JVP, AstraZeneca agree to identify, develop and invest in digital health

“The strong pharmaceutical arena in Sweden, and Israel’s strong tech, are a perfect match."

Magnus Bjorsne (photo credit: RAMI HACHAM)
Magnus Bjorsne
(photo credit: RAMI HACHAM)
Jerusalem Venture Partners and the Cambridge, UK-based English-Swedish pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca plc signed a cooperation agreement on Tuesday to identify, develop and invest in digital health in Israel.
“The strong pharmaceutical arena in Sweden, and Israel’s strong tech, are a perfect match,” said Magnus Bjorsne, CEO of BioVentureHub, AstraZeneca’s innovation initiative.
Bjorsne spoke to The Jerusalem Post while in Israel for a ceremony kicking off the partnership, which the group is calling BeyondBio.
Six months ago, Bjorsne explained, AstraZeneca and the Israel Innovation Authority signed a memorandum of understanding for investment in Israel. The first investment by AstraZeneca is estimated to be about NIS 10 million.
Additionally, AstraZeneca and JVP will provide support to Israeli start-up companies providing direct access to databases and leading academic research institutes in the field of digital health. A release explained that the program’s flagship project, “PLAY BeyondBio,” is meant to develop and promote start-ups in the digital health field in order to locate and create ground-breaking solutions that provide technological answers to the most pressing challenges and problems that the industry currently copes with.
Bjorsne said that the hope is that the partnership will help develop add-ons to make existing products better as well as ideas to make clinical trials less expensive so that drugs can get on the market and to the patient faster. He also said that the company hopes to incorporate some of Israel’s technologies into its own innovation process.
He noted that over the last few years, the combination of healthcare and technology has become a substantial and important engine for growth in the health industry worldwide, and the method through which medical disorders are identified and tools developed to improve patient treatment. Moreover, Bjorsne said that healthcare in general is undergoing a shift from a focus on “sick care to healthcare, and we will want it to be more patient focused. That drives innovation.”
Additional partners in the program include the Israel National Initiative Association; Maccabitech Healthcare Research and Innovation Institute; Morris Kahn, the Sagol Fund; and Microsoft Corporation. AstraZeneca has also recently entered into partnership with the ARC Innovation Center at the Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, where the company will provide support in research and development for the challenges the healthcare system faces in Israel.
“The world of health and medicine is facing dramatic changes,” said Erel Margalit, founder and chairman of JVP and ii2020. “Israel now has the opportunity to become a world leader in digital health, and Israeli entrepreneurs have the ability to lead this revolution.”
When asked about working with Israel, Bjorsne said that, “as a company, we have to be agnostic when it comes to geography. We need to act where there are skilled people and good ideas.
“Tech is moving very fast, and we need to be very agile in how we approach it,” he continued. “Being in Israel and seeing what goes on here makes me really enthusiastic. A lot of smart ideas here. If we can help make those companies grow, we will all benefit in the end.”