Science & Technology
- Written by MFA
A nano 'nose' developed by an Israeli professor can detect and classify cancer, kidney disease and other serious ailments just by analyzing breath samples.
Within a few years, it will be possible to breathe into a portable medical device to find out if you have diseases such as cancer or kidney disease - and to determine its exact type so that doctors can better target treatment. This revolutionary non-invasive invention is the brainchild of a celebrated Israeli-Arab chemical engineer at the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.
Dubbed NA NOSE (for nano-artificial nose), Prof. Hossam Haick's device is in the early stages of being readied for commercialization through the Alfred Mann Institute of the Technion, a philanthropic fund to advance biomedical ideas originating at the university. Lab and clinical researchers are discovering wider applications for the product the more they test and fine-tune it.
The nose knows
Haick's "aha" moment was a conversation with two specialists who said that patients with diseased kidneys typically have ammonia-scented breath. For the past six years, he and his team have been perfecting an inexpensive sensor that sniffs out disease biomarkers passing from the bloodstream to the lungs and out through the breath.
Focusing first on lung cancer, the research earned Haick a 1.73 million-euro Marie Curie Excellence Award in 2006 and a 1.8 million-euro European Research Council Award in 2010. Now he is leading a European consortium of eight universities and companies to develop advanced screening nanosensors for lung cancer with the help of a 5.4 million-euro grant.
"This is at the research level," stresses Haick, who admits he works on the project "more than full time." It could take three or four years for NA-NOSE to reach the market, as it must go through rigorous procedures to gain approval from the US Food and Drug Administration or the equivalent agencies in other countries.
In the meantime, the device keeps looking more promising, as Haick reported to the American Society of Clinical Oncology last fall and in the British Journal of Cancer in December last year. Beyond simply showing that someone has a disease, NA-NOSE can pinpoint the particulars. "In the last two years, we achieved good advances in discrimination between lung, prostate, breast and colorectal cancer and we have shown an ability to distinguish between head and neck cancers and lung cancers," says Haick.
If physicians know exactly what subtype of cancer is present, they can target treatments accordingly, resulting in fewer side effects and greater overall success. "In the case of breast cancer, we have shown that we can distinguish not just between sick and healthy women, but we can subcategorize between women with no tumors, malignant tumors and benign tumors," says Haick. "In addition, we have shown a correlation between genetic mutations of the cancer and volatile biomarkers that would appear in the exhaled breath. This also relates to targeted therapy, because genetic features distinguish among patients and help predict how they would respond to treatment."
Detecting kidney disease at earliest stage
Lung cancer and kidney disease both affect tens of millions of Americans and have typically poor outcomes due to late-stage detection. Haick's team has significant clinical data demonstrating NA-NOSE's ability to discriminate between different stages of kidney disease - and at a much earlier point than conventional technology.
Particularly when dealing with acute kidney disease resulting from injury or poisoning - where a patient can lose 50 to 60 percent of kidney function within days - NA-NOSE could guide physicians in slowing the progression before it's too late. "Our technology can detect kidney disease when the patient has lost approximately 5-10% of function, as opposed to conventional technology, which detects it when it is already at 50 or 60%," says Haick. "Especially with acute kidney disease, a difference of two days is quite significant for the treatment process."
Most studies have been done at the Technion in collaboration with Haifa's Rambam Health Care Campus and the Technion's Rappaport Medical School. The lung cancer study also has been carried out in collaboration with the University of Colorado.
Raised in Nazareth, internationally renowned
A product of Israel's northern Arab-Christian community in Nazareth, Haick was named one of 35 top scientists in the world in 2008 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Technology Review, and last year appeared on the Calcalist list of "Ten Most Promising Young Israeli Scientists" and the Jerusalem Post "Young Israelis of the Year" list.
The winner of more than 40 international prizes, Haick most recently received the Knight of the Order of Academic Palms from the French government, a respected civilian decoration established in 1808 by Napoleon Bonaparte.
