Israeli Firms Shine at BIO Conference

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Israeli life sciences companies brought their innovative technologies to the annual BIO conference, held in Philadelphia this year.

To get a look at some of the most cutting-edge work being done today in life sciences, people can go to Israel to see any one of a number of companies — or, if they participated in the annual international BIO Conference, which took place at the Pennsylvania Convention Center from June 15 to 18, they could have simply gone to the conference’s Israeli Pavilion, which was stocked with both the best examples of the country’s innovations and a delegation of 20 leadingbusinesses.  
 
With approximately 15,000 people from some 200 companies specializing in creating devices and solutions to some of today’s biggest health problems, leaders in the life sciences field came together — and walked away with potential opportunities to join forces. These innovations spanned the gamut from therapeutic devices to advancement in cancer-detecting technologies. 
 
Among those at this year’s conference was Israel’s chief scientist in the Ministry of Economy, Avi Hasson, who spoke at a reception at Thomas Jefferson University June 16 about Israel’s place in the life sciences community and “methodologies to reach Israeli companies to work on future innovations,” said John Churchill, director of economic affairs at the Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region. 
 
“He talked about Israeli innovations and why companies should look at collaboration with Israel,” said Vered Nohi, executive director of the Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (PICC), which hosted the reception where Hasson spoke.
 
During his visit to Philadelphia — when he wasn’t busy at BIO — Hasson had the opportunity to meet with local decision-makers like Mayor Michael Nutter, Dennis Davin, acting secretary of the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development, and U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-District 2). 
 
Hasson, who became Israel’s chief scientist in 2011, brought the delegation with him in order to seek out a variety of opportunities, including partnerships and licensing deals. These companies are focused in the bio-pharmaceutical, medical device and diagnostic fields, including Raziel Therapeutics Ltd, which addresses needs related to obesity; KAHR Medical, which develops pharmaceuticals for cancer treatment and autoimmune diseases; and Compugen, a drug and diagnostic discovery company.
 
“Basically, the chief scientist office is an agency in Israel that shares risk of companies anywhere from a startup with a handful of people on board to middle market companies,” Churchill said, “and then basically helps them grow and then to find partners abroad.”
 
Chances to connect with potential international partners weren’t too hard to come by, as companies from Hong Kong to Switzerland were also present at BIO. Having these diverse, global entities in Philadelphia for the conference was the biggest contribution to the event, Churchill added.
 
The “critical mass” of BIO is its main utility, he said, as it creates the opportunities to work with people “you might not be able to meet otherwise.” 
 
Companies could network with one another and start conversations about future endeavors together by booking appointments prior to the conference. If they couldn’t schedule appointments ahead of time, the consulate was able to help on the day of the event to connect companies, otherwise known as B2B — business-to-business — matchmaking. 
 
The consulate is one of the avenues through which companies, particularly from Israel, form partnerships, along with the PICC and the Ministry of Commerce attaché in New York.
 
“Typically, Israeli companies that come to us for assistance are looking for strategic partners or investors,” Churchill said, adding that the companies brought from Israel to BIO were most interested in connecting with the former. “We find out what their future interest and innovation needs are and we try to matchmake.”
 
Churchill said that partnerships can take six months to a year to formulate, adding that following up with a company is a key component to creating a successful relationship.
 
The companies Hasson brought with him had the opportunity to give a short presentation to showcase what they do, the problems they solve and why they do it better than other methods addressing that particular medical problem. 
 
These companies have previously worked with the chief scientist in some way and are “tackling some of the largest world health problems of today in sort of unique and clever ways,” Churchill said.
 
Israel’s life sciences community is more “robust” than in previous years, Churchill added, explaining that part of the reason for that is the value placed on education in the country and the government’s support for its startup economy. 
 
“For myself,” Churchill said, “I like learning about the different devices, therapies and technologies that are coming down the road, and generally that sort of curiosity and desire to learn is what makes working for the Israeli government so exciting.” 
 

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