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Israel’s COVID-19 Innovation

December 1, 2019 | by Jodie Cohen

Even during this most difficult time, Israel is living up to its name as the start-up nation.

Israel is the land of miracles and is also known as the ‘start-up nation’. Even during this most difficult time of COVID-19, there are countless Israeli innovations, with more being announced on a daily basis.

Here are five, which are striving to help the country – and the world – tackle this terrible pandemic in the areas of prevention, testing, patient care, and the crucial search for treatments and vaccines.

  1. Prevention – As United Hatzalah’s Founder and President, Eli Beer, lay in an induced coma as he fought his own battle with the coronavirus, his team created one of the first contact tracing apps in the world.

    United Hatzalah realized the potential to connect publically-available Ministry of Health information on reported cases of COVID-19, with mobile location tracking technology. After one weekend of intense work with developer Uri Feldman, the result was Trackvirus, which was launched in mid-March and is free to use. In its first two months it was downloaded 350,000 times, helping people to know if they need to go into quarantine and helping to prevent the further spread of the virus.

  2. Testing – There is an expression that medical interns are taught, "When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras." It means look out for common explanations rather than exotic medical diseases when diagnosing a patient. Today, using the power of AI, Zebra Medical Vision wants to help doctors "take care of the zebras."

    Zebra Medical aims to transform patient care by providing automated, accurate and fast medical image diagnosis. The company’s technologies have received five FDA clearances to date, and Zebra was named in Fast Company’s top 10 most innovative health companies of 2020 list. With the onset of COVID-19, the expectation is that Zebra’s software will be used to offer key insights into disease severity, enabling doctors to diagnose, triage and evaluate patients quickly and effectively.

  3. Patient care – TytoCare was originally developed to help people get medical care without having to leave their home. The platform provides patients with an on-demand medical exam, 365 days a year, no matter their location.

    When coronavirus appeared, the company realized it could enable doctors to examine COVID patients remotely. Doctors can carry out numerous health checks, including on the heart, lungs, throat, body temperature and more, whether the patient is at hospital or in their own home. The company already works with over 80 health systems across the world, helping to care for patients and protect healthcare workers from catching the virus at the same time.

  4. Potential treatments – CytoReason calls itself the global hub of pharma R&D data. It aggregates proprietary data from different companies across the industry, and uses it to train its computational models of human diseases. In other words, on a computer, scientists and doctors can see precisely what happens to the body on a molecular level when it is fighting an illness.

    CytoReason is now offering COVID-19 modeling to help pharma and biotech companies search for a cure – free of charge. The company has opened its software to all of its pharma customers worldwide, helping scientists and doctors to see the impact of potential medicines on the body in the global hunt for treatments.

  5. The race for a vaccine – At the start of February 2020, the Israel Prime Minister instructed the Defense Ministry-run Israeli Institute of Biological Research (IIBR) to produce a vaccine against COVID-19, and to set up a vaccine factory. The Institute is believed to be working around the clock to find treatments and solutions to the virus.

    In May 2020, the laboratory announced that it is the first in the world to reach three major milestones: finding an antibody that destroys the virus; that targets COVID-19 specifically; and that is ‘monoclonal’, meaning it was derived from a single recovered cell. The Institute says it has already successfully completed coronavirus vaccine tests on rodents and will now test on animals before moving on to human trials.

These are just five of the innovations that I discovered when researching for my new book, Tikkun Olam: Israel vs COVID-19. The book gives an insight into the perspectives of the scientists, doctors and CEOs behind the innovations, as they focus their efforts on defeating the world’s biggest challenge.


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