Educated in Israel, it was during post-doctorate studies at the California Institute of Technology that Haick first worked with electronic noses. He now lives in Haifa with his wife, a chemist and food engineer at the Israeli Ministry of Health
- Written by Cleantech
The 15th annual CleanTech Expo in July will highlight Israel's solutions for the energy and water needs of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Among Bloomberg New Energy Finance's top 10 cleantech pioneers announced in April were two Israeli firms - the solar energy company BrightSource and the water monitoring company TaKaDu.
Water and sun: That's pretty much what is setting the stage for this summer's CleanTech 2011 conference. And what a place to do it - the sunny beach city of Tel Aviv. Those who follow industry trends know that the prominence of Israeli companies is so obvious that industry leaders like the Cleantech Forum have created special newsletter sections just to cover Israel.
Before "cleantech" had become the sexy industry brand that it is today, the Mashov publishing house in Israel was creating an agricultural magazine, and for the last 14 years had been presenting cleantech solutions in Tel Aviv to an annual audience. The company, which also runs and organizes Israel's annual agro fair, decided three years ago to step up business development opportunities and start promoting its annual event beyond local buyers.
This year, Mashov expects more than 25,000 visitors at the 15th annual CleanTech expo at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds, July 5-6. The two-day event will focus on renewable energy, water, green building, recycling and infrastructure - everything that can fit under the roof of the cleantech definition. There will be a distinct focus on "Big Four," or BRIC, countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Meeting the global village
In economic terms, BRIC countries are considered to be at the same stage of new and advancing economic development. Hoping to bypass the mistakes of the West, these countries are eager to learn how to do business in the cleantech sector and implement new technologies. "This year we decided to make BRIC countries the honored ones in terms of events and symposiums," says Shafrir Godel, the international affairs manager for the event. Other targeted opportunities such as R&D programs, business development and investment are to be addressed by ambassadors from these countries.
Israel, he stresses, will always be the priority at CleanTech exhibitions. But since the world is a global village, it pays to showcase foreign as well as Israeli companies, including about 10 startups.
A special water symposium with a guest host from the United States is expected to be a popular part of the expo, Godel believes, especially given the diversity and quantity of established and new Israeli companies in this sector.
The sun is one to watch
"Last year, our event was conquered by the solar industry, and it's one of the biggest sectors today," says Godel, who works as a consultant on behalf of Mashov.
In water technology, visitors can expect to see exhibitors providing industrial and municipal solutions such as purification technologies related to wastewater treatment and recycling. And there will be plenty of valves, pumps and meters, as these are still the foundation of the water business of today.
In renewable energy, opportunities in wind, solar, geothermal and hydro-electricity will be explored, as well as highlights and opportunities for Israeli feed-in tariffs in commercial and residential buildings crowned by solar photovoltaic apparatus.
And of course, many world investors are keen to know what Israel plans on doing with the natural gas resources that could change the face of energy consumption and delivery in Israel. Cleaner fuel and new technologies for transporting gas and oil will be explored, with the aim of leading to greener businesses and societies.
- Written by Diplomacy
Tour for Diplomatics & journalists in advance of the 15th international CleanTech Exhibition
In advance of the 15th International CleanTech Conference and Exhibition we cordially invite you to a press tour - which includes visiting facilities across the country related to companies in the clean-tech industry, a visit to a water purification facility (an innovative development) and desalination - presentations by experts from the field of bio-energy and from other areas.
The tour will take place on Monday 30/5 - departing at 08:30 from the Arlozorov train station in Tel Aviv (the former El Al terminal)
In advance of the 15th International CleanTech Conference and Exhibition which will take place on 5th-6th July 2011, at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds, we cordially invite you to a press tour to companies and facilities, while presenting the most innovative Clean Tech technologies, as well as lunch in Ashkelon - and meeting with experts in various clean-tech fields.
