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JewishJournal.com

February 20, 2013

Israeli pharma and biotech are good for what ails us

http://www.jewishjournal.com/israel/article/israeli_pharma_and_biotech_are_good_for_what_ails_us

An Israeli worker keeps watch over a production line of pharmaceuticals at the Teva factory in Jerusalem. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

An Israeli worker keeps watch over a production line of pharmaceuticals at the Teva factory in Jerusalem. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

Have heartburn after eating a late-night falafel sandwich? There’s a pill for that. Did the winter weather give you the gift of a chest infection? You’ll likely need some antibiotics for that.

And there’s a good chance that the medicine you take for the above, and a whole host of other ailments, comes from an Israeli company or research lab.

In fact, the world’s largest producer of generic drugs is Israeli drug-making giant Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.

“One in seven prescriptions filled in the U.S. is filled with a Teva drug,” Denise Bradley, vice president of corporate communications for Teva Pharmaceuticals-Americas, told the JointMedia News Service.

With subsidiaries and production facilities across the United States and Canada, the Petah Tikvah-based company provides North Americans with the bulk of their generic drug stock.

In 2012, the Israeli company announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved QNASL, its new nasal spray to treat allergy symptoms. The product is just the latest in the repertoire of medications that has made Teva a worldwide success. The company is also growing in influence financially and politically as it continues to produce generic and brand-name drugs for the U.S. pharmaceutical market.

But Teva is far from the only Israeli-owned business providing health benefits to the North American market (or getting ready to do so).

BiondVax Pharmaceuticals, headquartered in Ness Ziona, Israel, is one of the leading labs working on a universal flu vaccine. The vaccine is designed to provide multi-season and multi-strain protection against most human influenza virus strains. The company will be conducting studies with MonoSol Rx, located in New Jersey, to allow the vaccine to be administered by mouth.

Advantages of an oral universal influenza vaccine include ease of delivery and increased compliance, due to the absence of needles, as well as ease of distribution.

Two therapeutic vaccines against cancer are under development in Israel. Vaxil BioTherapeutics’ ImMucin, can be tailored to treat 90 percent of cancers by activating and enhancing the body’s immune system to seek and destroy cancer cells present in the body. The treatment causes no side effects and can be taken indefinitely, like vitamins. ImMucin could be on the market in about five years.

VacciGuard, another Israeli biomed startup, is introducing a technology for developing vaccines against cancer and a wide range of other diseases that currently have no effective treatments. The technology is based on the research of world-renowned Weizmann Institute of Science immunologist Irun Cohen.

Herceptin, a frequently prescribed drug for blocking the chemical signals that stimulate uncontrolled growth of breast cancer cells, is one of an advanced class of pharmaceuticals called monoclonal antibody drugs. Currently, these drugs must be administered together with chemotherapy.

But two-year-old Israeli company Immune Pharmaceuticals, is developing a “guided missile” system, licensed from Hebrew University, which encloses thousands of chemotherapy molecules inside a monoclonal antibody nanoparticle. The drug payload isn’t released until reaching the cancerous tissue.

And Dune Medical Devices, a product of Israel’s Misgav Venture Accelerator and located in Framingham, Mass., has received pre-market approval from the FDA for MarginProbe, its trademarked system that uses electromagnetic waves to identify possibly cancerous tissue on the edges of a breast tumor in real time. The application was based on data from a 600-patient study conducted primarily in the United States.

MarginProbe is meant to improve on the current rate of 30 percent to 60 percent of women who must undergo secondary breast cancer surgery after a lumpectomy because the initial surgery failed to excise all cancerous tissue at the margins of the tumor.

And the novel Israeli medical device IceSense3, made by Caesarea-based IceCure Medical Ltd., is already helping American doctors destroy benign breast lumps by freezing them. A leading Japanese breast surgeon started clinical trials using the minimally invasive, ultrasound-guided procedure to successfully obliterate small cancerous tumors as well. Similar trials will soon begin in the United States.

The cryoablation process takes five or 10 minutes in a doctor’s office, clinic or breast center under local anesthesia. No recovery period or post-care is necessary, and there is no scarring.

Numerous other Israeli biotech and pharmaceutical startups have products under development that could positively impact the well-being of Americans in the not-too-distant future. 

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