May 1, 2005, Updated September 13, 2012

The IsoArk is a collapsible isolation chamber that can quickly turn any room or part of one into a controlled negative-pressure filtered environment. What would happen if SARS were to hit in your hometown? Does your hospital have the capability to handle the massive influx of infected patients while still keeping the rest of the hospital disease-free?

An Israeli-developed portable isolation system has the solution to save untold American lives in the event of mass biological infection. The system, a collapsible negative-pressure isolation chamber called the IsoArk, recently completed successful testing at Harvard’s Institute for International Emergency Medicine and Health (IEMH) to determine how it would affect the performance of emergency life-saving operational procedures.

The IsoArk is a collapsible isolation chamber that can quickly turn any room or part of one into a controlled negative-pressure filtered environment. It can be used either as a rapid-response isolation solution or as a more efficient, feature-packed and cost-effective alternative to building permanent isolation rooms.

An erectable negative-pressure chamber equipped with an integrated filtration system, the IsoArk can be erected within 20 minutes within a hospital to provide a full isolation solution and stored away when not needed. It costs significantly less than most architectural solutions, and allows the user to create a space where a biologically hazardous environment could be contained.

The IsoArk is the brainchild of Beth-El Zikhron Yaaqov Industries, an Israeli company, which has been supplying chemical, biological and radiological protection technology to the Israeli and international market for the past 25 years. Over 600,000 citizens and 10,000 buildings in Israel and Europe are protected by Beth-El systems.

The IEMH, whose faculty comes from the Department of Emergency Medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, ran the tests on the IsoArk, the first time the usability of portable isolation systems in real-life scenarios has been tested in this manner.

The Harvard testing, which was conducted at an emergency room simulation facility called the STRATUS Center, involved using integrated computer systems and mannequins to simulate a wide array of medical procedures and tests how performing them inside the chamber affects patient and team safety.

“The main idea of the IsoArk is to bring a solution to hospitals and other facilities for the isolation of people – and to provide the ability for surge capacity, that’s the ability to isolate a lot of people very quickly,” said Col. (Ret.) Gili Shenhar, former head of doctrine & development for the Israeli Defense Forces Home Front Command, and currently consultant for Collective Protection Engineering, Inc., the U.S. marketing representative of Beth-El

“Most hospitals today don’t have that capability. To have a permanent isolation room is very costly both in terms of space and maintenance, keeping in tip top condition at all times,” he told ISRAEL21c.

According to Shenhar, the IsoArk will give hospitals a cost-effective alternative to the huge investments in infrastructure spent on patient isolation, and revolutionize hospital and community surge capacity in small rural medical centers.

The IsoArk is airtight, and Shenhar rattles off its specs – it meets CDC, UL and European standards for safety and technical performance; it exceeds the current guidelines for infection control and provides a significant boost in protection against biological hazards and infectious organisms; it combine a filtration system with a minimum 99.995% filtration efficiency, an integrated airlock and the minimization of the need to enter and bring hard-to-decontaminate equipment into the chamber – the result is a level of protection unparalleled even by most permanent engineered isolation rooms.

Shenhar and CPE’s Vice President of Marketing Tal Ganani told ISRAEL21c that the testing at Harvard exceeded all expectations and paved the way for CPE to being marketing the IsoArk to hospitals in the US.

“The main idea of the test at the IEMH was to check the IsoArk in a hospital setting and to see if it has any influence on the work of the physician. What we found was that it passed with flying colors and that physicians can work very easily within the IsoArk,” said Shenhar.

“The testing went rather well – with the gist of it being there were no noticeable results. What that means is that there was no significant differences in terms of ER doctors working inside the IsoArk – and doctors working outside in a regular environment. It doesn’t impede their performance at all,” added Ganani.

Ganani, who formerly served as Israeli military attaché in Washington, explained that the IsoArk is the only isolation chamber on the market built with Israel’s vast knowledge in the field.

“The IsoArk is built based on Israel’s experience and requirements, and it’s unrivaled. Beyond that, it’s the only product out there that’s completely transparent, and we’re not only talking about its appearance. Differences just don’t exist -if you set one of these up in a waiting room, people look at it and don’t believe that it’s portable and collapses – they think that in an emergency we’ll never have time to set one of these up,” he said.

Now that the testing of the IsoArk has proven its viability, Ganani said that the next step is to get the portable chamber into American hospitals.

“We’re focusing on marketing the IsoArk to hospitals in the US and Canada. There are US federal bioterrorism grants which enables hospitals to purchase equipment like the IsoArk without any expense,” said Ganani.

The IsoArk is another feather in the cap for Beth-El, which has built an international name for developing devices to protect enclosed spaced against biological and chemical agents.

Founded by German Christians who came to Israel in the 1970s, Beth-El supplies a wide range of collective protection technology to the Israeli Defense Forces as well as to homes, hospitals, transportation facilities, power plants, hotels, retirement homes, schools and office buildings, to name a few.

Recognized as world leader in collective protection technology, Beth-El systems are used by NATO and many European military organizations.

“We’re producing products that deal with protecting areas from weapons of mass destructions. Our products are distributed throughout the world – and can be found in hospitals, and used by military units. When I was in the Israel home front command, we worked with Beth-El a lot,” said Shenhar.

Now, Shenhar, Ganani and the rest of the CPE- Beth-El team are making sure that Americans will also be able to benefit from the vast knowledge and know-how that Israel has acquired during years of developing solutions to the ongoing threats that it faces every day. If there is a silver lining to this difficult reality, it is the fact that the experiences have produced next-generation solutions like the IsoArk.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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