The press tour – in advance of the 15th international CleanTech Conference and Exhibition - will be held on Monday 30th May 2011. The tour will begin at 08:30 from the Arlozorov train station (the former El Al terminal) in Tel Aviv, from where we will travel to Ramat Hasharon to visit the water purification facility, incorporating innovative technologies developed by the Israeli company "Mapal". Mapal introduced technologies at the facility that produce 50% savings in energy and make the purification process in an urban environment much more worthwhile and cost-effective. Following a professional description, we will continue to the Palmahim desalination plant, where we will receive an explanation about a further development in water purification by the "Desalitech" company which can reduce the costs of desalination by about 50%.
Before midday, we will travel towards Ashkelon, where we visit the "Rotec" company which has developed technology to increase the amount of desalinated water. Then we will visit the facilities of the "Simbiotech" company which is the driving force behind the innovative technology for producing biofuels from algae, at the power plant in Ashkelon.
At noon we will have lunch.
After being rejuvenated, we will end the tour with several presentations by Israeli companies, which will present innovative clean-tech technologies. The tour will conclude at 15:30, back in Tel Aviv.
The press tour in advance of the 15th international CleanTech Conference and Exhibition for water technologies, renewable energy, green building, energy efficiency, recycling and green transport
Monday, 30th May 2011, 8:30 am to 3:30 pm
** Departure at 8:30am from the Arlozorov train station (former "El Al" terminal) in Tel Aviv **
Place on the tour must be confirmed with Tal Grad on 8-6901690 or 54-8020312
Please arrive on time!
- Written by MFA
Biomedical company IceCure offers women a quick, scar-free and virtually painless option for freezing fibrous breast growths out of existence.
An Israeli product that gives benign breast tumors the cold shoulder is launching in US medical offices and hospitals.
Last December, the US Food and Drug Administration cleared IceSense3, a device made by IceCure Medical to vanquish fibroadenoma tumors by freezing them in a minimally invasive procedure. Two months later, the biomedical firm went public on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, raising $10.5 million in its initial public offering.
CEO Hezi Himelfarb explains that during an ultrasound-guided procedure, the IceSense3 probe penetrates the tumor and then destroys it cryogenically - engulfing it with ice. The entire process takes about five minutes, and the woman won't have scarring or recovery downtime. "She can get right up and go to work," he says.
Headquartered in Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast of Israel, IceCure is opening an office in the US Midwest this spring. The plan is to funnel most of its investment funds into marketing, sales and distribution in the United States, where the device is already in use at several facilities.
An improvement over existing options
"IceSense3 is not the first product in the world for this application," says Himelfarb. A similar device is made by the American company Sanarus. However, the Israeli model offers clear advantages over its competitor, he insists.
The Sanarus needle penetrates beyond the lesion since the active freezing area does not reach its tip. That limits the cases in which it can be used because of the potential for hitting healthy tissue. No such limitations hold back IceSense3, whose advanced needle technology doesn't require reaching past the tumor.
Also, says Himelfarb, the Sanarus needle, handle and tube connecting the device to the operating console all get thrown away after every procedure. With IceSense3, only the needle is disposable. This results in much lower cost and environmental impact. The handle has controls integrated into it, allowing the physician to perform the procedure solo, whereas the Sanarus device requires a second person to operate the touch screen. "Since our system is newer and the graphical user interface is more advanced, we provide the surgeon with flexibility in making decisions before and during the procedure," says Himelfarb.
Why remove a benign tumor?
Himelfarb explains that before the advent of a cryogenic solution, women with fibrous breast tumors - the majority of whom are between 17 and 30 years old - could either keep monitoring them or have them surgically removed.
Why treat it if it's benign? "I don't know any woman who wants to get up every morning and feel a lump in her breast even if she knows it was diagnosed as benign," Himelfarb answers. "It creates anxiety because it might potentially hide other tumors, and it is preferable to get rid of it."
Women can have the cryoablation procedure done in the doctor's office, private clinic or hospital breast center, freeing up operating rooms for more complicated (and profitable) procedures. It is reimbursable for half the amount of surgery, which saves money for insurers.
