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Internet in Israel, start ups in Israel, venture capital in israel, Israel hi tech, israel technology, tel aviv university, technion, weitzman institute

Apple to Expand R&D Beyond U.S. to Israel


It appears that that Apple will be opening its first development center outside the United States in Israel. The move reportedly is not related to the possible acquisition of the Israeli company Anobit, which develops flash storage solutions that provide Apple’s iPhone and iPad a competitive advantage over its competitors. Aharon Aharon, a veteran in the Israeli high-tech scene, has reportedly been chosen to head the Israeli center and is undergoing training in Apple’s headquarters in the United States. Aharon refused to comment on the issue, saying only that he is in the United States. But at least three managers in Israel’s high-tech industry confirmed that Ahraon will be a senior vice president of engineering at Apple, and head Apple’s development activities in Israel.

Meanwhile, Apple is reportedly planning to acquire the Israeli company Anobit for hundreds of millions of dollars. If a deal will be completed, it will mark the biggest deal Apple has made since 1996 when it acquired NeXT, a company founded by Steve Jobs, for $429 million. The decision to set up an Apple R&D center in Israel could explain why it might be pursuing a large player like Anobit. Apple usually confines itself to small-scale acquisitions to obtain intellectual property.

Apple’s interest in Israel began in 2008, when an Israeli Technyon graduate joined the Company in Cupertino. The Israeli high tech employee joined Apple after fullfiling various positions at Intel and IBM. It was during that time that he met Aharon Aharon. Today he serves as Vice Preseident of Microchips in Apple. In the US Patent Registrar there are two patents registered on the Israeli high tech employee’s name, both registered in 2009, during the time he was already employed at Apple.

Doctors on Strike

Magen David Adom Tel AvivTalks between the Israel Medical Association and the Treasury fell short of yielding results last Wednesday, causing fears the doctors’ strike that began last week could continue into the new week. Doctors began a warning strike last Tuesday, treating only emergency cases.

They are demanding higher wages and better working conditions, including an end to back-to-back shifts which leave hospital doctors on duty for more than 20 hours straight.

The ministry said it will publish “guidelines for hospitals and health funds, and set the limits of the strike to help the public.”
The Israel Medical Association responded, “It should be remembered that all instructions about the strike will be issued by the union’s strike committee.”

Globes reported:

“The gaps between the sides are still wide. The Ministry of Finance is prepared to grant doctors a 1% pay hike per year as part of a 5-8 year labor contract. It is also offering a special supplement of NIS 600-1,200 for specialists, doctors in the periphery, and doctors in professions where there is a shortage. The Israel Medical Association is demanding a 50% increase in doctors’ hourly wage, plus changes in employment terms which will amount to an estimated additional 50% pay hike.”

Medical Histadrut Permits Over-the-Counter Ritalin

RitalinThe Ethics Committee of the Medical Histadrut (Federation) will now be permitted to sell the psycho-stimulant drug that treats attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) Ritalin (Methylphenidate) without a doctor’s prescription.

Professor Esther Shohami, a lecturer and researcher in the pharmacological department in the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine, is critical of the decision.

She told Yediot Achronot:

“A person who does not need Ritalin and only takes the medication to improve performance could cause certain things that were hidden inside him to erupt…There are people who arrive at the emergency rooms with psychotic seizures.”

The head of the IMA’s Ethics Board, Professor Avinoam Reches said:

“Everyone has the right to make the most of themselves so long as it doesn’t hurt or endanger others…Though a person may not suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, if Ritalin helps him concentrate then it is allowed. It is the same for memory-improvement drugs. If they help a person with slightly worsened cognitive skills then there is no reason not to give them to him…”

Reches stated, however, Israel will not assist in paying for the drug unless medical need has been proven. Students who need extra help during exams will have to pay the full price for Ritalin, and will not receive financing from their HMOs.

Assuta Tel Aviv Accused of Malpractice and Poor Ethics

Assuta Medical CenterThe Assuta Medical Center in Tel Aviv opened last year wearing an impressive reputation. But lately, that reputation has been blemished.

