Israel's Good News Newsletter to 24th May 20



·         The Israeli Chief Medical Officer of a US biotech reported good trial results of its new vaccine.
·         The first arrival in Israel of a commercial flight from the United Arab Emirates.
·         An Israeli hospital uses ultraviolet light to sterilize rooms from Covid-19.
·         Israeli transportation innovations showcased at EcoMotion 2020 in Arizona.
·         Hidden writing has been revealed on Dead Sea scrolls.
·         Israel celebrates the anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem - online.

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ISRAEL’S MEDICAL ACHIEVEMENTS

Good progress of Pluristem trial. Seven of the eight critically ill coronavirus patients on ventilators, treated with PLX stem cells from Israel’s Pluristem, survived after 28 days.  Only one of those still needed mechanical ventilation - the other five having been discharged from hospital. 10 further patients have now begun treatment.

US Covid-19 vaccine progress. (TY David F) The Israeli Chief Medical Officer of US biotech Moderna reported that company’s mRNA-1273 Covid-19 vaccine successfully produced antibodies on 8 patients. Dr. Tal Zaks received his M.D. and Ph.D. from Ben Gurion University, joining Moderna in 2015.

US patent filed for 8 antibodies. The Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) in Ness Ziona has just completed the patent application process for eight new coronavirus antibodies (reported here previously).

Teva donates medicines for US Covid-19 study. Israel’s Teva is donating the medicines for a US study into the effectiveness of a potential combination coronavirus treatment. The study will evaluate whether combining the antibiotic azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine can prevent hospitalization and mortality from COVID-19.

Bone-grafting cells may treat coronavirus symptoms. While developing its unique treatment for growing human bone grafts, Israel’s Bonus BioGroup (see previously) discovered MesenCure - a new pneumonia treatment that could help coronavirus patients. A study on animals was successful; human trials are planned.

TAU to search for a Covid-19 vaccine. (TY Hazel) Tel Aviv University (TAU) researchers have partnered with Swiss biotech Neovii to find a vaccine against Covid-19. TAU will use their 2015 patented research into the MERS virus to accelerate their work on Covid-19.  https://www.jpost.com/health-science/after-years-studying-coronaviruses-israeli-team-ready-to-develop-vaccine-627882

US approval for vertebrae image analysis. Israel’s Zebra Medical has just received its fifth FDA approval (previous ones reported here) - this time for its Vertebral Compression Fractures (VCF) image analysis product. Zebra’s latest AI solution automatically identifies likely compression fractures from scans.

Results of 10-year Israeli-led gastro study. Dr. Ami Sperber, professor emeritus of Ben-Gurion University, initiated a 10-year epidemiology study of 73,000 patients in 33 countries. It found that over 40% of the world’s population have Disorders of Gut-Brain Interactions (DGBI). The data is vital to gastrointestinal knowledge.


ISRAEL IS INCLUSIVE AND GLOBAL

Israeli women join global tech network. The WomenTech Network, a global movement to promote gender diversity in the technology sector, has set up an Israel chapter. It will officially launch at the organization’s 24-hour virtual conference themed “Women Taking Up Space” on 27th May. It features over 150 speakers.

Pedestrians reclaim Tel Aviv streets. The Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality is adding 11 pedestrian-only areas to key streets around the city as part of an urban policy to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists and restrict car access. It will also allow re-opening restaurants, bars and cafes to place more tables and chairs outside on the streets.

The first commercial flight from UAE. Etihad Airways recently flew the first known direct commercial flight between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel. It brought 16 tons of coronavirus aid for Palestinian Arabs. Sadly, for the Palestinian Arabs, the Palestinian Authority refused to accept it.

Israeli Jewish paramedic saved Muslim boy in US. Yisrael Otmazgin, a paramedic with the United Hatzalah organization in Israel and a reservist in the IDF, donated bone marrow to save a Muslim boy in Michigan USA. The boy’s brothers were only a 50% match, but of 44 million registered donors, only Yisrael was a 100%.

Marking 30 years of ties with Greece. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu held a virtual toast from Jerusalem by video conference with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, to mark 30 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel in Greece. They discussed efforts to resume flights between the two nations.

Iranians seek Israel’s help to emigrate. (TY UWI) The number of Iranians seeking help from Israel has significantly increased, amid the coronavirus pandemic. Many also want to emigrate to the Jewish State. (See here for previous newsletter articles featuring good relations between Israelis and the Iranian people.)

International demand for Israeli courses. The pandemic has delayed the next semester of many overseas universities, but not in Israel. There is now an increased demand for international graduate degrees and other courses in Israel. E.g. see the on-line Open House (24th May) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJ).

