Biotech stories dominated Israel’s good news last week. Despite the on-going doctors’ dispute, scientists in the Jewish State pumped out one medical discovery after another. And when surgical facilities were operating, the staff performed magnificently.

Israel is working on some ‘wonder drugs’ that will hopefully soon save millions of lives around the world. How about a universal flu vaccine? Israel’s BiondVax has announced that in Phase II laboratory trials, its technology has proven capable of providing protection against all known strains of flu (even swine & bird flu).  When have you ever heard of a democratic country putting public funds into trialling a drug? Well the Israeli Government is doing just that with the Chief Scientist awarding a 2.2 million shekel grant to Israeli bio-tech Biocancell to test the effectiveness of its BC-819 drug in treating pancreatic cancer. This is in addition to previous public funds for trials of BC-819 in treating prostate and bladder cancer.
Israeli medical innovations come in all shapes and sizes. Patients no longer need die from the build-up of carbon dioxide in their blood. Thanks to Dr Ofek Hornick, his invention of the Capno-Pulse is able to monitor CO2 levels quickly. Israeli start-up Neetour is now testing the device at Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv. There is also a new treatment for hypertension. For the first time, doctors at Hadassah’s Heart Institute used an innovative Israeli renal catheterization tool to permanently lower the blood pressure of a 72 year-old woman. Tel Aviv University chemists have a patented device that protects vulnerable women from spiked drinks. It detects tiny amounts of ‘date-rape drugs'' lurking in a beverage. Finally, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has invested in Israeli bio-med start-up Lifebond that is developing a surgical sealant for closing up wounds. J&J must be really impressed, as it already owns the rights to a similar product.

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Some Israeli innovative medical devices have been available for some time but are only just beginning to be recognised. The insulin infusion sets produced by Israel’s D.Medical will soon be available to the 350,000 Type 1 diabetics in the USA that need insulin pumps to control their treatment. And those sleepless in Seattle will be overjoyed that GE Healthcare has ordered 3 Morpheus Hx sleep disorder diagnostic devices from Israel’s WideMed Ltd for installation at US hospitals.

Recognition of achievement is important to our groundbreaking scientists. The 2011 Juludan Prize for outstanding practical research was awarded to Technion’s Dr Dvir Yelin for ‘Minimally invasive nano-therapy using miniature endoscopy’. Weizmann’s Associate Professor Noam Sobel also received the prize, for ‘The use of the sense of smell: Neurobiological mechanisms, applications in health and in treating disease’. Future award-winning scientists could come from many of Israel’s world-class research establishments. Perhaps those Hebrew University researchers who have discovered biomarkers that predict the likelihood of developing brain cancer and can also help in its treatment. Or Keren Shahar, a doctoral student at Tel Aviv University, who has proved that participation in sport, is good for a child’s cognitive, emotional and behavioral well-being.

Meanwhile, in the ‘real’ world, away from the laboratories, Israelis are busy saving lives. A Palestinian Arab mother of five was rushed to an Israeli hospital for emergency treatment for an intestinal infection. Subsequently, the Israeli Civil administration for the Territories even arranged for a Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) appliance to be installed at the woman’s Qalqilyah home. Further away, Magen David Adom has established a clinic in Uman. The Ukrainian facility will serve both the local residents and also the thousands of Israelis who visit every Rosh Hashana to make a pilgrimage to the grave of Rav Nachman of Breslav.

Who is wise? One who learns from every person. Our sages’ words have been taken literally by MDA staff that, for the first time ever, received training from Palestinian Red Crescent Society instructors. And in another story of co-existence, Hadasit - the technology transfer company of Hadassah Medical Organization - has launched Ways, a medical investment incubator for joint Jewish-Arab bio-med ventures in the Galilee.



MDA staff receive training from PRC instructors

Finally, The word Reuth means friendship. This summer, eight young American women discovered the true meaning of the word at the Reuth Medical Centre in Tel Aviv. They had opted to become medical interns at the chronic care facility and formed relationships with the patients that they will never forget. 
Tihye bari – be well!

Michael Ordman writes a weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.

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