In a letter last week to Assuta Director General Eitan Hai-Am, Health Ministry Director General Roni Gamzu cited three cases in which women who had been operated on, at the hospital, died. In two such cases, the hospital neglected to notify the ministry and took no less than three months to hand over to the ministry a copy of one of the patients’ files.

Some of the files reflected a lack of surgeons at critical times after operations had been performed.

In one case, a surgeon failed to visit his patient for five days after her operation, despite her dangerous condition. Another time, a woman died after the surgeon decided to go into surgery on a different patient despite being told he was needed to stop the woman’s bleeding.

In a document, the head of the Health Ministry’s medical administration, Hezi Levy, wrote:

“From an analysis of irregular occurrences at Assuta, it is apparent that there are no clear standards as to what is required by the hospital in admitting a patient, in responsibility for following the patient’s whereabouts, the surgeon’s responsibility and the standards required of him and the consultation procedure with various consultants on complex cases.”

For its part, Assuta said:

“We regret that the Health Ministry’s director general is dealing with such an important subject as quality control in such a slanted manner, while acting [despite] a conflict of interest…. It would be good if the Health Ministry’s director general and the head of the ministry’s medical administration … would conduct quality control measures on the entire health care system in Israel, including the hospitals with which they are connected… Assuta would be pleased to cooperate with any such process and of course to contribute its own long years of experience to improve Israeli medicine.”

In a response to Gamzu’s letter, Assuta’s Director General, Hai-Am, alluded to a conflict of interest on Gamzu’s part in his dealings with the medical facility.

“I am convinced that your inquiry, does not, heaven forbid, stem from your prior position…Of course, there is nothing stopping you from clarifying the situation, investigating and holding meetings to satisfy yourself that there is no problem whatsoever in the medical system at Assuta, including anything related to medical supervision and oversight. At the same time, it seems to me that fairness requires that such an investigation would be carried out in an unbiased manner and based on genuine findings.”

Jordan Wants Teva Off Their Turf

Teva (at NASDAQ)A group of Jordanian pharmaceutical companies fear that operations of the Israeli company Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. may affect them should it decide to cooperate with a local company.

Representatives of the Israeli pharmaceutical giant met with local companies in the framework of a Brazilian industrialists’ delegation. The meeting took place on Thursday in Amman under the guidance of the Amman Chambers of Commerce and Industry, provoking anger from bodies which object to the normalization of relations with the Jewish Country.

They who opposed the meeting had learned of it only a short time before it actually took place. They sent faxes and SMS messages to Jordanian companies in protest, but the messages came too late.

Talal Elabu, a spokesman for the Islamic faction in the Jordanian pharmacists’ union, warned Jordanian companies not to give the Israeli firm “a foot inside the Hashemite Kingdom”.

In the anti-Israel periodical al-Sabeel, Elabu was quoted as saying:

“Teva is one of the biggest companies in the world operating in the field of generic drugs. Every step it takes into the Jordanian market will have a negative effect on our national industry. If it enters the market, we can see this as the end of part of our pharmaceutical industry.”

He hinted that in addition to the Amman Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Jordanian Ministry of Health was also involved in hosting the Israeli company, in contravention of the Pharmacists Union guidelines that forbid commerce with Israeli companies.

“We will respond harshly to any company that cooperates with Teva.”

The Valley of Dry Bones?

Recently Dr. Eitan Hai-Am resigned from his post as Health Ministry director-general because of the cabinet’s decision to relocate the emergency room at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center because there are ancient graves found on the site.

Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman said at a committee meeting:

“You’ve been discussing graves for the past two hours. Patients will die as a result of this decision and you are talking about (graves)…Building an emergency room far from the hospital’s main building means killing patients. You do not realize that.”

Demonstration outside the KnessetAround 70 doctors held a demonstration outside the Knesset in protest against the government’s decision. The doctors warned that moving the ward to a new location, as demanded by the haredim, “may end up costing us lives”.

Revising plans to relocate the ER would cost an extra NIS 136 million (about $36 million) and would delay the project for two years and put the facility too far from the hospital’s main building. Netanyahu instructed his director-general, Eyal Gabai, to head a task force which would reassess the decision.

