‘Start Up Nation’ a True Moniker

‘Start Up Nation’ a True Moniker

Israel’s second name is “start-up nation,” and there are anywhere from 50-70 companies developing products for the eye care industry in Israel. From a monetary perspective, there were more than 1,200 exit deals from 2010-2019 in Israel valued at $111.3 billion – and the decade saw an increase by 50% in the number of exits and an increase of 800% in the exit value.1 In the life sciences field there were 98 deals worth about $9 billion; the U.S. was by far the largest country of acquisition in every year except 2016, when China held that title. The most prominent early-stage investors are from Israel and the U.S., with the most prominent late-stage investors being from the U.S. and then Israel.2 The top 3 Israeli-based company IPOs in 2018 were all in the pharmaceutical field (and all debuted on NASDAQ for $50-$73 million).2

“In the last two to three decades, you can find Israeli innovations in fields such as high-tech and cyber security, but also Israeli innovations are responsible for a paradigm shift in many medical fields,” said OIS Israel co-chair Daphne Haim-Langford, PhD, founder and CEO of Tarsius Pharma (which recently dosed its first patient in its uveitis study based on the company’s biomimetic technology). The combination of Israeli “chotzpa” (which is by the way not a sign of rudeness, Dr. Haim-Langford said) and the lack of a large number of established strategic Israeli companies leads many visionaries to believe that “they can and should follow their dreams, take the risk and try to make a change,” she said.

Fellow co-chair BioLight CEO Suzana Nahum-Zilberberg, CEO of BioLight Life Sciences added that Israel has seen about 140 new life science start-ups every year for the past decade.

Most of the medical start-ups in Israel are in the medical device field, Ms. Nahum-Zilberberg said, but also in drug delivery, new chemical entities, gene therapy, and digital health, and that is reflected in ophthalmic start-ups as well, she said. (BioLight enjoys this ecosystem being able to invest and manage some of these promising companies, she said, with a balance between early-stage and late-stage companies.)

“This has led to a bubbly environment that is framed by close relationships between key opinion leaders, research centers, industry, and also with strong government support,” she said. (For more on her thoughts, listen to this week’s featured podcast.)

Why Attend OIS Israel
Tel-Aviv has its own unique vibe and atmosphere, and it’s also known for its business acumen. The largest number of start-ups per capita in the world are located in Tel Aviv, a city that also boasts the most GDP investments in research & development. It’s also a hotspot for venture capitalists, with more than 70 active funds (14 of which are international!)

Attendees will also hear about new artificial intelligence and digital health approaches in ophthalmology.

“Some pharmaceutical start-ups will reveal their technology for the first time, not to mention promising MedTech technologies that have a touch of brilliancy yet simplicity in their treatment modalities” will also be on hand, Dr. Haim-Langford said.

Among this year’s highlights: A panel discussion on Igniting Ophthalmic Innovation in Israel: From Concept to Company, which should provide some suggestions on how to go from paper to reality. And nothing will get off the ground without financing, but oftentimes where to find investors (beyond the “friends and family”) is daunting … The late-morning will have a solid half-hour on global funding sources. With the U.S. being one of the largest investors in Israeli technologies, it makes sense for companies to consider entering the U.S. market. The various pathways that some companies took to entering both the U.S. and Europe is yet another “must see” panel discussion.

“What differentiates this particular OIS meeting from others will be a much larger assortment of Israeli and European-based companies and first-time interactions between international companies and companies that have not participated OIS meetings in the past,” Ms. Nahum-Zilberberg said.

“We have a very active and collaborative community of Israeli CEOs in ophthalmology, and they are all very excited to host the OIS in Israel for the first time. We’re all looking forward to warmly welcome all participants of the first-ever global OIS,” said Dr. Haim-Langford.

1. IVC-Meitar. 2019 Israeli Tech Exits Report. 2020.
2. Korbet R. Start-Up Nation Central: The State of the Israeli Ecosystem in 2018. Start-Up Nation Central. Available at: finder.startupnationcentral.org