The Ohio-Israel Chamber of Commerce is working to ensure that when Israeli biotechs seek access to larger world markets, Ohio will be the place to which they turn.Cleveland businesses and hi-tech Israeli bioscience companies are teaming up in a partnership designed to give the economies a boost both in Northeastern Ohio and in Israel.

The Israel-Cleveland Bioscience Technology Exchange – a 3-day conference held last month in Cleveland, matched up over a dozen of Israel’s most promising life-science technology firms with over 40 potential partners from Ohio, including local tech companies, research institutions, investor groups, and major corporations such as Procter & Gamble.

The Israeli and American business leaders swapped information and probed for opportunities which could bloom into business collaborations, marketing deals and corporate relocations.

Many Israeli biotech companies are seeking to work with Ohio companies or co-locate their operations to the United States. There are already two Israeli bioscience companies with offices in Cleveland; Simbionix, which sells medical-training simulators, and Quark Biotech Inc., a genomics-based drug discovery and development company.

“I invite you to follow their lead and come to Cleveland,” Governor Bob Taft, told the group during the conference, calling biosciences his “highest economic development priority,” according to a report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The Ohio-Israel Chamber of Commerce, and the Israel Export Institute in Tel Aviv Israel organized the “matchmaking? event, which was sponsored by BioEnterprise Corporation, World Trade Center Cleveland, Greater Cleveland Growth Association, Ohio Department of Development and the US Export Assistance Center-Cleveland and was partially being underwritten by the Mount Sinai Health Care Foundation.

“Cleveland and Ohio are recruiting Israeli biotech ventures from a position of strength, with assets ranging from the Cleveland Clinic, an educated workforce and a tremendous university system,” said OICC Co-Chairman Alan Schonberg. “We’ve already seen success in this regard, with Simbionix and Quark Biotech locating here, and MDG which recently announced a partnership with BioEnterprise Corporation. For these and other Israeli biotechs seeking access to larger world markets, it’s not a question of whether they will move their operations to the United States, but rather where and when. The Ohio-Israel Chamber of Commerce along with so many others, is working to ensure their answer is here, in Ohio.”

“Today, Israel is second only to the United States as a world center for biotech research and development. Clearly, there is much opportunity Ohio companies can uncover in that tiny country, as well as opportunity for growth in Ohio’s own biotech community,” said Howard Gudell, president of the OICC.

Although a country of only 6 million people, Israel is a biotech hotbed, second only to the U.S. as a world center for life science research and development. Reports indicate that sales in the country’s biotech sector, which were $15 million in 1988, reached more than $1 billion in 2001. In addition, Israel has the highest number of scientists and engineers per capita in the world and boasts the highest rate of startup companies outside of the U.S.

Loyal Wilson, founder and managing director of Primus, a Cleveland venture capital firm was impressed by the number of creative ideas spawned in Israel, and came to the conference searching for a unique technology or service. He told the Plain Dealer that his company doesn’t “take” ideas, but “gives them a home,” an incubator where they can fully develop.

Israel may be technology-rich, but its faltering economy makes it market-poor, noted Matthew Jennings, the recently hired president of BioEnterprise, created in 2000 by Cleveland entrepreneur Bill Sanford to accelerate the growth of bioscience in the area.
While Israel “has a tremendous wealth of intellectual resources and ability to develop new technologies, they just don’t have a vast market at their disposal,” Jennings told the Cleveland Jewish News. Since this treasure trove of technology has already been developed, American investors can pick it up relatively cheap at venues such as the Cleveland-Israeli forum.

However, Cleveland is not the only place vying for Israel’s immense intellectual property: Asaf Halevi, director of business development at Glycominds Ltd. in Lod, has attended similar conferences in Boston and San Francisco, cities considered to be leaders in the bioscience field.

Executives from one of the Israeli companies who attended the Cleveland summit – Medogar Technologies Ltd., were encouraged by the reception received by its technology, which prevents pressure sores and nerve damage that wheelchair users or those who are bedridden often suffer.

“There was a great deal of interest. There have been no major advances in the area of pressure sore prevention in the last decade so the innovations we have developed and, those we propose to develop, were well received,” Levy Zur, the company’s president, told Israel21c.

“We are sending more material to several companies, universities and health facilities based on their interest in our technology. However, it’s too early to tell if any cooperation will result,” he said.

Representatives of company, BioTerm Pharmaceuticals Ltd., were equally enthusiastic. Bioterm develops drugs which treat and prevent premature labor in pregnant women and also drugs which induce labor.

“There was a lot of excitement on both the business level, and from the Jewish community in Cleveland.” said Dr. Shamir Leibovitz, a gynecologist and president, who came to the conference interested in striking licensing deals and hoping to raise $8 million to finance clinical trials for his company?s products.