The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that the new task force:

“will determine, together with all the relevant authorities, the possibility of erecting the secure emergency room at Barzilai Hospital in a way in which lives will not be endangered. The task force’s conclusions will be presented immediately after Pesach. Until then there will not be any work done on the facility.”

Outside Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical CenterCommittee members toured the site Wednesday morning with Shuka Dorfman, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority and an aide to Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman.

Dorfman told the committee that he cannot guarantee that there are Jewish graves at the site designated for the new emergency room, “The fact that there was no Jewish community in Ashkelon does not mean that there were no Jews there at all. We cannot reach a decision until we dig in the entire site.”

Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin, who also attended the Knesset meeting, said:

“I personally witnessed how the distance between the different hospital wards resulted in the loss of life…Building the ER at a different location will take at least three years, during which more lives will be lost.”

MK Arieh Eldad, a physician by training, said “a situation has been created in which a few bones are worth 130 million shekels,” he added “Jews know how to transfer Jewish graves from place to place, not to mention bones of Philistines.”

Haredi Web Surfing

The haredi world says that their religious rabbinical sensibilities are being manipulated by businessman and politicians on their Internet sites. The skillful manipulation seriously damages the popularity of haredi Internet sites which offer news items, op-eds and talk-backs focusing on internal ultra-Orthodox matters, spiced with multimedia.

splash-index-computersOfficial rabbinic opinion allows surfing the Internet just for business purposes – but it’s a rule that apparently many are willing to break. According to a recently released study by the Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2008, 55 % of haredim who own a computer also were connected to Internet – this is compared to a national average of 92%.

“B’Hadarei Haredim”, “Haredim”, and “Kikar Shabbat” are the three biggest haredi sites, but there are smaller sites such as “Ladaat”.

They all dedicate themselves to issues such as new rabbinic decrees, interviews with haredi politicians and coverage of demonstrations.
While the haredi print media tends to deal with what is called “hard news” such as political and diplomatic stories, the haredi Internet sites delve into the depths of internal haredi affairs.

The site “Kikar Shabbat” will be posting an op-ed about the dangers of sending young boys to the mikveh, not from haredi mikveh-goers, but from secular perverts who frequent the baths.
The piece was carefully censored by the site’s editorial staff to take out words like “sex”, “backside” and “deviant”. Still, the topic of child abuse is strictly taboo in the haredi printed media.

Unlike the three daily haredi newspapers – Hamodia, Yated Ne’eman and Hamevaser – Internet sites are not aligned with any political or rabbinic leadership. This freedom, so they have discovered, allows them to be much more critical of rabbis, politicians and other haredi figures.

A Strange Story in Eilat

A 44-year-old man from Eilat who posted a suicide note on his Facebook profile was found injured on Wednesday.

The man who for now shall remain nameless is a recently divorced father of a 10-year-old girl. When one of his friends saw his Facebook note on Tuesday they tried to locate him – when their attempts proved unsuccessful, they contacted the local police. Specialist army troops and helicopters were deployed in the manhunt.

Investigators were able to pinpoint the man’s cell phone, which allowed them to trace his car to a riverbed, close to an army base; the phone was in the car but the man was still missing.

The man was finally located early Wednesday morning in a crevice in the riverbed, a distance from the car. He was fully conscious and able to walk, but had two broken ribs after a fall. He was immediately taken to Yoseftal Hospital in Eilat.

The man said that he had no intention of killing himself, despite the post on his Facebook wall. He will be questioned by police once his condition is totally stabilized.

The Future of Jewish Web-Surfing

jewish InternetLast August saw the release of 4Wall LLC’s Jewish Internet Metric Study. It is a project aimed towards helping the Jewish community understand the “hurdles and opportunities” presented by the Internet. Certainly the idea behind this research flies in the face of fliers posted in residential ultra-orthodox areas in Israel which read, “אינטרנט מביא סרטן” or ‘The Internet Brings Cancer‘.

Using the practices of the Mckinsey Consulting Firm to get a close-up look at the “Jewish Web”, 4Wall examined data from search engines, taken from between April and June of 2009 to get an understanding of “Web engagement, traffic, demographics, content architecture and market response.” The study analyzed current traffic volume and the four year change in traffic volume of 32 Jewish search terms.

