An in-heart microcomputer that senses heart failure and directs patients to increase their medication, preventing pulmonary edema. A size-efficient artificial mitral valve that can be delivered trans-catheter and used to treat patients with heart disease. A smartphone-based, digital drug companion that ensures that patients take their medication at the proper time. Prescription digital therapeutics for the treatment of migraines. In 2021, healthcare technology is advancing rapidly, and Israel is at its center.
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ALIVE and thriving: Pushing the boundaries of health technology
ALIVE is one of the few funds today investing in both medical devices and digital health
“We are at a very unique point in the evolution of medical technology, especially with the accelerating convergence of digital health and medical devices,” says Prof. Rafael Beyar.
Few are as qualified to make that assessment as Beyar, a renowned interventional cardiologist, biomedical engineer, and the former director of Rambam Health Care Campus.
Beyar is the co-founder and managing general partner of ALIVE, a $150 million health-tech fund, and has assembled a “med-tech dream team,” headed by Prof. Ari Shamiss, former CEO of Assuta Medical Centers and former director of Sheba Medical Center; Michel Habib, a senior med-tech venture capitalist and former CEO of Hadasit Bio Holdings; and Dudi Klein, former head of ventures and innovation, Assuta Medical Centers. Together, the group invests, supports, and accelerates portfolio companies in their clinical and commercial expansion.
Beyar notes that innovating for the future is an important part of every hospital system – both private and public. “It’s not only treating the patients now – it is looking to the next phase of treatment – not just how to treat them today. For example, Assuta has an innovation arm, which was pivotal in the inception of the ALIVE fund. Innovation becomes very important for the institution itself.”
Beyar says that health-tech funds need to have a thorough understanding of the entire healthcare ecosystem.
“Understanding an emerging company today,” he says, “is not only understanding the technology or the immediate clinical benefit to the patient. It requires understanding the entire atmosphere, including the infrastructure of the hospital as well as an understanding of the economy of the entire healthcare spectrum.”
The ALIVE team, with its extensive experience in all hospital settings, deep technical knowledge, and financial acumen, is uniquely qualified in this area, says Beyar.
There are several factors that differentiate ALIVE from other medical health-tech funds, explains Habib. ALIVE is one of the few funds today that invests both in medical devices and digital health. In addition, it focuses on mid- to late-stage health technology, working with companies that have a more mature and developed vision, with a relatively short time to exit.
Finally, ALIVE is working in conjunction with the Assuta chain of hospitals, the Maccabi health system, and Carilion Clinic in the United States.
“Our medical partners represent the market, and this is a unique asset that we bring to the table when we make investments in those areas. This unique setup of a venture capital fund that is both independent but that has an ecosystem of medical collaborations as part of the fund is very unique in Israel and around the world.”
Habib adds that today, more than ever, healthcare is globally recognized as a critical industry for the future, not less than food security or clean energy.
“Many investments have poured into the development of digital software to advance remote care or remote patient monitoring and management, because of COVID-19 and access restrictions,” he says. “This is just the beginning of a golden age in digital health and other medical technologies and devices, all with the same target of solving medical problems and health challenges that are threatening humanity. The economics of healthcare under COVID and the new needs of how to manage patients and treat them remotely in a more cost-efficient and rapid way are driving a lot of interest into healthcare and innovation in Israel.”
Israel is at the center of the start-up medical nation, says Beyar. There are more than 2,000 companies in Israel working in life sciences, and of those 2,000, more than 600 of them are innovating in the field of digital health.
The term “digital health” is a general term that encompasses many different aspects of healthcare. It can refer to treating patients from home via telemedicine, together with apps that connect the doctor to the patient’s medical records. It can also refer to medical devices that accompany the patient and provide information, such as the in-heart microcomputer mentioned earlier. In addition, big data, the analysis of vast amounts of data from different medical disciplines, such as diabetics, cardiology and oncology, allow doctors to tailor medical treatment for the patient’s individual needs.
Yet another area of digital health is the application of cybersecurity for hospitals to protect their data, operations and medical devices from life-threatening cyberattacks.
CURRENTLY, ALIVE has invested in several companies that are offering promising new technologies, including Medisafe, a company that helps people better manage their medications by sending personalized reminders via a smartphone app; Innovalve Bio Medical, a start-up that is developing catheter-based heart valve therapies; and Magenta Medical, which is developing self-expanding miniaturized high volume pumps for heart-failure patients.
ALIVE is evaluating additional companies for possible investments.
Says Habib, “The companies that we seek are those that have developed the innovation and technology, that now need to focus on the market value-building strategy.”
He adds that these plans require a clear and focused management strategy and high execution capabilities to achieve these goals. ALIVE provides the necessary funding around a very focused business plan that brings the value of these companies from tens of millions to hundreds of millions within two to three years.
“This is the game. This is the equation,” says Habib.
While all of the companies that ALIVE has funded to date are based in Israel, with most having US subsidiaries, the fund itself is global, and its investors are in Israel, the United States and other countries. As part of its global strategy, the fund has been successfully reaching out to the United Arab Emirates both for investments and for collaborative projects with business groups and medical centers in that area.
As Israel and the rest of the world begins to recover from COVID, the ALIVE team is looking forward to making more face-to-face contacts among investors and developers.
Despite the challenges of working in a pandemic year, Habib says, ALIVE has been one of the most active medical technology funds since its initial closing in July 2020.
“When the world will open up, it will increase our capabilities. We need to be supportive of Israeli start-ups because if we don’t do it, no one will. We have a great level of responsibility to our industry. It’s a duty but also an amazing opportunity, as we experience favorable winds for investments.”
By ALAN ROSENBAUM
This article was written in cooperation with ALIVE Israel HealthTech Fund.