Is­rael’s life-changers make great strides

The Jewish Chronicle - - JC SPECIAL - BY RAIZEL DRUXMAN

LAST YEAR, 36-year-old Claire Lo­mas walked the Great North Run; the largest half-marathon in the world. Yet in 2007, she had been paral­ysed from the chest down in a rid­ing ac­ci­dent. She com­pleted the half-marathon in a ReWalk suit, in­vented in Is­rael. Although it took her five days to com­plete the run, she had never even ex­pected to walk again. “It felt sur­real,” says Lo­mas. “When I was walk­ing the last bit it was really hard not to start cry­ing.”

ReWalk was in­vented by Dr Amit Gof­fer of Is­rael’s Tech­nion In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy. It is a “bionic” suit, us­ing mo­tion sen­sors to help paral­ysed pa­tients stand up­right and even walk again.

Gof­fer was in­spired to in­vent ReWalk af­ter an ac­ci­dent left him in a wheel­chair. How­ever, due to lim­ited func­tion in his arms, he was un­able to use his own in­ven­tion, so he cre­ated UPnRIDE Ro­bot­ics.

UPnRIDE is a self-sta­bil­is­ing chair that goes from sit­ting to stand­ing with the push of a but­ton and can han­dle rough ter­rains and in­clines.

“I was able to stand with my col­leagues and drink cof­fee,” says Gof­fer. “Be­ing able to stand again was an ex­pe­ri­ence out of this world — the psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fect is dra­matic.”

It is no co­in­ci­dence that there are more than 250 ma­jor R&D cen­tres in Is­rael, owned by multi­na­tional com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Ap­ple, Gen­eral Elec­tric, John­son & John­son and Google. Known world­wide as the start-up na­tion be­cause of its tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions, Is­rael is also a leader in med­i­cal in­no­va­tion.

Stu­dents from abroad can join the Tech­nion’s Amer­i­can med­i­cal pro­gramme, giv­ing them the op­por­tu­nity to learn in a cut­ting-edge en­vi­ron­ment. And, with the open­ing of the Tech­nion-Cor­nell In­no­va­tion In­sti­tute in New York, Is­raeli in­no­va­tions will make an even big­ger im­pact around the world.

Allen Pimienta, a Tech­nion grad­u­ate from Toronto, has pub­lished pa­pers in four dif­fer­ent jour­nals and is the first au­thor on two. “I can’t get this re­search op­por­tu­nity any­where else,” says Pimienta. “Not only do renowned re­searchers teach our classes but they also give us their cell­phone in­for­ma­tion and say, ‘Please con­tact us with any ques­tions’.”

An­other Is­raeli-Amer­i­can part­ner­ship that has al­ready seen promis­ing re­sults is a study con­ducted by Tech­nion and Har­vard Univer­sity. Through a time-lapse video, they have cap­tured the way bac­te­ria mu­tate to over­come drugs meant de­stroy them. This is the first time an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance has been doc­u­mented in such a clear way and will have enor­mous ram­i­fi­ca­tions on un­der­stand­ing an­tibi­otics and bac­te­ria.

Other Is­raeli in­no­va­tions hav­ing enor­mous im­pact in­clude two de­signed to de­tect can­cer at an ear­lier, more sur­viv­able stage.

Un­like other types of can­cer, cer­vi­cal can­cer is rel­a­tively easy to iden­tify and treat but it is re­spon­si­ble for the deaths of more than 270,000 women an­nu­ally and is a lead­ing cause of death in de­vel­op­ing na­tions.

Thanks to rou­tine smear tests, cer­vi­cal can­cer rates have been dras­ti­cally re­duced in the western world but there is not the in­fra­struc­ture for such screen­ing in most de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, es­pe­cially in ru­ral ar­eas.

Ariel Beery, CEO and co-founder of Tel Aviv-based start-up Mo­bileODT, set out to in­crease life ex­pectancy in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

“There’s no rea­son a woman should die of cer­vi­cal can­cer just be­cause she’s not screened on time,” says Beery.

Mo­bileODT de­vel­ops and sells rel­a­tively small and cheap col­po­scopes, es­pe­cially for coun­tries with­out a strong health­care in­fra­struc­ture. The com­pany has in­te­grated the col­po­scopes with smart­phones, which are read­ily avail­able ev­ery­where in the world and have built-in imag­ing tech­nol­ogy. Co-founder David Le­vitz helped de­sign the mo­bile col­po­scope. “With a smart­phone, you’re get­ting a much bet­ter cam­era with much bet­ter spec­i­fi­ca­tions than you are on this ex­pen­sive med­i­cal de­vice,” says Le­vitz. “It seems counter-in­tu­itive but there’s just so much more in­no­va­tion hap­pen­ing on the phone side that the phone cam­eras are just bet­ter and going to get much bet­ter.”

An­other Is­raeli de­vice sav­ing lives through early can­cer de­tec­tion is NaNose. NaNose was cre­ated when Tech­nion’s Pro­fes­sor Hos­sam Haick set out to non-in­va­sively dis­cover traces of can­cer in the hu­man body. A can­cer­ous growth re­leases dis­tinc­tive volatile or­ganic com­pounds. These travel in the blood­stream and, when they reach the lungs, are emit­ted in breath. The num­ber of mol­e­cules is ex­tremely small and de­tect­ing them is like try­ing to find a four-leaf clover in a field of three­leaf ones.

When the com­pounds leave the mouth with the ex­haled breath, NaNose can iden­tify them and de­tect the can­cer. In four out of five cases, the de­vice dif­fer­en­ti­ates be­tween be­nign and ma­lig­nant lung le­sions and even can­cer sub­types. It is now be­ing cus­tomised to de­tect other dis­eases, to en­sure early de­tec­tion and help save lives.

Keep an eye on the Mid­dle East for the next in­no­va­tion that will change your life — and may even save it.

‘To stand and drink cof­fee was out of this world’


Claire Lo­mas fin­ishes the Great North Run, in an Is­raeli bionic suit. Right: Tech­nion grad­u­ates work in fields from an­tibi­otic re­search to ro­bot­ics

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