Israel’s R&D Prowess Is Fueling Pharmaceutical Innovation

With 1,500 active life sciences companies and a vibrant research and innovation ecosystem, it’s hardly surprising that Israel is at the center of some of the most important developments in health and medical technology.

That holds true in burgeoning fields like digital health and AI-driven medicine, and it’s no less true for an established industry like pharmaceuticals. Not only is Israel home to Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which dates to the turn of the 20th century and is the globe’s top generic drug manufacturer, the country has also given rise to a diverse array of biotechnology companies, R&D centers, and prestigious academic institutions, putting Israeli ingenuity at the forefront of treatment discovery and development.

Doxil (known as Caelyx in Europe and Canada), the world’s first nano-medicine for treating various types of cancer, was developed by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The Weizmann Institute of Science incubated groundbreaking multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, among the first Israeli medications to receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Recent decades have seen Israel become an even more integral part of the global pharmaceutical industry, with exports to the U.S. alone climbing from $208 million in 1997 to $5.9 billion in 2018.

Here’s a look at just a few of the innovative companies on the Israeli pharmaceutical landscape:

  • Drug discovery pioneer CytoReason has developed the world’s first and only machine learning-based model of the human immune system and the cells that power it, with an eye toward understanding how immune cells function in disease, tissue, and treatment contexts. Founded in 2016 based on research from Stanford University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, the company has partnered and collaborated with leading corporations and institutions including GSK, Pfizer, and the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.
  • The National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev (NIBN) is a truly unique player in the local ecosystem – the first independent, R&D-based entity founded as a company under the umbrella of a university – in this case, Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Established in 2009, NIBN commercializes academic research, focusing on treatments for cancer; infectious diseases; autoimmune and metabolic diseases; human genetic disorders; and neurogenerative diseases, as well as applied biotech. The company’s technologies have formed the basis for entirely new companies and have been folded into existing companies, and its applied research has led to measurable, real-world impact, including a 30 percent reduction in infant mortality among Israel’s Bedouin population in the Negev Desert.
  • Founded in 1968, Dexcel Pharma is Israel’s largest private pharmaceutical company. Manufacturing both branded and generic drugs, the company has a portfolio that included more than 85 products in more than 175 dosage forms. The company employs more than 1,000 people across its offices in Israel, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Singapore.

What does the future hold in store for the Israeli pharmaceutical industry? With emerging fields like personalized treatment and AI-based drug discovery set to transform modern medicine, Israel is well-positioned to continue playing a vital role in pharmaceutical innovation thanks to its well-developed strength in these and other high-tech fields – with countless lives saved in the process.

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