January 7, 2002

Israel’s biotech industry in reaching out for new expansion and funding opportunities.Cleveland is strategically poised to participate in promising biotechnology collaborations with Israel, say civic and business leaders.

The city already hosts Israeli companies, including QBI and Simbionix, a developer of medical simulators, while a host of companies and biomedical groups are seeking Israeli connections.

In return, many of Israel’s biomedical companies that plan to set up operations in the United States have also set their eyes on Cleveland. The city has leading research universities, a deep reservoir of human capital and an established business community in the life sciences field.

In an effort to strengthen ties, a delegation from Cleveland is in Israel this week to get to know their Israeli counterparts better. Members of the delegation include representatives from medical centers and about ten businesses with Cleveland headquarters or connections, including Philips, which recently purchased Marconi Medical Systems; genomic companies, such as Athersys; device companies, such as U.S. Instruments and NeuroControl; and large conglomerates, such as Steris and Avery-Dennison.

“The city and state recognized the strategic advantages Cleveland has to offer to life sciences businesses, and are intent on capitalizing upon these advantages to establish the area as a leading center for biomedical industry,” said Dr. Kevin Trangle, who is leading the Cleveland delegation. “We determined that one of the best ways to kick-start the initiative is to attract young Israeli companies, since many of these companies will inevitably move to the United States as they grow.”

Israeli organizations sponsoring events include the Weizmann Institute, the Hebrew University, Israel-America Chamber of Commerce, Israel Ministry of Industry and Trade, the U.S.-Israel Binational Research and Development Foundation, and the Governor’s Regional Trade Office in Tel Aviv. About 100 Israeli companies are expected to participate.

Cleveland is already home to other Israeli life sciences companies. Israel-based Quark Biotech and Simbionix collaborate with the city’s research centers, drawing upon a wealth of expertise in research and development and business development. Simbionix develops technology for endoscopic surgery and medical training and has entered into collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic for the development of new technologies for image-guided endoscopy, assisted robotic endoscopy, simulators and related areas.

“The Cleveland Clinic is dedicated to forming strong alliances with industry and taking part in the advance of medical technology,” said Simbionix chief executive David Barkay. “Their decision to collaborate with us in the development of new technologies reflects this commitment.”

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation recently became a shareholder in Simbionix, which will soon establish its headquarters, to include marketing operations and some research and development activities, in the city. Barkay cited the strong research focus of the city’s hospitals, as well as the high quality of life sciences graduates from Case Western Reserve University and Ohio State University, as additional reasons to set up operations in the region.

Government involvement in attracting life sciences companies to the Cleveland area is also well developed. The newly established Bio Park in Cleveland is an incubator involving both government and private enterprise that has the goal of attracting new companies to the region and nurturing their growth. Funding for new companies is also available. Early Stage Partners, a $50 million venture capital fund, provides financial backing for startups.

“We would like to see the development of a two-way pipeline involving Cleveland and Israel,” Trangle said.

Trangle said there’s huge potential for biotech investment as well as research and clinical collaborations in Cleveland. Cleveland research labs can speed the process of obtaining Food and Drug Administration approvals.

“Cleveland companies are continually looking for new innovative products to license, acquire or assist in their distribution,” Trangle said.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director