Best of all for patients, it is virtually painless. A local anesthetic is administered before the needle goes in, but after that the freezing itself numbs the area. "The patient feels no pain and doesn't require post-treatment of any kind," says Himelfarb. The needle is similar to the kind she would already have seen when her tumor was biopsied, he adds.
Graduate of a biotech incubator
IceCure began in 2006 as part of the Naiot Venture Accelerator in Yokneam, an incubator for IT and life science startups. Co-founded by cryogenics expert Dr. Alex Levin and businessman Didier Toubia after many consultations with physicians, IceCure developed its product based on a technology Levin had patented in 2002.
"One of our original investors is the Bridge Fund in Cleveland, Ohio, which is helping us open doors in America," says Himelfarb. The company is concentrating only on the vast US market but will also seek approval from Israel's Ministry of Health. "In the US, there is already existing reimbursement and coverage, while in other countries we'd need to invest more in clinical trials," he says.
Himelfarb is an electronics engineer who came to IceCure after 28 years in the industry with Israeli companies such as Medtronic and Remon Medical Technologies, which was sold three years ago to Boston Scientific. He says that IceCure's research and development activities in Israel are currently focused on a newer generation of IceSense as well as a future device for treating uterine fibroids.
- Written by MFA
New Israeli micro-VC assures that 'great people with great ideas' won't get passed over in the race for investment funds.
Lool Ventures, "growing companies @ Internet speed," was hatched from the collective imaginations of Nissenbaum and
Over the past five years, they've been mentoring and investing in new Israeli businesses and realized that nobody was addressing what Nissenbaum calls "a surge of Internet/mobile/web kinds of startups in the last few years. We do a lot of pro bono work with many entrepreneurs, listening to their pitches and giving our insights. We recognized there is a big gap in Israel in terms of early-stage investment."
Shortcut to Israeli ingenuity
On a recent business trip to the United States, Nissenbaum learned that major companies "don't want to miss the next Twitter or Facebook coming out of Israel" but have no way to source that new technology without people on the ground. That's where lool comes in. It will allow established companies to benefit from the success of its portfolio startups and also pique their interest in investing in specific ones and taking them public.
Whereas VCs tend to withhold their largesse until a new company has gained some traction, a micro-VC comes in on the ground level, says Nissenbaum. This approach more closely tracks the current reality in a business world where Google, for example, is snatching up promising startups at the rate of two per month for less than $100 million a pop. "Traditional VCs have funds of half a billion dollars, and need to return about three times that amount to investors," he explains, "so they're going for things that will be extremely huge. That means that sometimes great people with great ideas will get passed over."
However, he continues, "the market is a pyramid. At the top are those few companies that were sold for billions. Yet hundreds, if not thousands, of transactions are going on at the bottom of the pyramid, where companies are getting acquired for $50 million. A VC is not going to make its numbers on that. A micro VC is not shy about taking an offer below $100 million - in fact, we are structured to be very successful specifically at those rates."
An open space for synergizing
Lool, started in February with one portfolio investment (Nissenbaum couldn't release the details save to say that it specializes in commerce and content on the go), also is dedicated to providing its hatchlings with holistic value-added services throughout the life of the company. He and Golan, who are still wrapping things up at AOL and seeking office space for lool, expect to finance about two dozen startups in the next five years.
"In the beginning, it's all about the product and its tangible value," says Nissenbaum. "Then we add professional, social marketing, legal and financial services. We are putting these companies into the lool, an open space where they can synergize with others like them. And we've established an extensive network of mentors who are also helping companies to be successful." Among these mentors are Yaron Galai, CEO of Outbrain and Gil Hirsch, CEO of face.com.
What attracts lool first and foremost are the personalities behind the products. "It's all about the people," says Nissenbaum.One of Time Warner Cable's major shareholders is investing through lool, "and others of that caliber, but there is room for more," says Nissenbaum, who is on the board of IncrediMail; chairs comparative pricing site WinBuyer; and mentors student entrepreneurs through the Zell Entrepreneurship Program at IDC-Herzliya.