Science & Technology
- 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 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 European Union
A European Union 'twinning' project to provide Israel with technical assistance in the field of telecommunications is to be launched at an international conference at Mishkenot Sha'ananim in Jerusalem on Monday, March 28 in the presence of Minister of Communications, Moshe Kahalon.
"Twinning" projects are one of the tools that the European Union employs in the framework of its European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). A twinning project consists of sending a resident advisor from an EU member state (supported by other advisors on shorter term missions) to a partner country for at least one year.
The telecom twinning project is called "Assist the Israeli Telecommunications regulator to establish greater approximation to the European Union regulatory approach, specifically with wholesale markets". It is being conducted by the Israel Ministry of Communications with the cooperation of the German Federal Network Agency, the Italian Authority for Communications, and the Telecommunications Market Commission of Spain.
The Resident Twinning Advisor will be Ms. Yvonne Groesch of the German Federal Network Agency's department 'International Policy Issues and Regulatory Strategies', who has vast experience in advising public authorities on regulatory reform and sector specific regulation.
The launch of the project will be also be attended by Ambassador Andrew Standley, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Israel, the Ambassador of Spain Alvaro Iranzo Gutierrez, the directors of the National Regulatory Agencies of Germany, Italy and Spain, and other guests.
- 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.
- Written by MFA
Tel Aviv professor Yosef Shiloh's study of an uncommon genetic disease unlocks a mystery behind cellular DNA damage, an important link to cancer.
Prof. Yosef Shiloh of Tel Aviv University recently became the first Israeli ever to win the prestigious G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). He will receive a $10,000 grant and will address the AACR, the oldest and largest cancer organization in the world, in April.
Shiloh is renowned for his research on ataxia telangiectasia (A-T), a rare neurodegenerative inherited disease that leads to early death. This research is also relevant to an understanding of a mechanism behind cancer.
"Professor Shiloh is an international leader in his field and an extraordinary scientist," says AACR director Dr. Margaret Foti. "His work has launched a scientific revolution and opened up new horizons in the understanding of how the living cell copes with DNA damage, which is among the main factors in cancer."
"I was overwhelmed," says Shiloh of the award announcement. "Given the fantastic science being done in the US, I'm sure there's a long line of worthy scientists deserving of this award. I didn't think they would give it to a non-American."
Staying in Israel
Shiloh began exploring A-T in 1977, after meeting a family from the Negev whose four children suffered from the disease. Over the course of his research career, Shiloh made several discoveries that contributed to understanding the syndrome. Most importantly, he identified the defective gene that causes it.
And though he has often been offered positions abroad, Shiloh is first and foremost an Israeli scientist. "I've been offered very nice positions in the US. [I always say] 'Thanks so much, I appreciate it, but I'm going to stay in Israel,'" he says.
The 62-year-old scientist is a professor in cancer research in the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University; research professor of the Israel Cancer Research Fund; and member of the American Association of Cancer Research and numerous editorial boards and organizations. He regularly flies to the United States to take part in research conferences and lectures and sees firsthand the monetary difference between grants received by researchers in Israel and those abroad.
However, Shiloh notes, "Israeli science and research is top notch. The fact that we can do good science and get these [international] awards means that the quality of science in Israel is excellent. Thanks to our innovation, Israelis have the ability to make the best out of what we have."
Israeli scientists in the forefront
This may be the first time an Israeli scientist has won the AACR honor, but the country's science institutions are used to international accolades. One example is the Weizmann Institute of Science, where Shiloh's daughter studies, which was chosen as the best university in the world for life scientists to conduct research.
Shiloh says the award has even greater significance for his students and colleagues. He oversees 12 research assistants and graduate students in his David and Inez Myers Laboratory for Cancer Genetics at the university.
"Other than being thrilled, it simply means that what we're doing here is good and can make a difference. It means a lot to Israeli science," says Shiloh. He adds that the award is a "message to my colleagues and to our students that the scientific community at large recognizes the work being done in Israel. "Even when you compete with much stronger labs, even with our political instability, things can be done in Israel and the international community recognizes it," says Shiloh.
Giving hope through science
In 1977, when Shiloh first started investigating A-T and the defect in the DNA damage response that leads to this disease, even doctors questioned his purpose. But seeing the despair that the patients and their families were dealing with, Shiloh marched on.
"I think that we, the medical and scientific community, owe these families the same work that we invest in more common diseases. For them it doesn't make a difference if it's a common disease or a rare one," says Shiloh. "It was clear just from looking at these patients that if we understand this disease we'll understand the implications in many areas of science."
In 1995, Shiloh's identified the A-T gene and successfully cloned it, calling it ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM). The identification of the ATM gene revolutionized the field, opening many new avenues of inquiry and research. Shiloh's lab and others found that this gene encodes a protein (also called ATM) that controls an intricate defense system against specific types of DNA damage - one of the major threats to cellular life. This defense system also protects the cell from becoming cancerous.
Shiloh's work enabled detection of the disease in the early stages of pregnancy and paved the way to understanding the defective DNA damage response underlying it. "Our great hope is that understanding the complex defense mechanism will enable new ways of treating the disease and other diseases caused by failures in our defense from DNA damages," Shiloh says.
In Israel, A-T disease affects about 120 families - Jews of North African origin as well as Palestinian, Druze and Bedouin families. Epidemiologists estimate the frequency of A-T as one in 40,000 to 100,000 persons worldwide. A-T patients usually die from respiratory failure or cancer by their early 20s.
Shiloh says there is more awareness about A-T today than 30 years ago when he started his research. "Today people recognize that these rare diseases are worth attention," says Shiloh. "Mining these diseases, a lot can be gained about basic scientific knowledge that has implications for many [other] diseases."
And while there is still no cure for this devastating genetic disorder, A-T patients around the world have new hope for a brighter future, with scientists like Shiloh behind the microscope.