May 20, 2024

Biomed 2024 Showcases Israel’s Resilient Entrepreneurial Spirit

Original source here.

The need to defend Israeli citizens on multiple fronts for more than seven months has not depressed Israel’s resilience or slowed down its entrepreneurs. A case in point is the 22nd Biomed Israel Conference and Exhibition taking place this week in Tel Aviv.

“In times of uncertainty, our determination to collaborate and solve global unmet needs serves as a beacon of hope and becomes our greatest strength,” say the conference organizers. They expect thousands of attendees, including senior executives, researchers and investors from the global life sciences ecosystem, with many participating as plenary and keynote speakers. The conference will cover a wide range of topics—therapies, diagnostics, medical devices and digital health solutions and their impact today and tomorrow on the health and wellbeing of people worldwide. More than 100 Israeli life science companies, both startups and established businesses, will present and exhibit their innovative products and technologies.

Each May, Biomed Israel is where business executives from large companies and global investors look for health-related innovative products and technologies and learn about what comes next. This year, with the heightened global interest in AI and its potential impact on biotech, they will no doubt gain new insights into what Israel’s AI proficiency means for the future of healthcare. Developing efficient and creative algorithms for the analysis of massive amounts of data have been the hallmarks of Israeli startups’ success in cybersecurity and these skills and expertise are now flourishing in the life sciences, biotech and healthcare. Biomed’s panels and presentations represent the state-of-the-art in this application of Israeli talent and typical “outside-the-box” thinking to new domains.

One such session at the conference, “Liquid Biopsy & Diagnostics: Getting Closer to Transforming Early Detection and Disease Management,” will be moderated by Ofer Sharon, MD, CEO of OncoHost, a startup using AI to bring precision medicine to cancer care, and Yaron Daniely, PhD, General Partner at aMoon, an Israeli HealthTech VC. The session will focus on the emergence of machine learning and AI and how these new technologies help address the gap between developing new treatment modalities and the corresponding biomarkers needed to guide their use in patients.

The keynote for the session, on clinical trials for liquid biopsy (i.e., a lab test done on a sample of blood, urine, or other body fluid to look for cancer cells) will be delivered by Stan Lapidus, the founding CEO of two of the most successful diagnostics startups of all time: Cytyc Corp. (early detection of cervical cancer) and EXACT Sciences (early detection of colorectal cancer). Four of the startups participating in the session have developed innovative diagnostics: MetaSight (diagnostics for diverse diseases through a single blood test); (using urine test for cancer screening); Nucleix (urine test for detecting recurrence of bladder tumors and a blood test for detecting lung tumor DNA circulating in the blood); and Nevia Bio (vaginal secretions analysis for early detection of diseases, starting with ovarian cancer). The other three startups presenting at the session have developed new approaches to precision cancer therapy: OncoHost, Protica Bio, and Curesponse.

This conference session brings together early stage companies with new ideas that they currently working to validate and more mature startups that are already working on “how to commercialize their products,” Sharon, the OncoHost CEO, told me last week. He hoped that the discussion will help highlight “how to build your business proposition,” and how to develop a “pathway to profitability right from the start.”

OncoHost is well on its way to fully commercializing its non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) test which uses machine learning and plasma proteomic pattern analysis to guide immunotherapy decisions by predicting the clinical benefit for specific patients. With its personalized treatment guidance, OncoHost significantly improves overall survival rates and its product is currently sold in over 100 healthcare centers in the U.S.

Going forward, “we are now at a point where we can expand to other indications,” says Sharon. He sees OncoHost AI-driven analysis of proteomics as a broad “platform” that can be applied to other types of cancer. While it took OncoHost researchers about two and a half years to develop their NSCLC algorithm, it takes them around six months to adapt this algorithm to other indications such as melanoma and HPV-related cancers.

In this, OncoHost is part of a rising healthcare movement focusing on patients rather than tumors, says Sharon: “Instead of looking at lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, start thinking about patients and their mutation status and their proteomic status and their transcriptomic status.”

Sharon also predicts another big change in the conventional approach to cancer treatment: “Think about the cancer as a journey, not a point in time.” In the “primitive” state cancer medicine is at today, the tumor is taken and/or treated and then the patient is followed up with various tests to make sure the cancer is not relapsing. “I think that the next big jump in our field,” says Sharon, “is going to be early detection of the relapse. But not only that—understanding why the tumor was relapsing, what is the biological mechanism behind it, and what should be the next intervention.”

As Biomed 2024 organizers say: "The conference will highlight the best of what Israel has to offer in a variety of areas and indications that coincide with the current trends that are of interest to the global life science industry.”