By Ethan Liebnick
With COVID-19 cases climbing around the world, the battle against the coronavirus spread seems to be a losing one. And yet, scientists everywhere are working to develop a vaccine with Israel already showing promising work. As a world leader in biotechnology, Israel reacted quickly and swiftly to the viral threat. By supporting higher learning at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University, the Ben Gurion University of the Negev and more, the country has created over 1,400 life science companies with Israel’s MIGAL Research Institute at the forefront of the news.
As an example of investing in the future, Israel’s Ministry of Science & Technology has funded the MIGAL Research Institute for the past four years as they’ve worked to find vaccines for impending diseases, specifically avian coronavirus Infectious Bronchitis Virus (IBV). With 90 Ph.D.s and 190 researchers, the MIGAL Research Institute is internationally recognized for its interdisciplinary contributions to technology and health as the top recipient of funding from the Israeli Science and Technology Ministry. Through working on a new protein expression vector to spread antigens to the body at a faster rate than normal, this framework could be used to stop coronavirus and has long-term effects on how we create new vaccines. Although this is not an exact cure for COVID-19, the MIGAL Research Institute has essentially created the proper framework for Israel to produce a vaccine in the near future. However, until the vaccine is available, fellow Israeli biotech company Pluristem is using a specific form of cell therapy to treat high-risk patients. This potential cure works to strengthen the immune system response rather than attack the virus directly. These two companies prove the technological entrepreneurship of Israel is fast moving and goal oriented.
Despite the incredible responses from these two Israel biotech companies, over 80 Israeli companies are working independently to not just find cures to the virus, but ways to treat and deal with existing conditions as well as protection and prevention of the coronavirus. With hospitals around the world being overwhelmed by an influx of patients, Israel is continuing to place an emphasis on remote monitoring of patients. This ensures that patients’ vitals are being monitored while doctors help with higher risk cases. As the well deserved nickname, Start-Up Nation, it is no surprise that Israeli companies are stepping up with cutting-edge solutions, like using voice samples to accurately determine the risk of a patient in contracting the virus. As our day-to-day life changes as more countries and companies adapt to prevent the spread and effects of the virus, Israel will continue to find ways to address the issue and create solutions on a global level.
Ethan Liebnick, a senior at Plano West, is a 2019-2020 StandWithUs High School intern. He is the son of Nicole and Matthew Liebnick, a member of the executive council of Plano West’s student congress and a past president (godol) of Morton Lewis AZA.