Israel's First Biodesign Program Produces Four Startups After One Year

Students in Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical Center program develop "science fiction gadgets"; Biodesign entrepreneurship program is Israel's first medical innovation accelerator
07/08/2013

As health costs spiraled over the last decade, the need for more cost-effective health care systems has become increasingly urgent. Medical innovation plays a vital role in making medicine both efficient and affordable — not to mention improving the quality of patient care and ensuring positive outcomes. However, the process of creating new medical devices requires an in-depth understanding of multiple disciplines including medicine, engineering, and finance that few could master alone. As a result, most aspiring medical innovators face disappointment as the vast majority of ideas fail before reaching the market.

To solve this problem, Dr. Yaakov Nahmias, the director of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Center for Bioengineering, partnered with Prof. Chaim Lotan, the director of Hadassah Medical Center’s Heart Institute and an expert in clinical innovation. 

According to Dr. Nahmias, “When it comes to bringing an idea to market, there is a huge disparity between Hi-Tech, where a few programmers can succeed, and Bio-Tech, where clinicians, engineers, and business experts must all work together to bring a product to the market.”

Adds Prof. Lotan, “We knew that Stanford University’s Biodesign program was the most successful medical innovation program to date, and considering the outstanding students at the Hebrew University and Hadassah we were certain we could give them a run for their money.”

The two partnered with Prof. Dan Galai, the former Dean of the Business School at the Hebrew University, and with the help of Dr. Todd Brighton, a Biodesign program director at Stanford University, established the Hebrew University’s Biodesign: Medical Innovation program, the first academic medical innovation accelerator in Israel (see video).

Biodesign is a multi-disciplinary, team-based approach to medical innovation. The program takes outstanding medical fellows, bioengineering and business graduate students, and tutors them in the science and practice of bringing a medical innovation to the market. The teams receive a list of clinical problems, collected from Israeli and American hospitals, and critically evaluate their commercial potential. Once they identify a clinical need with commercial potential, they find an engineering solution that can be protected by a patent application.

The students are mentored by some of Israel's best and brightest academic and industrial experts, who bring their experience in scientific discovery, clinical applications, and business development.

According to the Hebrew University’s Nahmias, “This isn’t a pure academic exercise. We have students and clinicians who are eager to bring innovation to the market. The program generated quite of lot of excitement with the business and academic environment. It is exactly this drive that makes Israel a start-up nation.” 

One year after starting with 20 students and medical fellows, the program has already produced four projects that passed through the proof-of-concept stage, are protected by provisional patent applications, and are showing excellent market potential. 

See videos about the innovations at http://bit.ly/biodesign.

One of the projects, called SAGIV, is a semi-automatic handheld device for rapid and safe IV insertion, using infrared sights and electrical sensing. SAGIV targets a $900 million market with elements already tested on difficult IV insertion cases at the Hadassah Medical Center.

Another project, called GuideIN Tube, is a robotic intubation device which automatically navigates towards the lungs, targeting a $3 billion market.

"The projects really look like science fiction gadgets,” said Nahmias. “Even if just a few Biodesign companies succeed, they can completely transform the Israeli medical device sector”.

“We have incredibly driven students at the Hebrew University, and Biodesign gives them critical tools they need to succeed,” added Lotan. Both directors noted that students accomplished in one academic year what many start-up companies take 2 to 3 years to complete, advancing to the point of having proof-of-principle prototypes.

Yehuda Zisapel, president of RAD-Bynet Group, one of the largest investment groups in Israel, said: “Biodesign is a truly innovative approach to generate and accelerate new ideas. The cooperative efforts of physicians, scientists, engineers and business development people allows for a multidimensional approach which encourages the creation and development of new ideas. I was really impressed by the team work and the spirit created by the program, and also by the impressive achievements of the projects.”  

Hadassah Medical Center’s Prof. Lotan attributes the program's success to several additional factors: "We are based in Jerusalem, where biotechnology ventures are buoyed by sustained government support. We are backed by the strong track record of Yissum and Hadasit, the technology transfer companies of the Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical Center. And we have an important relationship with Stanford’s Biodesign program, which offers knowledge, experience and course materials. The Biodesign program has increased Stanford University biomed startup success rates by 4 to 5 folds over the last decade. We envision a similar revolution in Jerusalem, where 50% of the medical research in Israel is already taking place."

About The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Ranked among the top academic and research institutions worldwide, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel's leading university and premier research institution. Serving 23,000 students from 70 countries, the Hebrew University  produces a third of Israel’s civilian research and is ranked 12th worldwide in biotechnology patent filings and commercial development. Faculty and alumni of the Hebrew University have won seven Nobel Prizes and a Fields Medal in the last decade. The Hebrew University was founded in 1918 by visionaries including Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Martin Buber and Chaim Weizmann. It is located on three campuses in Jerusalem and a fourth in Rehovot, and online at http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

About Hadassah Medical Center

A world-class university medical institution, Hadassah has achieved a global reputation for excellence in caring and curing. It is distinguished by its innovative approach to complex medical problems and the cooperative efforts of its medical and research teams to provide individualized attention to individual problems. This 700-bed tertiary care hospital deals with virtually every conceivable aspect of modern medicine and serves as a national referral center for the most complex and challenging medical cases. With more than 130 departments and clinics, Hadassah-Ein Kerem provides the most advanced diagnostic and therapeutic services as well as attending to the daily needs of the local population, serving the national population and providing sophisticated treatment for international patients. Opened in 1961, today the extensive campus of Hadassah University Medical Center at Ein Kerem contains over 22 buildings, including outstanding research facilities and the schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry and public health. For further information please visit http://www.hadassah-med.com.

About Yissum

Yissum Research Development Company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Ltd. was founded in 1964 to protect and commercialize the Hebrew University’s intellectual property. Products based on Hebrew University technologies that have been commercialized by Yissum currently generate $2 Billion in annual sales. Ranked among the top technology transfer companies in the world, Yissum has registered over 8,100 patents covering 2,300 inventions; has licensed out 700 technologies and has spun out 80 companies. Yissum’s business partners span the globe and include companies such as Novartis, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Intel, Teva and many more. For further information please visit www.yissum.co.il.

About Hadasit

Hadasit Medical Research Services & Development Ltd. (www.hadasit.co.il), the technology transfer company of Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) in Jerusalem, Israel, promotes and commercializes HMO’s continuously generated intellectual property (IP) and R&D capabilities. IP generated by HMO has already gained global recognition.

Israel's First Biodesign Program Produces Four Startups After One Year