This article is part of Jmore’s “Innovation in Health Care” special section.
When it comes to medical and health innovation, Israel is known throughout the world as a leader and a powerhouse. More than 1,000 Israeli companies are in the health care or life-science production fields, and many of them have headquarters or offices in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.
“Since Maryland is the home of the three most important medical research and regulatory agencies – the National Institutes of Health, the [U.S.] Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services – it is a hotbed of research and technological development, and a magnet for global life science firms, including those from Israel,” says Barry Bogage, executive director of the Maryland/Israel Development Center. “We’re thrilled to have just hosted an Israeli medical device and digital health delegation of 10 entrepreneurs for our Maryland/Israel binational accelerator.”
The MIDC is a nonprofit public-private partnership promoting bilateral trade and economic development. It was founded by the Maryland Department of Commerce, Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Trade, and The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore.
Bogage pointed to three Israeli companies in particular that are leaders in health and medical innovation and affiliated with MIDC programming.
Anil Dhingra, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Medispec
Headquartered in Israel with its U.S. base in Gaithersburg, Medispec manufactures and distributes shockwave therapy solutions for urology, cardiovascular and orthopedic applications that are in use at clinics, medical centers and hospitals in 80 counties.
How did you get involved with Medispec?
Dhingra: I was in the right place at the right time when Medispec wanted to start the U.S. division in 1992. It took five years to get FDA approval so during that time, I managed Medispec operations in the Far East.
I moved back to Maryland in 1997 and, with FDA approval, established the company’s permanent base in Gaithersburg and became vice president and chief operating officer.
What attracted you to Maryland?
I was based here, regulatory agencies are here, this area is ripe with a lot of technology, and there are many excellent universities. The FDA is easy to get through the approval process and sites for clinical trials and to do research. We currently have 25 U.S. employees, and about half are based in Maryland.
What has been your experience here?
After establishing a permanent base in Maryland, the MIDC was very helpful. We had no idea where to start, how to work with banks, how to negotiate a line of credit. Barry Bogage has a very good organization that helps Israeli companies. MIDC introduced me to bankers, accountants and many others.
MIDC recently held a workshop for Israeli MedTech companies, MarketReach America. I was surprised to see the support of so many business people who volunteered their time on a Sunday morning in Baltimore to brainstorm with these new companies to determine the best ways for each of them to enter the U.S. market.
You can hire really good, quality people in Maryland, people who are able to do research, conduct clinical trials and work with the FDA. There is also a savings in cost in travel-time interacting with governmental agencies. This is a very good area for any health care start-up to set up shop to do business in the U.S. market.
Eugene Dicker, CEO, DermaDetect
Based in Tel Aviv, DermaDetect is a two-year-old med-tech company that is developing a smartphone app to enable anyone with a skin disorder the ability to access immediate potential solutions without necessarily visiting a dermatologist or clinic.
According to DermaDetect, most people will develop a skin abnormality during their lifetime and more than 30 percent will have a skin disease requiring medical attention, but 15 percent won’t get it, either because of an incorrect diagnosis or by waiting too long.
What are the benefits of DermaDetect to physicians and health care providers?
Dicker: For physicians and nurse practitioners, DermaDetect automatically provides them with clinical insights in order to enable more comprehensive and accurate outcomes, [and] much faster. For health care providers, we help manage the ever increasing workload without compromising quality of care, minimizing readmissions and costs.
When do you plan to open an office in Maryland?
After we receive an FDA certification. We are aiming for February 2020
We’ve developed a technology that could drastically benefit the U.S. market. Currently we’re operating in Israel only, working with two of the biggest HMOs in Israel. We’ve learned that the Baltimore area’s health care organizations are known as open for innovative medical solutions and are willing to cooperate with us, even in such an early stage.
What about this area as a resource for potential investors?
Absolutely. Almost two years ago, we started our journey and raised $820,000 pre-seed in Israel. Today, we’re in the process of raising a seed round of $2.2 million in Israel and the U.S. and we aim to raise our A-round in less than two years in U.S.
How have you been involved with MIDC?
I participated in MarketReach America. I personally think the recent MarketReach America is an amazing initiative. It has helped us to better understand the U.S. market and to change our strategy accordingly.
Hilik Harari, CEO, GaitBetter
“Our main message is not about the company or innovation,” says Harari. “We want to tell people that walking safely and eventually falling is all about the brain. We know that fall prevention is not only about your physical condition but also about your brain function. Train your mind and body together because the sum of the two is greater than the two individually.”
To improve mobility and reduce the risk of falls, the Haifa-based GaitBetter has added virtual reality to the use of common treadmills.
How does GaitBetter work?
Harari: We add a virtual reality headset for use on any treadmill, making it a powerful motor-cognitive device. We have strong evidence that our VR training is twice as effective in preventing falls as motor training by itself. GaitBetter is best used on the preventive side, before someone falls.
How will GaitBetter be used?
We have many studies running in Israel where more than 15,000 training sessions have taken place in hospitals, medical centers and clinics. We are finalizing our A-round of financing of between $1.5 million and $3 million so that, with FDA approval, we can start operating in the United States in early 2020.
How does Maryland fit into your plans?
We have chosen Maryland as the base of our U.S. operations because it is close to Washington and the FDA and a wonderful ecosystem of clinical settings, potential outpatient rehabilitation clinics, large networks in private settings, chains of rehab clinics. At the end of the day, we treat the elderly and there are relatively high concentrations of elderly people in the state and neighboring Pennsylvania.
There are also universities in Baltimore and other parts of Maryland, as well as in Washington, where we can continue to do research studies.
In addition, Maryland has a very rich and supportive Israeli and Jewish support system, which is very important to us. MIDC’s MarketReach America has introduced me to Maryland and Baltimore people with whom we can work as investors, prospective customers, academics and it’s a good place to locate our first office.
Peter Arnold is a Silver Spring-based freelance writer.