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From Research to Clinical Care: the Hadassah Medical Center’s Start-Ups
4-May-2010
Research at the Hadassah Medical Center has been bolstered by a new momentum, thanks to the success of Hadasit, its technology transfer company, and the new Biotechnology Park on Hadassah-Ein Kerem’s campus.
 
Hadassah’s physicians develop innovative medications, medical devices or new uses for existing drugs and Hadasit helps convert them into a commercial product.  “Thanks to our year-old Biopark,” explains Osnat Moskowitz, Director of the Hadassah Medical Center’s Development, Donor and Events Department, “Hadassah has become Israel’s medical center pioneer in translational medicine.” The Biopark, home of biomedical companies who share the goal of developing therapeutic life science technologies, is the only one of its kind in Israel and one of only 10 in the world.

 

“Our doctors see patients and know what they need to get better, so I insist that all our research centers be headed by a physician,” explains Hadassah Director General Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef. “Doctors,” he notes, “have little time to spend on the search for investors, establishing startups, manufacturing, and commercial marketing, so our Hadasit biomedical technology transfer company, run by business professionals, assists them.” Prof. Mor-Yosef acknowledges that not every good idea turns into a product because the market has to want it, but he is very optimistic “that our doctors’ ideas will result in companies that go far to benefit health around the world.”
 
In four years, Hadasit Bio-holdings (HDST on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange), which commercializes Hadassah’s intellectual property, has raised over $30 million from public investors. This money funds the preparation for and execution of Phase I and Phase II studies at eight portfolio companies. “No other company whose shares are sold on the stock market has such excellent raw material, infrastructure, and innovation,” says Chief Executive Officer Ophir Shahaf.

 

Among Hadassah’s promising start-ups are:

Clinical trials at the Biopark’s CellCure Neurosciences Ltd., on age-related macular degeneration (AMD), directed by Prof. Benjamin Reubinoff, world-renowned head of Hadassah’s  Human Embryonic Stem Cell (hESC) Research Center.  AMD, where pigmented cells of the retina break down and die, is a main cause of vision loss in people over 50.  Working with Prof. Eyal Banin, Director of Hadassah’s Center for Retinal and Macular Degeneration, Prof. Reubinoff has created unique retinal pigment cells from hESCs and successfully halted damage to the retina in rats by injecting the cells into their eyes.

 

·      Hadassah Liver Specialist Prof. Yaron Ilan has initiated two public companies. One is Exalenz, which produced a noninvasive device to accurately assess liver function in people of all ages merely by having them breathe into the device. The other is Immuron, which produces antibodies named Travelan from cows for the treatment of travelers’ diarrhea. Clinical trials are in process using Travelan to combat liver disease and Type 2 diabetes.

 

·      Internal Medicine Specialist Prof. Yaakov Naparstek’s research has led to the start-up, Verto, which is developing a membrane to filter out damaging antibodies that cause lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disorder affecting many bodily systems, mostly in young women.  In addition, Prof. Naparstek, along with Hebrew University Biochemist Prof. Yechezkel Barenholz, developed a new delivery system for corticosteroids to better treat inflamed arthritic joints.

 

·      Research by Prof. Dror Mevorach, Director of Hadassah’s Center for Research in Rheumatology and Chairman of Internal Medicine Department B at Hadassah-Ein Kerem, has led to the establishment of Enlivex, which fights graft-versus-host-disease, the main cause of death in cancer patients who receive bone marrow transplants.

As Mrs. Moskowitz comments: “These start-up names are currently unfamiliar to the general public, but in the future, their innovations may become medicine’s first-line treatments for diseases and a boon to those who suffer from them.”

 

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