Researchers were surprised when they found an apparent steady decline in Jewish Web-surfing. The main five terms on the decline of the four year spread included: “Judaica” (-54%), “Reform Judaism” (-66%), “Anti-Semitism” (-74%), “Jewish Dating” (-85%) and the largest drop, “Kabbalah” (-87%).

The five highest searches were: “Jewish,” “Israel,” “Holocaust,” “Jerusalem” and “Kosher”. Still even these terms generate less traffic than they did four years ago. The complete sample set of 32 Jewish terms drew an average decrease in search traffic of 25%.

Five search terms, however, became more popular since 2005, these are: “Rosh HaShanah” (49%), “Chabad” (21%), “Challah” (16%), “Matzah” (10%) and “Yom Kippur” (9%).

Despite the decline in Jewish search terms, though, the study DID find a rise in traffic to Jewish news, blogs, education and general information sites. Actually there was a 62% increase in traffic to Jewish news Websites, just within this past year.

Internet Justice Rewarded To Israeli Tech Master Mind

RefuahYou know when you surf the Web using your trusty Web 2.0 browser, Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer, or whatever it is that you use; and you navigate your way around, by typing in the HTML address of the website, which you would like to visit? Not many know this, but the software which provides the address bar, was invented by an 18 year old Israeli, named Aviv Refuah. All of the Internet giants have been using this software to create their programs for the least ten years. Now, they just may have to start paying up, because the patenting license submitted by an 18 year old Refuah, has just been approved!

While neither Aviv, nor the 55 employees of his company, Netex, have received a penny in licensing proceeds, so far; the value of the company’s stock jumped 144% on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

The 18 year old Refuah submitted his brain child for patenting and really changed the face of web browsing, then went and joined the Israeli Army. Now 10 years later, the 28 year old Israeli is the CEO of a company that is worth $20,000,000. Currently the employees at Netex are working on an idea called, Springo.com. Springo is designed to make web browsing faster and easier, by providing instant links for the hottest social networking, online shopping, news, maps and email sites. The site’s ‘header’ reads: Springo beta/Shortcutting the Web.

We will look to Refuah as an example of Internet justice, now that his U.S. patent has been rightfully claimed. And we will look to Netex as a future spring board of big ideas; and a juicy baby tech company, undoubtedly causing the big corporations to lick their chops.

Israel Gets another Nobel Prize

GERMANY NOBEL CHEMISTRYWe’re still on the ball, guys! Israeli scientist Ada Yonath has won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. She works at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, named after Israel’s first president Chaim Weizmann, who also happened to be a chemist.

She shared the prize together with two American Scientists Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas Steitz. Her work focused on how cells build proteins, which I’d imagine is pretty complicated. My cells make proteins all the time, but when it comes down to it, I really have no idea what they’re up to. I just know it has something to do with ribosomes and tRNA or something.

For a picture of what she found out, check out this computer model. And if you want to read the technical reports on her findings…good luck trying to understand them.

Yonath is the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry since 1964.

protein

Israeli Researcher Close to Alzheimer’s Vaccine

MonsonegoThis man, Dr. Alon Monsonego of Ben Gurion University, could be the face put on a real, workable Alzheimer’s vaccine. Alzheimer’s being one of the scariest, most devastating mental diseases imaginable where you pretty much die before you die since your mind is practically erased, this is very encouraging news. That, and cases have increased by 33% since 2005, with over 36 million people expected to be diagnosed with the disease this coming year.

Alzheimer’s destroys the sufferer’s brain by building up plaque deposits in the brain tissue and replacing grey brain matter with chunks of amyloid-beta protein, which gathers like tartar on your teeth. Except it’s in your brain. It starts with memory loss and progresses all the way to total bodily breakdown as the brain literally melts away.

Monsonego determined that introducing A-beta protein into the brain, the very protein that causes the disease, triggers a natural immune response which can be detected in humans. “Stimulating an immune response to A-beta in these humanized mice not only resulted in a highly efficient clearance of A-beta (plaque) from the brain, but also in a markedly reduced inflammatory reaction,” he said.

More research will be needed to ensure that the vaccine is safe before it can be marketed. A few years ago, an Israeli company had received a patent on an Alzheimer’s vaccine, but the vaccine was determined to be too dangerous for human use. We’ll see if this one is safer.

