Barkat vows major jump in life science jobs within five years

Mayor: It will be a one-stop shop for businesses that want to have a presence in Jerusalem.

Two thousand new jobs in the life sciences industry will become available in the capital in the next five years, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat predicted on Tuesday. The mayor, speaking at the third annual Hadassah Medical Conference attended by some 400 doctors and layman at the Pavillion Hall, said that a newly established government/municipal entity called BioJerusalem will boost coordination of institutions involved in promoting such job opportunities and in smoothing the way for companies that want to open workplaces in the capital. "It will be a one-stop shop for businesses that want to have a presence in Jerusalem," he said. Barkat, who won much sympathy from the audience for not being deterred by the stoning of his car by haredim after visiting a hassidic rebbe in the Ezrat Torah neighborhood on Monday, entered the Pavillion building as a small demonstration against Hadassah was held near the entrance. It involved hassidim still furious at the medical center for its handling of the Toldot Aharon mother who allegedly suffers from a nonpsychotic personality disorder and starved her toddler son; Hadassah doctors recognized the syndrome and saved the child's life, and the woman is expected to be tried in court. Barkat said the government recently set up a ministerial committee on Jerusalem headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that will decide on financial incentives for promoting culture and tourism in the capital. "In September or October," the mayor said, "we hope to present to present these incentives, and a bit later to unveil those for promoting biotechnology here. I have no doubt that such incentives will be successful." Economic development is urgently needed to stem the flow of young, well-educated Jerusalemites out of the city and to encourage others to move to the capital, Barkat said. A Harvard expert helped him reach the conclusion that culture, tourism and biotech would be powerful "growth engines," said the mayor, who lauded Hadassah for building a new biotech center on its Ein Kerem campus. He said that San Diego and Boston could serve as models of cities that took advantage of outstanding hospitals, universities and research centers to promote their economic growth. The eight hours of sessions, chaired by Hadassah Medical Organization director-general Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, included lectures on how electronic medical record systems, such as those being implemented at Hadassah, save lives and money and improve care. New technologies used by the IDF to improve treatment and speed up evacuation of wounded on the battlefield were also discussed. Former education minister Yossi Sarid, who was for years a self-described hypochondriac until he suffered his first heart attack 25 years ago and was successfully treated for a benign tumor in his brain in 2004, gave a near-standup-comedy performance as he told his "true story" of dealings with the medical system. He denounced the growing popularity of "healers" and "graves of holy men" claimed to produce "miracles" and of unproven complementary medical techniques, pushing medical practice into a corner. Sarid, whose own son is a physician, called on doctors to make their voices heard more often on issues of ethics, children and the protection of minorities. A feature on the Hadassah Medical Conference will appear on The Jerusalem Post's Health Page on Sunday, August 23.