With military precision and academic ingenuity, Israel is building a thriving biotech ecosystem on the heels of a renowned high-tech industry. Much more than just the iconic Teva Pharmaceuticals, venture capitalists would do well to pay attention to the innovation stemming from this largely unmined investment opportunity.
“Everything about it is about innovation,” said Michael Rice, founding partner of LifeSci Advisors, in an interview with BioSpace. “They’re just incredibly driven people.”
In Israel, all Jewish, Druze and Circassian men and women are conscripted into the army at the age of 18. These units are very specialized around technology, particularly the 8200 unit, the army’s largest elite technological unit.
“From some of those units has emanated some of the most successful companies in the world,” Rice said.
Avi Veidman, CEO of Nucleai, served in the Israeli intelligence forces for 20 years. During this time, he established a department that interpreted satellite images automatically using computerized methods, artificial intelligence and computer vision. Today, Veidman is leveraging that expertise to attack cancer.
“In the last five years, instead of looking for adversaries from space, I’m looking for cancer cells on a much smaller scale on pathology slides,” he told BioSpace. Nucleai is using spatial biology to build AI-powered image analysis applications to enhance drug development and support treatment decisions.
Israeli entrepreneurs retire from the Israel Defense Forces and bring their knowledge of state-of-the-art technology and aptitude for tackling challenging tasks to the start-up environment. This also gives individuals “the rigor to work in uncertain conditions,” Veidman said.