Israel's Life Sciences Industry: 2016 Assessment
Israel's life science industry continues to thrive and has experienced rapid growth in recent years. Following a decade of significant growth, the Israeli life sciences industry plays a pivotal role in the world healthcare market, underpinned by its innovation and excellence in academic research, government support and increasing funding options. These factors are leading to ever more success and record investments, especially from China. There are more companies involved in advanced stages of clinical trials and an ever larger number of successful M&A transactions and IPOs of Israeli life sciences companies, particularly on the NASDAQ.
Recent high profile transactions include the sale of cCAM Biotherapeutics to Merck (for up to US$605 million), the sale of MIS Implants to Dentsply Sirona (for US$375 million) and the sale of HeartWare to Valtech for a reported US$929 million almost US$2 billion from three deals.
Israel is blessed with a large number of world class academic and medical institutions within a relatively small geographic area, giving rise to an environment of cross-fertilization of disciplines that led to innovation in medical technology.
In addition, in one of the most significant China-Israel transactions to date in the life science area, Oramed Pharmaceuticals concluded a US$50 million licensing and investment deal with China's Hefei Tianhui Incubator of Technologies Co. for rights to Oramed's oral insulin capsule technology in China. These transactions follow other major life science transactions attracting global attention such as the 2014 acquisition by Covidien (now Medtronic) of Given Imaging, developer of the worldfamous "PillCam", for US$860 million. These transactions are just the tip of the iceberg.
In this article, we explore the sources of Israel's vibrant life sciences industry and the financing opportunities available in this area.
Sources of Life Science Innovation
Among the sources of life science innovation in Israel are first rate academic and medical institutions, enhanced government support, and the active presence of global life science companies in Israel.
Academic Excellence Israel is blessed with a large number of world class academic and medical institutions within a relatively small geographic area, giving rise to an environment of crossfertilization of disciplines that led to innovation in medical technology. Leading medical institutions include the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, the Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital and the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer outside of Tel Aviv. Some of Israel's leading academic institutions include Tel Aviv University, the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, the Technion in Haifa and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The strength of these institutions, and many others, is reflected in the large number of scientific papers which they publish, as well as the constant "deal flow" of intellectual property ready for commercialization.
These institutions have active technology transfer offices which are engaged full time in the commercialization of technological inventions developed by their respective academic and medical staff, with sophisticated licensing and start-up practices. These inventions, and their transfer to industry, ultimately serve as the primary foundation of the life sciences industry in Israel.
Government Support The Israel Innovation Authority (formerly the Office of the Chief Scientist), provides financial support for research and development programs (R&D) in all technological fields, including life sciences. Grants, which can be a substantial part of R&D budgets, are provided directly to companies engaged in R&D activities. Some of these programs include collaborative research initiatives between the academic world and industry, which contributes to stimulating growth in the life science field.
Government support is also highly effective when provided through the various incubator programs, many of which aim to attract global expertise to support local start-ups. Through these programs, government funding dramatically reduces the risks involved in investing in medical technology start-ups. Recent examples include MedXelerator, FutuRx and MindUP.
Based in Tel Aviv, MedXelerator is a venture of Boston Scientific, Intellectual Ventures, MEDX Ventures and the Sheba Medical Center. Having started operations in September 2016, it will focus on medical devices and digital health. Johnson & Johnson, Takeda Pharmaceuticals and OrbiMed Israel teamed up to establish FutuRx, perhaps Israel's premier biotech incubator today, with world-class laboratory facilities and resources to support the development of pharmaceuticals and other products over the long term. Haifa's Digital Health Incubator, MindUP, is a venture of Medtronic, IBM, Pitango Venture Capital and the Rambam Medical Center. It will focus more on medtech, personalized medicine, and technologies to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare delivery.
Global Presence of Life Science Giants Many global life science companies have established local R&D centers in Israel, in order to access local engineering and medical talent. These centers are themselves also a source of innovation. For instance, Johnson & Johnson, GE Healthcare, Philips, Biosense Webster, IBM, Covidien, Samsung Electronics and Thermo Fisher Scientific, are active in the medtech space in Israel. In addition,the presence of Teva Pharmaceuticals,the leading generic drug company, is heavily involved in R&D activities in the life sciences area.
All of the above combine to produce a steady flow of new life science start-ups and technologies. One of the first challenges they face, either from inception or upon graduating from the incubator or accelerator, is obtaining financing (beyond grants that may be available).
