HOW ISRAEL IS TACKLING CORONAVIRUS

Faced with the current outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, we all share the same concern in the VC sphere: how can we manage such an uncertain environment? No one can confidently say how long it will take to contain the virus, and even less when and how fast the global economy will recover.

For the moment, the time has come both for entrepreneurs and investors to determine how the damages could be limited, and to get prepared quickly for extreme scenarios in the short-midterms.

For most of the Israeli entrepreneurs, the next few months will be distressing. In fact, they should expect to face difficulties in raising capital and closing their financing rounds, in making new commercial deals, a decline in customers’ demand, a cut in their budget, a slowdown in hiring and maybe even layoffs, and a lack of visibility in their future cash flows.

At the same time, some other businesses are somehow taking advantage of the opportunities arising from the crisis and adapting their inventions to tackle the negative impacts of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Even before anyone knew that the epidemic would affect the Middle-East, physicians, scientists and entrepreneurs stepped up their efforts to provide support to the most affected countries, especially China.

In this sense, the government announced on 17 March that it will grant Israeli companies an initial amount of NIS 50 million (~$13 million) for the R&D and demos of systems, products or technological solutions designed to cope with the challenges of the Covid-19.

As an inspirational message and to help us look forward, we wanted to highlight these Israeli companies that are innovating and bringing their latest technologies to contribute to the global fight against coronavirus, making our country shine around the world. From prevention to vaccine, from healthcare to education, here is a non-exhaustive list.

SEEDIL’S PORTFOLIO AGAINST CORONAVIRUS

Although SeedIL’s portfolio companies are going through a harsh period, some of them are putting their technologies in support to fight coronavirus’ impacts.

Breezometer that provides real-time information on the air quality with a high level of precision, is working on showing the correlation between poor air quality and Covid-19 sever symptoms, and the impact of indoor air purifiers on the virus spread. In response to this, they are holding an internal cross-team hackathon to explore the subject in more detail. “We aim to be a part of the solution to this global threat” Ran Korber -CEO of Breezometer — said.

Vinesight, an AI-based start-up that detects and fights misinformation on social media, notably against candidates in the US presidential elections, is now working on a solution to stop the propagation of the fake news related to the coronavirus that are flooding the web.

Featured by the Jerusalem Post in a recent article, Dynamo allows parents to make sure that the time spent by their kids in front of their smart phone remains constructive and informative through mini games on geography, maths, language and so on.

As an online learning platform, myQuest allows businesses to teach and train clients and employees online in a simple and effective way using action-based learning strategies. In this context, MyQuest also introduced a free course to help employees work from home more effectively.

Dataloop, a company specializing in accelerating computer vision across all industries, now provides free access to the Dataloop AI platform for hashtag#deeplearning teams working on detecting COVID-19 in X-ray images, MRI scans or any other visual data sets that can help find breakthroughs to fight this virus.

During this particular time of Coronavirus epidemic, Smore has deployed its Corona Template Center dedicated to educators. It allows users to quickly duplicate and send newsletters to parents, students and staff for free regarding the COVID-19 virus. The Israeli ministry of education is also using Smore to share instructions and news with teachers in Israel.

Sweetch, a mobile healthcare platform, enables medical teams to remotely monitor, follow, manage and optimize intervention in coronavirus patients with chronic diseases.

TREATMENTS AND VACCINES

The infected and death toll increases significantly day after day, with more than 250 000 people injured and 10 000 deaths reported worldwide. It’s becoming urgent to find a cure to this disease, and Israel is going along the right road to find it.

For the vaccines, the state-funded MIGAL Galilee Research Institute who has been working on an effective vaccine against poultry coronavirus for the past 4 years is readapting it to create a human vaccine against the new Covid-19, that may be approved and produced in the next 8–10 weeks.

Concerning the treatment of the victims in the hospitals, PulmOne, a desktop plethysmography device that provides pulmonary function testing, could help to determine the priority access of the coronavirus patients to the ventilators.

Developed at Jerusalem Alyn pediatric hospital, CoughSync is a device that helps pneumonia victims unable to cough for themselves to get rid of phlegm, offering safer treatment for coronavirus patients.

The predictive care startup Clew Medical Ltd. developed an algorithm that collects data from emergency care monitoring devices and alerts the medical team to any deterioration in a patient’s condition using data processing and predictive modelling. The system can also monitor patients in remote wards, transmitting information to a central control room staffed by experts who can then provide guidance to endpoint teams.

Moreover, an Israel biopharmaceutical company Kamada is developing a “passive vaccine” (blood plasma) for treatment against coronavirus thanks to plasma collected from recovered people.

