Hillel's Tech Corner: Shaare Zedek breaks through healthcare barriers

Companies like Zebra Medical, Healthy.io, MobileODT and so many others have developed proprietary technology that is saving lives every single day.

JERUSALEM’S SHAARE ZEDEK Medical Center processes more than 800,000 patient visits per year. (photo credit: EZRA LANDAU)
JERUSALEM’S SHAARE ZEDEK Medical Center processes more than 800,000 patient visits per year.
(photo credit: EZRA LANDAU)
Over the past year and a half, I’ve written countless columns about disruptive Israeli tech companies in the medical space. Israel has truly become a leader in using innovation to revolutionize healthcare.
Companies like Zebra Medical, Healthy.io, MobileODT and so many others have developed proprietary technology that is saving lives every single day.
Any CEO of a healthcare tech company will tell you that the Holy Grail is data. Without data, no medical innovations would be possible. Of course, data are not only important in this specific field, and it’s been said that data are the new oil, but when it comes to healthcare, the importance of data is magnified tenfold.
So who has access to the data that facilitate all this innovation? Hospitals.
I’ve heard of several collaborations between tech companies, venture capitalists, and hospitals, but when I heard about what Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center was doing, I had to learn more.
For the sake of transparency, I have to say that I have personally had many positive experiences with Shaare Zedek over the years, including my wife giving birth there, as well as family members being treated in the hospital. So when I heard that Shaare Zedek had begun embracing partnerships for technology development, I was interested not only from a professional standpoint, but also from a personal one.
As a hospital that treats more than 800,000 cases per year, Shaare Zedek, which opened in 1902, has long-been known as an internationally leading center of advanced patient care and medical research. Recognizing the growing interaction between medical providers and the tech sector, in 2018 the hospital made the decision to launch its own Innovation Center to harness the hospital’s experience and available data to help develop the next generation of medical innovations.
The Innovation Center, under the name Madait, or Shaare Zedek Scientific, has already established working relationships with many leading tech companies that recognize when it comes to product development, particularly in the medical sector, access to data is the critical tool for testing purposes. The company is a for-profit venture, but owned by the medical center where it is housed and operates, profits are directed to support the operating budget of the hospital. While most of the efforts of the company are focused on collaborations with partners in the technology sector, they have also been involved with supporting research within the hospital to develop new pharmaceutical products that are already in widespread use around the world.
The main visionary who has overseen the development of the company and now serves as its chair is Prof. Dan Turner. A pediatric gastroenterologist, Turner is a highly-accomplished researcher who recognized that the hospital had enormous potential to act as a technology innovator. 
“We understand that when it comes to forward development, data is everything. So we are able to not only provide massive troves of data but we also have the tools and human resources to make that data relevant for leading technology companies.”
The day to day implementation of that vision is now in the hands of Dr. Renana Ofan, who serves as the company’s CEO. With a background in neuroscience and biology, Dr. Ofan studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem before pursuing a PhD at New York University.
“Shaare Zedek is able to offer tech partners an incredibly valuable tool in that we are essentially operating one of the world’s most valuable testing laboratories with the data made available from hundreds of thousands of cases per year, as well as our team of physicians and researchers,” explains Dr. Ofan. “Our role in the technology development process is to serve as an enabling partner whereby we provide access to patients and data that can be tested in a real clinical setting.”
WHILE MANY of the details of the partnerships remain protected by confidentiality agreements as the research collaborations are ongoing, the company says that it has already worked with leading industry players like Google and Medtronic and each year adds dozens of new companies to its rosters of working partnerships. According to the company, its portfolio of partners increased nearly four-fold in 2020 over 2019.
The onset of the coronavirus presented Shaare Zedek with a major challenge to respond to the pandemic, but the heads of Madait immediately recognized the massive research potential that the hospital would be possessing. Over the course of the coming months, the hospital would become the most active corona hospital in Israel with more than 5,000 patients treated on an inpatient basis and thousands more treated and released without need for hospitalization. All the patient data was gathered into a central “biobank” representing tens of thousands of data samples that have since been relied upon for dozens of studies by developers in Israel and other parts of the world.
Among the ongoing tech collaborations has been with the Israeli-based Sight Diagnostics, which developed a tool called Sight OLO that combines artificial intelligence, image-processing technologies and proven blood diagnostic tools to be able to perform a complete blood count (CBC) with just several drops of blood and the results returned within minutes. This technology has the potential to act as a revolution in diagnostic medicine by replacing timely and costly tests that require far more substantial amounts of blood with this very simple and non-invasive approach.
Shaare Zedek Scientific has also partnered with the Japanese tech giant NEC in testing the development of a device that can monitor key vital signs for patients upon arrival in an emergency department without the need for any physical contact with the patient. The patient simply stands in front of the device, which is then able to monitor key signs like heart rate, breathing irregularities and temperature even before a nurse or doctor assesses the patient.
Dr. Todd Zalut, director of Shaare Zedek’s Department of Emergency Medicine, described the collaboration as a game-changer, saying, “When this system is introduced into widespread use in urgent care facilities, it will save a great amount of time and free up staff members to focus on other areas of treatment. It will also allow us to more quickly direct patients to the specific treatment areas and allow them to get the care they need that much more quickly.”
Elad Goz, head of the Innovation Center, says that Madait’s growth strategy is heavily focused on the area of digital health. 
“Our experience since our launch has proven that the data that we have to offer companies can directly contribute to the development of new devices, methods of care and even new drugs. More than ever before, the technology sector knows that partnerships with clinical entities like ours are a critical path to success so we welcome the opportunity for continued expansion and growth in ways that we know will benefit the advancement of technology and the healthcare community at large.”
Given Shaare Zedek’s massive amounts of available data combined with its forward thinking technology-adopting mentality, the sky’s the limit to what Shaare Zedek Scientific can accomplish. I for one am excited to see what the team does next.