Abigail Klein Leichman
September 10, 2013

Using a wish list from medical professionals in Israel and the United States, participants in Israel’s first academic medical innovation accelerator have designed four unique products to vastly improve the delivery of healthcare.

The new Biodesign Innovation Program of the Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem now seeks partners to further develop and commercialize these inventions, which include:

    MetaboShield, a curvy plastic gastric sleeve that blocks food absorption without damaging the intestine and without the need for surgery. Inserted under local anesthesia, the sleeve addresses a rising obesity epidemic that is estimated to cost the American economy some $140 billion annually in medical complications and lost productivity. Estimated time to market: five to 10 years.

    Digital Complete Dentures Impression (DCDI), a one-stop denture-making technology that would end the existing situation of multiple visits and castings for people needing false teeth. Using a unique multi-line camera array and an integrated pressure source, impressions are made in one visit and the dentures printed on the spot using a 3D printer. This could be a boon not only for the $7 billion market in the United States but also for aging populations in developing countries who currently have no access to dental prosthetics. The system is expected to enter the market: quickly with the right commercial partner.

    SAGIV, a semi-automatic handheld device for rapid and safe IV insertion, using infrared sights and electrical sensing to identify veins, insert the needle into the correct location, and withdraw it in a single, rapid robotic movement. The prototype was tested successfully on children at Hadassah Medical Center and could revolutionize a $900 million market. The device has preliminary approval for funding from Israel’s Chief Scientist’s Office, and has the interest of US investors.

    GuideIN Tube, a compact robotic intubation device that automatically navigates a breathing tube toward the lungs using an infrared source — rather than human hands and vision, which can easily make deadly mistakes in this common procedure. The device, targeting a $3 billion market, was successfully tested on cadavers. Clinical trials could begin next year as several US, Australian and Japanese companies are looking into setting up clinical partnerships.

Solutions for unmet needs

The Biodesign Innovation Program is headed by Yaakov Nahmias, director of the Hebrew University’s Center for Bioengineering, with Prof. Chaim Lotan, director of Hadassah Medical Center’s Heart Institute.

Nahmias founded this program in 2012 with assistance and course materials from Stanford University’s established Biodesign program. Stanford has seen great biomed startup success due to Biodesign’s unique approach of mentoring innovation teams of biomedical graduate students, medical fellows, academic and industry experts with combined proficiency in clinical, engineering, legal and business aspects of inventing.

Nahmias explains that the vast majority of medical device ideas never make it to market because they have some flaw in one of these areas.

Started with 20 participants from the four fields of expertise, the Israeli accelerator winnowed down potential ideas to four projects deemed clinically relevant and economically viable. Each has passed through the proof-of-concept stage and is protected by a provisional patent application.

“Stanford’s program has been running for over a decade and is a major source of income, and we think we can do this for Jerusalem,” Nahmias tells ISRAEL21c in a phone interview from Harvard Medical School, where he taught for five years and returns each summer to do research.

Half of the medical research in Israel already takes place in Jerusalem, and the government has stated its intention to make the capital city a biotechnology hub.

Based on his experience at both Hebrew University and Harvard, Nahmias says “there is something unique about the Israeli psyche. Students are older in Israel, having finished the army, and have industry experience at this stage of their lives. They are very driven to create something new and succeed economically, and in many ways you don’t see that in the US where students are much younger. We think this spirit is captured in Biodesign.”

The program now seeks funding to mentor four to eight new innovation teams every year. Nahmias believes that even if only a few Biodesign startups succeed, they can completely transform the Israeli medical device sector.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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