Biomed 2012- Reflecting the local industry, Biomed Conference is maturingJun. 6, 2012 | By JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN, Medical Device Daily Israel Editor
The Israeli Biomed Conference that took place recently here – much like the Israeli biomedical industry as a whole – seems to be maturing. The event is, in some ways, the same people with the same stories coming to meet up at the yearly convention. But an evolutionary process seems to be occurring, as is often the case in leading conferences worldwide as they mature. Years back, the Israel Biomed conference was aimed solely at celebrating the innovations that Israel had to offer, and encouraging collaboration with them. In recent years, however, the direction has included foreign groups encouraging the Israeli corporation to set up offices in specific areas (as examples, this year, Ohio, Georgia and Pennsylvania had large booths selling their states). Moreover now, perhaps as a sign of the startup companies advancing, and Israel becoming the de facto non-U.S. biomedical capital – a number of additional trends are appearing which suggest the conference is “coming of age”.
Firstly, many more service providers, both from the U.S. and Europe, were travelling to the conference – as guests, lecturers and manning booths – knowing that this is the place to see and be seen. A UK group Quotient Research (Fordham, UK) was actively marketing its toxicity services to the Israeli device and drug development companies. They visited the conference last year as guests, and decided then to expand their involvement for this exhibition, they told Medical Device Daily. Similarly, biopharma production specialists – especially from Western European countries such as France, Germany and Switzerland – were busily seeking the more mature
Israeli companies, who would require their services; these groups often understand the need for novel models of collaboration and compensation with these youngerthan- normal clients. Contract Research Organizations, like Charles River (Wilmington, Massachusetts) and Harlan Laboratories (Indianapolis), were seeking Israeli and international clients, while Cato Research (Durham, North Carolina), old-timers in Israel since from 1984, were utilizing their Israel base both locally and for expansion purposes. “With a well-established home in Israel, in terms of clients and team members,” said Lynda Sutton, president of Cato, “we are also using our Israel base as an outreach center towards new European customers, some of whom are visiting us at this conference”.
Charles River has recently created a product and marketing collaboration with Israeli company BactoChem (Ness Ziona, Israel), involving a satellite office in Israel using Bactochem’s market reach, and Charles River’s technology know-how. “It was important for us at Charles River,” commented Terrence Fisher, Director of Global Partnerships in Charles River’s Research Models and Services Division, “to set up a presence in Israel, using local experts, and simultaneously embellishing it with Charles River’s proprietary know-how.”
Another example of such a gearing-up of highvalue relations – this time in the applied R&D sphere – is the recent interdisciplinary collaboration between Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC, Cincinnati) , and the engineers and scientists at Ben Gurion University (BGU, Beer sheva, Israel). Executive teams from the two centers organized a get-together in Israel. Five surgeons from CCHMC presented their surgical unmet needs in detail to the Israeli applied engineers and scientists; the BGU faculty presented examples of start-up companies that had advanced from their laboratories’ research to date and the brainstorming began. Commenting to MDD on this collaboration, Nicole Robinson, Associate VP, CCHMC Center for Technology Commercialization, said, “The atmosphere was electrified, and follow-up has already led to a number of practical outcomes. We see this as a very promising interaction, and well worth the months of preparation that we initially invested in this relationship.”
A second indicator of the maturing conference and industry was the number of European states who were now expanding their relationships with the Israeli industry. As an example, UK’s Prime Minister Cameron wrote a letter last year to Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu requesting to extend a special effort to R&D collaborations between UK and Israel. As a result, a high-level UK-Israel Axis has been developed to develop the channels and promote collaboration and incentives towards UK-Israel commercializable ties. The newly-created ‘UK Israel Tech
Hub’ at the British Embassy Israel is aiming to leverage Israeli innovations with the UK’s infrastructure, industry and health system, in order to engender fruitful project collaborations. While such positive and ambitious goals have been suggested by many regional development groups, “the quality and seniority of the personnel behind the collaboration, in both the UK and Israel, indicate the likelihood of success.” MDD was told by Naomi Krieger, Director of the Hub. Chaim Shani, former Israeli Finance Ministry Director General, is the Hub’s chairman.
A third indicator of maturity is the ‘satellite’ effect of a conference hub. Beyond the direct connections at the government levels, other EU states are using the Conference to connect with local Israeli private talent. They seek to optimize their own efforts, both in finding suitable collaboration targets, and in developing suitable spin-off events in their home states. Both the consulates of Denmark and Sweden sent delegates to Israel with a list of companies to meet with, partly at the behest of specific Scandinavian companies that desired cooperation within or without an existing EU incentive scheme. A Special Adviser of the Danish Government Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation related that, of 16 joint EU collaborative projects that Denmark/Israel had applied for EU partnership for in recent years, 10 initiatives were approved. “An impressive statistic,” he commented to MDD, “indicating the quality of collaboration available between the two states.”
Furthermore, a new entrant appeared at the show: the small Baltic State of Lithuania (checking in with a population of 3 million, just below 50% of that of Israel) took a booth at the Biomed exhibition, in order to recruit Israeli technologies and services to aid the development of a local biomed hub back home. Towards their own local Biomed conference in September (Life Science Baltics, at www.lsb2012.com), they have employed an Israeli services company to help recruit top Israeli personnel. These groups will ensure the presence at the conference of experts in the various disciplines needed in science, IP, and regulatory elements, to make a startup nation come alive. Paulius Lukauskas, Managing Director of Enterprise Lithuania (Vilnius, Lithuania), presented (to an audience including many interested U.S. guests) the Lithuanian vision as a potential player in the biomedical market. “We realized that we wanted to get more exposure to the Israeli entrepreneurs, service providers and researchers. We have clearly seen that the size of a country is not the key criterion when it comes to biomedical innovativeness. So we have created a presence, invited our Ambassador to attend the conference, and have used the forum to generate interest in our own fledgling life sciences conference that we have planned”, Lukauskas told MDD.