Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced on Monday that NIS 100 million will be invested in the development of the capital's biomedical industry over the next five years to create jobs and attract foreign businesses to establish their presence in the city. "I intend to raise and invest NIS 100m. in Jerusalem's biomedical industry over the next five years. I am personally committed to the field of biomed and the health and life sciences business cluster as a core competitive advantage that we must exploit in Jerusalem," Barkat said at a reception hosted by the Yissum Research Development Company of the Hebrew University at the three-day Tel Aviv ILSI Biomed Israel 2009 conference that began on Monday. "Among other things, I intend to award financial incentives in order to encourage international companies to put down roots in Jerusalem, as well as to define Jerusalem as a special economic zone with tax benefits for hi-tech and biotech companies. These steps are intended to turn Jerusalem, the health and life sciences capital of the State of Israel, into a renowned partner in the international arena," he said. The NIS 100m. raised by the Jerusalem Municipality, in collaboration with the Jerusalem Development Authority, will be allocated to bolstering infrastructure necessary for biomedical research and development; training skilled personnel for the life science industry; promoting and populating the first Israeli biomedical industry park situated on the campus of Hadassah University Medical Center and the Hebrew University School of Medicine; and to establish an investment fund that will focus on life science companies based in Jerusalem, Barkat said. "Despite the economic situation, we have seen a 20 percent growth in the number of companies and a 34% growth in the number of biomed employees in the capital relative to 2006," said Shirley Kutner, executive director of the BioJerusalem initiative. Kutner added that with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries as the anchor of the industry in Jerusalem, additional bio-pharma companies, such as Protalix and Omrix, recently purchased by Johnson & Johnson, had joined the 110 biomed companies currently based in Jerusalem that employ more than 3,250 people. "We project that the growth trend will significantly increase in the near future. The investment on behalf of biomed companies is expected to top $350m. over the next five years," said Kutner. "This growth will be accompanied by an addition of some 2,000 employees with academic degrees in biology, biotechnology, chemistry, pharmacy and engineering." According to BioJerusalem, an initiative of the Jerusalem Development Authority, which was founded to fuel the economic development of the city by leveraging its life sciences resources, approximately 43% of all biotech research in Israel is performed at the Hebrew University, and Hadassah University Medical Center is responsible for about half of the clinical research in the country.