Financing Opportunities There are multiple financing sources available to early-stage Israeli life science companies. While obtaining funding is always a challenge, for the most part promising ideas succeed in finding financial support.
Accelerators, Incubators, Angels and Accredited Investor Clubs There are numerous incubators and accelerators in Israel, and many are active in the medtech and life science space. Angel investing is highly developed in Israel and today angels are often successful serial entrepreneurs who bring added value to companies. There are also on-line accredited investor portals, such as Our Crowd, which allow investors accredited in their jurisdiction of residence to make on-line investments of as little as US$10,000 in early stage companies that have been screened by Our Crowd's team.
Many global life science companies have established local R&D centers in Israel, in order to access local engineering and medical talent.
Venture Capital A large number of Israeli and foreign (primarily Silicon Valley) venture capital funds are active in Israel, and many of them invest in life science companies. OrbiMed, a significant VC fund based in the U.S., has now established its second fund in Israel, focusing on life science investments in both start-ups and more mature companies. In addition, there has been a significant increase in interest by Chinese VC funds in the medtech and life science sectors in Israel both in terms of making investments and obtaining access to Israeli technology in these areas.
Public Markets If Israeli life science companies are able to, they aim for NASDAQ. Those that cannot, choose the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. These days, the public markets are closed to all but the most promising and profitable life science companies, and public money is generally not a major source of financing.
Acquisition A far more likely fate of promising life science and medtech companies in Israel is acquisition by global pharma and medtech companies. Many of the "big names" in these areas have made acquisitions in Israel in recent years. These include Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Johnson & Johnson, Kyphon, GE Healthcare, Essilor, Philips Healthcare, Covidien and Stryker. Merck, Novartis and BioGen are also active,in Israel. Once acquired, the companies often remain active in Israel, becoming a source of trained life science managers and professionals.
Opportunities and Future Growth
Actively involved in the life science and medtech ecosystem, we see the vibrancy and robust health of this sector through the eyes of our clients, numerous promising earlystage and maturing companies, as well as global companies seeking opportunities in these fields in Israel. There is no doubt that life science and medtech ventures are a major part of the Israeli high-tech industry, and will continue to contribute to the incredible growth of Israel, the "Start-up Nation," while bringing meaningful improvements to the lives of millions of people around the world.
Yigal Arnon & Co.
Barry P. Levenfeld, Partner Daniel Green, Partner
Yigal Arnon & Co., one of the leading law firms in Israel, provides a full range of legal services to a wide ranging client base, including major international ("Fortune 500") and other global companies, local and foreign banks, financial institutions, venture capital and private equity funds, emerging growth companies, investor groups, government entities, and individuals.
The firm represents clients in a wide variety of industries, including technology (internet & mobile, IT, IoT, cyber security, fintech, semiconductors) life sciences (digital health, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices), energy (including oil & gas, solar power and cleantech), as well as banking, insurance, real estate, telecommunications, transportation & aviation, and consumer products.
With a proven track record of innovation and success in meeting its clients' needs, we combine the expertise of a specialty boutique practice with the advantages of a well-resourced multidisciplinary law firm.
A substantial part of Yigal Arnon's practice is international in scope. We act as lead counsel in international transactions, including M&A, strategic alliances, VC and private equity transactions, joint ventures, public and private financings, corporate and debt restructurings,tax,distributorships,franchises,real estate investments,and more. We are especially active in the U.S., the UK and Europe, as well as in China, India, Japan and Australia.
Barry P. Levenfeld with over 30 years of experience, is a senior partner in our international High-Tech practice group. He has a wide-ranging technology and life-sciences practice focusing on M&A (representing both global technology companies and Israeli target companies); fund formation and portfolio investment for Israeli and overseas venture capital funds; representation of technology and life sciences start-ups from first seed financing through acquisition or initial public offering and beyond; intellectual property transactional work and strategic collaborations.
Barry is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and serves on the boards of Alyn Hospital in Jerusalem, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, and of the Immigrant Hotline.
Daniel Green is a partner in the Technology & Transactional IP practice group. Daniel's practice focuses on licensing, corporate partnering and intellectual property. He has represented emerging and established technology companies in the biotechnology, medical device and pharmaceutical industries, as well as in the IT industry.
Daniel has extensive experience in structuring, negotiating and documenting complex licensing, development and technology transfer arrangements, Internet and e-commerce agreements, OEM, VAR and other distribution and supply arrangements, joint ventures and other commercial transactions. Daniel also advises venture capital funds and has been involved with secondary fund transactions and various aspects of fund formation.
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