Biodiverse Israel. On World Biodiversity Day (22nd May) it is important to highlight that Israel is home to diverse ecosystems and rich biodiversity. It has over 400 nature reserves and urban parks that help protect 2800+ plant species and 650+ animal species. It has rehabilitated rivers and reintroduced rare plants.


SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

UVC lamps to sterilize rooms. (TY UWI) Hadassah hospital’s Dr Boris Orkin has designed an Ultraviolet lamp that kills Covid-19. It is a quick, safe way to sterilize a room previously occupied by an infected patient. The UVC lamp produces no ozone. It is in use at a Bnei Brak hospital and soon at other sites.

Ultrasound test for asymptomatic Covid-19 carriers. Patients of the Maccabi HMO can now undergo a special ultrasound test that scans their lungs and detects effects typically caused by Covid-19. “Focus” is a small, portable ultrasound kit. It has detected infected asymptomatic patients that previously tested negative.

Using military tech to save lives. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has a huge inventory of Healthcare innovations that were repurposed from military technology. It includes a Covid-19 detection breathalyzer, hospital robots, facemask compliance checks, ventilators, protective equipment, and the supervision “cockpit”.

Innovation for urban spaces. Four startups graduated from Highroad Innovation Center’s urban technology launchpad program. Co.ing helps management of community projects. Castory’s construction-tech app detects building defects. Artishok uses AI to improve workspaces and Livv uses AI to replace the real-estate agent.

Heading for the stars. Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) together with US-based Starburst Ventures, graduated the first cohort of their joint accelerator (see here). The three teams completed proof of concepts involving robotics, autonomous operation, and artificial intelligence for space and satellite applications.

Health tech for Jefferson University. In Feb 2019, Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University set up a $1 million fund (see here) for Israeli healthcare technology solutions. 4 Israeli startups won a share - Agamon (AI report analysis), Art Medical (ICU monitoring), Seegnal (medicine risks) and Somatix (AI remote monitoring).

Data communications chips. Israel-based semiconductor manufacturer Xsight Labs is operating in stealth mode. According to the IVC research center, it produces advanced chipsets for the communications market and has received investment funds from both Intel and Microsoft.

Yet another Israeli antiviral disinfectant. The newsletter has reported (here) several new Israeli disinfectants that can destroy Covid-19.  This new one, being developed at Israel’s Technion, will keep the coronavirus at bay with a single spray every few months. Its new polymer breaks down the genetic material of the virus.

Mission to Neptune. The Weizmann Institute and Israel Space Agency are part of “Trident” - a team planning to launch a mission in 2026 to Triton, Neptune’s largest and most unusual moon. Trident is one of 4 finalists in NASA’s Discovery Program, each receiving $3 million to develop their plans.


ECONOMY & BUSINESS


Encouraging investment in startups. Israel is to offer NIS 2 billion (NIS 150 million each) in protection to up to 12 institutional investors who invest in early stage Israeli startups. The program lasts for eight years.

Israel Seed Challenge. The Israeli consulate in Shanghai handed out 1,000 seeds to residents outside the Jewish Museum. They were invited to send in selfies with their growing plants for the chance to win free travel visas to Israel.  https://www.shine.cn/news/metro/2005218568/

Helping Brazil through its Covid-19 crisis. Although Brazil is still suffering greatly during the coronavirus pandemic, Israeli companies are providing help. They are implementing solutions for healthcare. cybersecurity, telecommunications (due to increased online demand), plus several major R&D projects approved last year.

EcoMotion 2020. The EcoMotion 2020 virtual week-long summit has partnered with the newly launched Arizona Israel Trade and Investment Office. It features cutting-edge transportation technologies, smart mobility and autonomous vehicles. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/280582

Driving new transportation technology. Netivei Israel, formerly Israel’s National Roads Company, launched, at EcoMotion, an innovation and strategy division. Its NIS 10 million annual budget will focus on new technologies to handle existing infrastructure, transport management, and initiate extensive research programs.

No more queuing at ToysRUs. Israel’s Shopic is an AI platform that allows consumers to purchase in large retail chains without having to wait in line at checkouts. Its product is based on computerized vision technology that combines applications and barcode scanning systems. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWl3ZFSoj1o

Don’t buy it, rent it. With gyms and restaurants closed, Israel’s TULU has started a niche business renting equipment and household appliances by the hour. They realize customers do not want to clutter up their small apartments with items they only use occasionally. TULU operates several premises in NYC and Tel Aviv.

