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Local biomed sees future in hi-tech
By NIV ELIS
03/27/2014
More than 90 Israeli companies are involved in some way in the issues of digital health, according to venture capital head.
 
The future of Israel’s biomed and life-sciences industry lies in the hi-tech world, according to industry leaders.

“As you look at the mega-trends and the things that influence us, one of the most notable ones is the future of digital health care,” Yoav Chelouche, managing partner at Aviv Venture Capital, told The Jerusalem Post in a recent interview.

More than 90 Israeli companies are involved in some way in the issues of digital health, he said, including wearable sensors, remote monitors for patients with chronic illnesses, medication- adherence software and 3-D printing of custom-made prosthetics.

According to Benny Zeevi, managing general partner at DFJ TelAviv Venture Partners, the vast majority of Fortune 150 companies are involved in health care in some way, whether from the software angle (IBM, SAP, Oracle), creating special chips for health devices (Qualcomm, Intel) or offering retail products (Walmart, Best Buy). Even mobile operators such as Orange, Vodafone and AT&T are getting into the game.

“All of them see a huge potential in bringing health care to the consumer through hi-tech,” Zeevi told the Post.

There are two big factors driving the trend. The first is the need to drive down health-care costs in ever-expanding markets.

“It’s clear that health-care delivery and the cost of health care is unacceptable in all parameters,” Zeevi said. “It’s approaching 20 percent of GDP in the US, so something fundamental has to change.”

Emerging markets including China and India are also providing new demand for health care, as are countries such as Japan with aging populations, he said.

New technologies can help monitor and treat chronic diseases, which account for some 80% of health-care costs, Zeevi said.

“Tech is the only way to look for the reduction of health-care costs and improvement of services, which is something we all want, especially as health-care costs are spiraling,” Chelouche said.

The second factor driving biomedical and hi-tech together is the possibilities provided by new technologies. Ubiquitous mobile access, big data and easier communication between devices, known as the Internet of Things, are creating a new wave of approaches for predicting, monitoring and treating devices.

“It’s not about new therapies and drugs, but how we deliver and consume health care,” Zeevi said. “As consumers, we’ve gotten used to getting everything instantly in their hands. The same is true on health care. If I want to consult with a physician, why can’t I do it on my iPhone instead of going to the office?” With wearable technology and easy communication between devices, monitoring and reacting to medical conditions has become far simpler, as has gathering data on patient compliance.

Some companies are even turning to social media to see what people are saying about their health, including the drugs they’re taking and the doctors they recommend.

This year, for the first time, Israel’s annual life-science and biomedical technology conference have merged.

The MiXiii Israel Innovation Conference, to take place in May, will be “the first in the world where biomed and hi-tech will join hands in a unique and exciting new international conference format,” according to organizers.

“The hi-tech industry is getting closer to the life sciences and vice versa,” Zeevi said.
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