From wearables that allow cardiac specialists at a hospital in Ramat Gan to monitor a patient’s cardiac performance thousands of miles away from home, to giving gravely ill patients a new lease on life with ground-breaking new therapies, Israeli medical innovators are literally thumbing their noses at the Angel of Death and changing the way we live.
According to start-up “ecosystem” sources, there are at least 6,000 active start-up companies operating in Israel. Within the realm of digital health, the number of active start-up companies engaged in this flourishing field has grown from 65 companies in 2005 to over 400 in 2018.
A significant number of these start-ups are being financially supported by prestigious global corporations such as Philips, GE Healthcare, Merck and IBM. Some of the aforementioned companies opened up offices close to start-up hubs in Haifa (near the Technion) and metro Tel Aviv, the recognized “capital” of Israeli business and hi-tech.
“Israel serves as a global incubator of innovative ideas for a variety of reasons,” said Dr. Eyal Zimlichman, Deputy Director General, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Innovation Officer at Sheba Medical Center, which is located in Ramat Gan and is the largest facility of its kind in the Jewish State and the Middle East. “First of all, it’s in our genes. Secondly, there is the military aspect, where we are taught to improvise when necessary in the field. These things allow us to be naturally innovative. This has trickled down into the medical field, where we are offering the highest level of medical care. I also believe unique innovations in medicine that will impact the world for the next 100 years, will be developed in Israel.”
Prime examples of Sheba Medical Center’s innovative efforts revolve around combating potentially fatal diseases such as cancer with immunotherapy, oncology’s new medical “magic bullet”, targeting hemophilia with a novel gene therapy drug and creating a cutting-edge APP for a wearable used by people with serious heart and diabetes issues.
Immunotherapy is a treatment that literally uses your body’s own immune system to invade and destroy cancer.
CAR-T (Chimeric Antigen Receptor) and TIL (Tumor Infiltrating Lymphocytes) cancer immunotherapies are not universal cancer cures at this stage. However, ongoing clinical trials (conducted for major pharmaceutical companies and America’s National Institute of Health) at Sheba Medical Center’s oncology unit, where “end stage” cancer patients are being treated with CAR-T, which specifically targets leukemia and lymphoma, and TIL that zeroes in on melanoma and ovarian cancer patients, have injected new hope into dozens of patients, who were only weeks or months away from certain death.
Seventeen cancer stricken people were treated at Sheba during an initial CAR-T trial, after all of these patients had displayed zero improvement in the wake of traditional chemotherapy treatments and bone marrow transplants. Of those seventeen, 75% had a complete response to the CAR-T treatment. One of those CAR-T patients, an 8 year-old girl from Bnei Brak, was the first child to achieve COMPLETE remission from childhood leukemia. A Sheba Medical Center oncologist boasted, “When we came to give her the CAR-T cells, she was very, very sick. She couldn’t even get out of bed. When we came back to visit her three weeks later, she was going back and forth on her rollerblades!”
A few weeks ago, a one year old boy, became the youngest patient in the world suffering from both severe Hemophilia A and an unusual allergy to be treated at Sheba Medical Center with a novel gene therapy drug that only recently was approved in for use in the USA. The novel new drug developed by a biopharmaceutical company in the USA, contained a “bispecific antibody” that was injected into the child. According to clinical trial results published in the renowned New England Journal of Medicine, the new drug has shown a 90% reduction in bleeding in children and a 70% reduction in adults.
“This is a new exciting era with many novel options for improved care and even complete cure of patients with hemophilia,” boasted Professor Gili Kenet, Director of the National Hemophilia Center at Sheba Medical Center. “The child’s mother is so happy with the new treatment. The child had experienced a head trauma, but required no further therapy at all. Usually, this type of injury with a hemophiliac patient would involve hours in the Emergency Room ER with repeated doses of intravenous coagulation factors. However, there were no complications as his hemostasis (blood factors) was completely normal!”
Within the realm of what is known as IoT (internet of Things), Professor Robert Klempfner is blazing a trail of what he has dubbed IoMT (internet of Medical Things), where heart patients are able to engage in cardiac care and rehabilitation using uniquely designed wearables (i.e. a hi-tech watch) from short and long distances, without having to return to the hospital for treatment. “Today, the challenge for both heart doctors and cardiac care patients is what happens after a coronary event (heart attack), intervention or heart surgery. What kind of regimen can be created for someone who might have had surgery at Sheba but lives and works in faraway places such as the USA or other countries? Within the new world of tele-medicine and digital health, we have the technology to create rehab programs that are a win/win experience for both the hospital and the patient,” claimed Professor Klempfner. “We give cardiac care patients a watch that is equipped with an APP developed by the Sheba medical team and Datos Health (an Israeli start-up company). The APP, contains a care path specially designed for each patient, containing rehab regimens, education material and secure communication with our patients. The medical center receives data from wherever he/she is located when they are walking, exercising, doing other physical activities. Our technicians then analyze the info and provide ongoing feedback, assisted by smart algorithms provided by the innovative system. The program is also primed for patients who also suffer from hypertension and diabetes that are now able to transmit all their measurement automatically to our system. This not only saves the patient time by not having him/her return to the hospital, it saves the hospital time and bed space, so we are able to treat more patients. This ushers in a new era in digital healthcare.