Biotech sector set to pull in venture capital funds

IVC expects the biotechnology sector to attract 12 percent more investment this year.

hi tech biz 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
hi tech biz 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel's biotechnology sector is poised to attract more investment from venture capital funds over the course of the year, according to an Israel Venture Capital research paper. According to Eyal Solomon, of the Ethosia human resources firm, biotechnology in Israel has the strength to withstand any downturns in global markets. "If we do feel the effects [of an economic downturn], it will only be seen in two quarters' time," he said. "The venture capital funds have money in the 'pipeline,' and their investors want to see results. They can't just sit on the money." IVC expects the biotechnology sector to attract 12 percent more investment this year. Though health care organizations around the world, private and public, are increasingly trying to cut costs, there is still ample opportunity for innovative products to make money by addressing unresolved medical problems, or to make existing procedures safer, cheaper and more effective. And venture capital funds are eager to find the next big success. In the pharmaceutical industry, Solomon said, generic drug manufacturer Teva was the outstanding player. But investors looking for new growth were increasingly turning toward the field of medical equipment, which is currently showing dramatic potential for growth, he said. Israeli companies are putting out products that once might have seemed like science fiction, such as InSightec's (a division of Elbit) incision-less system for using ultrasound and MRI technology to eradicate tumors deep inside the body. The major development in biotechnology is the field of environmentally friendly technology, or "cleantech," as it is beginning to be known. As governments around the world are committing significant sums toward cleaner air, ground and water, Israeli start-ups are finding ways to cash in on helping the environment, such as electric cars or better solar energy cells. Although biotechnology start-ups have many similarities with the sort of companies that made up the Internet boom of a few years ago, Solomon said they shouldn't fizzle out the way the hi-tech companies did. "The main difference between [the two sectors] is that biotechnology is much more grounded in reality," he said. "Those hi-tech companies were addressing needs that weren't really there, but a biotechnology company is not going to make up a new disease."