OurCrowd has 350 vacancies. Israel’s global crowdfunding venture investment platform, OurCrowd reports that it has over 350 vacant positions at its 91 portfolio companies. 90 vacancies were added since the start of April. Locations include several Israeli sites, New York, Toronto, California, Brazil and Barcelona.

More Israeli startups raise funds. Recent startup investments include: Shopic raised $7.6 million; Xsight Labs raised $50 million; Aqua Security raised $30 million; Newsight raised $7 million; Immunai raised $20 million and Nexar raised $52 million.


CULTURE, ENTERTAINMENT & SPORT`

The first Dead Sea Scrolls conference. The Israel Antiquities Authority held the first international conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls from 17-20 May. Over 36 Israeli and international University scholars shared on-line new research and discoveries. Scholars have reconstructed some 950 of the 2000-year-old manuscripts.

Dead Sea Scrolls come alive. Two exciting initiatives involving the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls. The first is a German-Israel project to build a website for digital editions of the pieced-together manuscripts. The second is the recent discovery of hidden writing on fragments of the scrolls that previously seemed blank.

Jerusalem Writers Festival goes digital. The eighth edition of the Jerusalem Writers Festival (May 10-13) was completely digital. It gave literature lovers across the world a chance to catch up with some of their favorite writers from the comfort of their own homes. Subjects included suspense fiction during the coronavirus crisis.

Israeli awards in the Internet “Oscars”. Two Israeli companies did well in the 24th Annual Webby Awards – the “Oscars of the Internet” for online excellence. Leo Burnett Israel won a “Webby” for the Best Use of Stories for its “Eva” stories. MyHeritage also received acclaim for its Tribal Quest project (reported here previously).

Jerusalem’s own “Netflix”. The Jerusalem Municipality has launched project "closeup jlm" – its own mini-Netflix equivalent. It provides a stage to Jerusalem’s artists whilst theaters are closed. The videos are free on the project's website www.closeupjlm.co.il and projected on buildings from 8pm to midnight.

Art through a balcony. Since visitors are prohibited from going inside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the museum brought some of its artwork outside, to be enjoyed from homes and balconies across the city. These included screenings of video art in the evenings in various outdoor spaces.


THE JEWISH STATE


Second Temple underground rooms found by Kotel. A two-millennia-old subterranean system of three rooms has been uncovered near the Western Wall. The rooms, chiseled by hand out of bedrock prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, is the first evidence of everyday life that went underground in the ancient city.

Foundation donates $1 million to music industry workers. Israelis Inbar and Marius Nacht are donating NIS 3.5 million (some $1 million) to freelance music industry workers struggling financially during the pandemic. The Nacht Foundation’s money will benefit musicians, light and sound technicians, and production workers.

Helmsley Trust donates $9 million to nursing program. The Helmsley Charitable Trust has donated $9 million to the Jerusalem College of Technology. It will finance a new building for the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences, which has one of Israel’s largest nursing programs, serving more than 1,000 students annually

Aliya surge during the pandemic. The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is sponsoring a wave in Aliyah amid the coronavirus pandemic. Since Feb, it has sponsored flights for 601 Jewish immigrants, with a further 160 in the past week. The ICEJ is also sharing the cost of post-flight quarantine with the Jewish Agency.

Another 119 Ethiopian immigrants arrive. A plane carrying 119 immigrants from Ethiopia landed in Israel on the Memorial Day for Ethiopians that did not survive the journey to Israel. The new arrivals were greeted by the new Immigration Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, Israel’s first female Ethiopian-born minister.

Back to shul. Religious worshipers returned to Israeli synagogues, mosques and churches for the first time in almost two months, as houses of prayer reopened under new coronavirus guidelines. Up to 300 people can pray at the Kotel (Western Wall) at any one time, which will be determined in an on-line raffle.

Jerusalem Day past present and future. (TY Sharon) Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, celebrates the reunification of Jerusalem, after the Six-Day War in June 1967. These photographs contrast pre-67 with post-67. This year, very few will celebrate outdoors. But, hopefully, next year will be different again.

Jerusalem is flourishing. (TY Jacques) Jerusalem is Israel’s largest city for both Jews and Arabs with over 919,000 residents (569,900 Jews and 349,600 Arabs). Its tech sector now has 405 companies – doubled in just 8 years.  See beautiful, modern Jerusalem in the youtube video, taken from a drone.

Jerusalem is in our hands. The moment in history when in June 1967, Israel recaptured Jerusalem’s Old City.

Time to plant fruit trees. The coronavirus is not preventing Israeli farmers from making the land more fruitful.  If you want to join in the spring planting, please click on the UWI link. Or just watch the video to hear from an Israeli farmer who has planted peach trees near the Gaza and Egypt borders.