Cancer Breathalizer Comes out of Technion at Haifa

Wow. These Israeli inventions just keep coming, don’t they? We’ve heard of cancer sniffing dogs, so why not program some artificial intelligence to do the same thing? Revealed this week in Nature Nanotechnology journal, the “cancer breathalyzer” can detect lung cancer with 86 percent accuracy. It can even detect cancers that are not even large enough to show up on X-rays or CT scans. Detecting cancer that early could really save lives. The wonders of affordable technology!

HossamHow does it work? It tests for chemicals that are produced in cancer cells. They are ethylbenzene, decane, heptanol, and trimethylbenzne.

From what I remember from my organic chemistry days, these are all very flammable, but no, the detection does not involve attempting to set a patient’s breath on fire. There isn’t enough of it for that. Decane is a very long chain of hydrocarbons (ten carbons long actually) found in jet fuel, and heptanol is a 7-carbon chain with a hydroxide group at the end, making it an alcohol. Ha, college. The alcohol we drink, ethanol, is a 2-carbon alcohol. Don’t drink heptanol. It won’t make you any more drunk, but it will likely cause you, in drinkable amounts that is, to become dead.

The chemicals are detected using gold nanoparticles and an electric circuit. If the breath contains heptanol etc, the circuit goes off.

The research team was led by Hossam Haick, an Israeli Arab, pictured here, also the inventor of the electric nose.

Haick and his team have patented their device, but will continue to work to perfect it. The device must pass further clinical trials before being put to use. Good job Hossam!

Israeli Medicine at it Again – Heart Repaired after Heart Attack

heartIt has often been assumed that after a heart attack, where by definition a piece of the heart dies for lack of blood and oxygen, the damage is irreparably permanent. However, Israel has done it again, this time by proving that, indeed, it is not.

Over a month ago, OneJerusalem reported an Israeli breakthrough as a possible cure for radiation sickness, as well as a kickstarter pill for a damaged pancreas in diabetics. Now, they’ve done it again by making a dramatic breakthrough in treating heart disease, growing heart muscle in rats’ abdomens and using it to patch the hearts of rats that suffered heart attacks.

The results of the experiment were published this week in an American journal. Many researchers have attempted this approach to fixing damaged hearts in the past but haven’t succeeded in keeping the grafted tissue alive to join with the adjoining heart tissue. The difference in approach by the Israeli team is that instead of transplanting the cells directly to the heart, they implanted them in the abdomen first in order to get a system of blood vessels going. This means the tissue has less of a chance of dying of oxygen deprivation and can attach itself to the vessels of the heart.

The process took 28 days until the two linked up, and more than that, the patch actually improved the damaged heart. The problem with heart attacks is that they usually leave a scar on the heart, which tightens up over time and often leads to another heart attack. The patch prevented the scar from forming.

When do human trials start on abdomen-grown cardiac tissues? HA, we have no idea. But hopefully soon.

Insulin Shots for Diabetics a Thing of the Past?

How’s THIS for the only democracy in the Middle East: Thanks to a Tel Aviv University student named Adi Mor, Insulin Shots may become obsolete very soon.

insulinAdi has developed a tablet-based treatment for Type 1 diabetes, which tests show restores insulin production in animals. The drug is based on something called a Ras protein inhibitor. The Ras protein is found in 30% of all cancerous tumors, and completely disrupts a cell’s normal function. The inhibitor allows cells to continue with business as usual by taking the protein out of the equation. The drug was initially designed for patients with pancreatic cancer but Mor modified it to function for diabetics.

The great news about that is, since the previous version of the drug already passed most of the hurdles for FDA approval, this spin off could skip straight to clinical trials, cutting the wait for the drug to about 5 years.
The same drug is also effective against autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and lupus. The drug helps autoimmune diseases, which occur when the body’s immune system begin to attack the body itself, by increasing the production of a protein called Foxp3 that keeps the immune system cells in check. This is the same thing which keeps diabetes in check.

If it works, Israel chocks up another victory against common worldwide diseases. See our article on radiation sickness for further good news.

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