It’s pretty incredible to see the health care innovation — especially in mobile and personalized care — coming out of the young and beleaguered state of Israel. “People here are always thinking outside the box, looking for a different solution to a problem,” says Nicky Blackburn, editor and Israel director of Israel21c, an online magazine about Israel’s vibrant culture. “They don’t care if someone tells them that what they are trying to do is impossible, they just get on and do it. It’s a very different attitude to many other countries around the world.” The following innovations are drawn from Israel21c.
1. Ditch Depression
Every day, more than 100 Americans take their own lives. At the same time, anti-depressive drugs decrease symptoms of depression but increase the risk of suicide. This picture could look different if Cyclurad gets FDA approval — which its developers expect to happen by the end of 2017. Created by NeuroRx, which won first place this May in the annual Israel Biomed Startup Competition, the oral dose affects the NMDA and 5-HT2a brain receptors, reducing acute suicidal crisis by 75 percent in patients suffering from bipolar disorder.
2. Stop those Moles
After Lior Wayn’s father was diagnosed with melanoma, Wayn developed DermaCompare, a free smartphone app that uses technology inspired by the Israeli Air Force’s aerial photo diagnostics system to detect skin changes and malignant moles. The technology uses “aerial photos to track enemy moves,” Wayn says. “Our enemy is moles and we know how to track them.” When users upload their skin photos to the cloud, machine learning and artificial intelligence help identify which kinds of moles are likely to be cancerous, leading to earlier intervention.
3. Make a Sweet Switch
Around 79 million Americans are pre-diabetic, and 70 percent will eventually develop Type 2 diabetes, a condition that causes heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure, and racks up an annual price tag of $194 billion. A simple wellness plan of 150 minutes of exercise a week, however, can reduce the onset of diabetes by 58 percent. Enter an app created by Israeli digital health startup Sweetch, which encourages pre-diabetic individuals to make a “sweet switch.” Sweetch keeps patients on top of simple health changes, helping them attain 150 minutes of exercise a week in small, rewarding steps. Inspired by gaming technology, the app tracks the user’s behavior and offers personalized suggestions to make fitness goals achievable.
4. Say No to Surgery
Insightec, started by engineers and PhDs at the Technion, was named by Forbes as one of 10 companies to watch in 2016. Its Exablate technology uses safe, non-invasive MRI and ultrasound therapy to treat neurological, gynecological, and oncological conditions, increasing quality of life.
5. Sniff Out Cancer
Technion professor and chemical engineer Hossam Haick is a rising star for his “electronic nose,” a device that could detect cancer through a sort of Breathalyzer test. Haick got the idea while watching a friend suffer through leukemia treatment. Through the use of nanotechnology, molecules in the breath bind to sensors in the “nose,” then are analyzed in a computer chip. If the analysis matches cancer templates in the chip, a diagnosis is offered. The device is still in development.
6. Outwit Cervical Cancer
Several Israeli technologies are tackling cervical cancer, which remains common especially in the developing world. Biop Medical is working on a high-tech colposcope, which could analyze the inner layers of the cervix and recommend a biopsy in one visit. Illumigyn’s Gynescope, in the early stages of development, uses machine vision to take a sophisticated image of the cervix, reducing the factors that lead to misdiagnoses. And over in Kenya and Afghanistan, nurses are trying out Tel Aviv-based MobileODT’s EVA System, a.k.a. the “cervix selfie,” a mobile colposcope that projects the cervix image onto a cell phone screen, enabling women to engage with their own health and helping doctors and nurses monitor patients who live in remote areas.
7. Stave Off Alzheimers - With Milkshakes
Daniel Michaelson, a neurobiologist at Tel Aviv University, is a member of the European LipiDiDiet Consortium, which launched a groundbreaking study about the effects of a vitamin-rich drink on Alzheimer’s disease. The drink, Souvenaid, contains a cocktail of vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants, and has been proven to reduce brain shrinkage and improve memory in early-stage Alzheimer’s patients. Michaelson is an advocate for diet-based solutions for Alzheimer’s. Souvenaid is $4 and is available through mysouvenaid.co.uk, but should be used under the guidance of a health care professional.
8. Zap Prostate Cancer
Kill cancer with photosynthesis? That’s what Weizmann Institute of Science professors Yoram Salomon and Avigdor Scherz are setting out to do. The professors in the departments of
biology regulation and plant and environment sciences, respectively, created a photodynamic cancer therapy that can attack prostate tumors in 90 minutes — with no side effects. Patients with early-stage prostate cancer receive an intravenous dose of Tookad Soluble, made from bacteriochlorophyll, and then a near-infrared laser illumination into cancerous tissue. The light activates the drug, which releases radicals to destroy the tumorous cells without doing damage to other parts of the body. Tookad has completed successful Phase III clinical trials.
9. End the Flu
Israeli biopharmaceutical company BiondVax is working toward developing a universal flu vaccine. Still in clinical trials, the vaccine would prevent seasonal and pandemic human influenza virus strains.