation – namely self-reliance and the military. The author points out that the hardships endured by the Jewish people and Israel as a nation have fostered a kind of determination and self-sufficiency, always striving to succeed. Furthermore, Israeli’s compulsory military service provides young people with additional training and experience in a variety of technical fields.
Naturally, medical innovation would be difficult to achieve without a cooperative government. This is another area where Israel excels. The Israeli government is quite progressive when it comes to medical innovation, providing grants and assistance to a large number of projects. According to a recent article in The Economic Times, Israel is the top country in the world for technology startups per capita, and is second only to the United States in the number of technology incubators.
There are also no shortage of international partnerships and cooperation in Israel. A friendly relationship with most every major Western nation means that Israeli researchers can easily collaborate with top experts across the world and work together on massive – and expensive – projects.
A Few Examples
Here are just a few examples of past and current Israeli contributions to medical innovation:
Israel has long been at the forefront of fertility solutions and IVF technology, largely due to grants and government backing. This trend is once again taking off as over a dozen tech companies now cover the cost of egg freezing as a benefit to their female employees.
The American medical company, Northwell Health, partnered with the governmental Israel Innovation Authority to pursue new medical innovations.
Prof. Michel Revel from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel led the development of interferon proteins as well as finding the gene that encodes for interleukin-6.
Prof. Ehud Shapiro, also of the Weizmann Institute, created the world’s smallest computer, consisting of enzymes and DNA.
Prof. Eran Elinav studies and advances knowledge of the gut microbiome at the Weizmann Institute. His research has provided insights into nutrition, immunology, glucose regulation, and healthy diets.
Kite Pharma, founded by Israeli-American Dr. Arie Belldegrun, was recently purchased by the American biopharmaceutical company, Gilead Sciences, in a near $12 billion deal.