Cultivating the next generation of BioTech, Pharma and medical entrepreneurs

Children of medical professionals in Israeli hospitals are holding virtual meetings and learning about entrepreneurship.

Assuta medical staff protest during a visit of Minister of Health Yuli Edelstein at the Assuta hospital in Ashdod on August 20, 2020.  (photo credit: FLASH90)
Assuta medical staff protest during a visit of Minister of Health Yuli Edelstein at the Assuta hospital in Ashdod on August 20, 2020.
(photo credit: FLASH90)
There is obviously no person or family in the world that hasn’t been effected, directly or indirectly, by the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, there seems to be something different in this horrific, possibly unprecedented crisis – compared to other historical crises.
In the past, the heroes leading the public response to world crises were diplomats, military leaders and generals, but this time around we see a different kind of heroes on the frontlines – doctors, directors of COVID-19 wards in hospitals, the nursing staff and all other kinds of medical professionals, who tend to the patients and fight to save their lives. With them, stand shoulder to shoulder the scientists and entrepreneurs, who Labor Day and night to develop vaccines, medicines and cutting edge equipment to help the world as it wages the war against this unyielding virus.
One of the challenges facing the medical staff was the need to find daycare solutions for their children who are left at home, while they are working around the clock heading the battle against the virus. Another need arising from this crisis was the search for scientific and technological solutions that would ease the burden on the medical staff and provide better tools for coping with the disease. So, what could be more natural than combining these two challenges to create one solution – cultivating the future generation of developers and entrepreneurs from among the children of medical professionals and health workers?
A unique initiative set out to achieve this goal. The initiative, entitled “Biotech – Next Generation,” is a collaboration between Unistream and Teva the Global Pharmaceutical Company, in association with 8400 – The Health Network. Answering the national need for solutions, these organizations worked together to develop a one-of-a-kind program for children of health professionals working at hospitals all around the country. In this initiative, teenagers who are children of health workers were invited to take part in a special project that will provide them with knowledge, guidance, mentoring and enrichment from prominent professionals, in order to introduce them to the realms of health, medicine, biotech and entrepreneurship and give them the tools they need to use the project as leverage and establish their own groundbreaking startups. At least some of these groundbreaking ideas, if not all of them, are intended to support the effort of overcoming the coronavirus pandemic.
The exclusive program is offered to children of healthcare professionals from various hospitals around the country, including: Soroka, Ichilov, Shamir (Assaf Harofe), Wolfson, Rambam, Ziv, Sheba and Poriya. Around 200 kids aged 12 and above, from all creeds and sectors of the Israeli society, meet once a week to brainstorm and work together on original ideas for developing biotech and medical projects to solve the crisis revolving around the coronavirus pandemic.
In this program, the kids hold virtual meetings and learn all about entrepreneurship. Later on, they will establish and manage their own startup company from the ground up – from initiation, brainstorming, market research, developing a business plan, building a prototype, and up to the later stages of raising capital from investors, production, marketing and sales.
The kids are guided and trained by volunteers who are senior employees at Teva, directors of Israeli hospitals, members of the 8400 health network, and other scientists and prominent figures from the medical and high-tech industries. All these volunteers will share their knowledge and experience with the young recruits, and serve as their guides and mentors.
The influence of this project is expected to go far beyond the kids who take part in it. Our intention is that these young entrepreneurs will share their experiences from the project with their classmates when the school year starts, and encourage more students to take interest in science and technology, and consider a future course of study in the STEM fields to become Israel’s future generation of biotech entrepreneurs.
The students showed great enthusiasm from the very beginning, at the opening session of the program, which was joined by Unistream CEO Assaf Weiss, Director of Wolfson Hospital Dr. Anat Angel and Teva Israel’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ron Maor. During the session, the kids expressed their excitement about the program, discussed some initial ideas and shared insights about the unique experience of growing up as kids who spend many hours by themselves, as their parents devote so much of their time to fight the pandemic as part of a national effort of historic proportions.
I hope that this will be the first of many initiatives to recognize the tremendous contribution of doctors, healthcare professional and scientists to the Israeli society while building the next generation in science, medicine and medical entrepreneurship. Israel needs it. We all need it.

The writer, a doctor, is VP, Global R&D for Teva.