HEALTH TECH AND PREVENTION

To avoid the virus transmission from human to human, Soapy launched an iOT powered handwashing microstation, already tested and used in many countries. It provides the right dose of special plant-based soap and water, making sure that users get a clean and effective wash, so that germs can easily be washed away.

Facing the current shortage in supplies these days, Maapilim, an Israeli company that manufactures handcrafted care and beauty products with natural ingredients from the Mediterranean, has launched its range of alcohol gel, soap and hand cream to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

To prevent virus infection among the medical staff, SaNOtize has created a nasal spray solution effective against many multifactorial diseases (bacteria, viruses, fungi) and resistant to antimicrobial drugs.

In the heart of current concerns, Sonovia and Nanosono are developing antimicrobial fabrics, initially intended for hospital linens, that can be used for facemasks and thus not only avoiding the spread of germs among the hospital staff, but killing bacterias and viruses.

Meanwhile, Argaman is nearing commercialization of a reusable, washable, breathable antiviral facemask and Virimask has launched its masks that protects the entire face.

Israel Health Ministry also took part in this effort with the recent launch of the Smartphone app “Hamagen” to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. In fact, the app reveals if a user was, over the previous 14 days, in close proximity to anyone who has been diagnosed with the virus.

HEALTH TECH AND PROTECTION OF THE MEDICAL STAFF AND PATIENTS

As almost 30% of healthcare workers in Wuhan have contracted the disease from patient contact, it appears to be essential to protect them against any risk of contamination in the course of their work.

Named in the TIME Magazine’s 100 best Inventions of 2019, the Temi Robot is a smart personal robot assistant already deployed in hundreds of Asian hospitals, medical centers and nursing homes that helps to minimize human-to-human contact. In the current context, many other features have been added such as taking temperature or carrying food to patients under quarantine.

The largest medical center of the Middle East’s innovation pole, Sheba’s ARC Innovation Center has developed many technologies that help enable the medical staff to safely take care of patients. Among others, researchers have developed the TytoCare, a remote examination device allowing physicians to assess patients without any physical contact.

They also worked out Datos, a fully automated remote care designed to directly connect patients with medical sources during their quarantine, avoiding unnecessary hospital trips.

In addition to that, Sheba collaborated with EarlySense, a contact-free sensor system integrated to the patient’s under-the-mattress, captures a patient’s vital patterns and movement in order to detect potentially signs of respiratory infection.

TESTS AND DIAGNOSTICS

Every countries’ current issue is to quickly and efficiently diagnose the presence of the virus in patients. Tests are still very costly, hard to get and not systematically applied to people showing coronavirus symptoms. Thus, Israeli scientists’ main concern is to produce more and cheaper tests, but also quicker diagnostic devices to better identify contaminated people and manage them to avoid human-to-human contamination.

Sight Diagnostics, in collaboration with the Sheba Medical Center, has developed the OLO system, a rapid and safe blood test, analyzed in an isolated laboratory from the quarantine zone helping to manage the coronavirus patients while avoiding a cross-infection.

The Defense Ministry began trials using Vocalis Health’s COVID-19 voice study, which helps to test voices of Coronavirus patients through a “vocal fingerprint” analysis, enabling medical staffs to conduct remote diagnosis and monitoring. The initial results of the study are expected in less than 6 weeks, the Ministry said.

MeMed is a blood test that helps physicians to detect viral or bacterial infections before the appearance of symptoms, and thus which could slow down the spread of coronavirus.

The Covid-19 Diagnostic Kits for home developed by BATM is expected to detect coronavirus from saliva samples in less than half-an-hour, and will be available for sales in the next 3–4 months first in Israel and then globally.

Magbiosense is also using a rapid diagnosis technology, developed at Bar Ilan university, to launch a Point of Care device for highly sensitive detection of biomarkers and diseases that could detect the coronavirus in about 15 minutes.

RADLogics Inc., an American-Israeli software analytics company that specializes in visual analysis of medical scans using AI is proud to announce, after many successful testing in China and Russia, that it has developed a new identification system for the virus. Thanks to AI, the system can identify in seconds the virus with a simple CT scan, and the results will help doctors to prioritize ventilators.

Finally, Magen David Adom has recently announced the first drive-through facility to test until 15 000 people per day across the country while still sitting in their cars.

NON-MEDICAL TECHNOLOGIES

Following the government’s announcement to shut down schools and to encourage home working due to coronavirus cases, many Israeli companies have developed solutions to work from home, to keep healthy and to entertain kids at home.

Kaltura and Class.me assure the continuity of business operations, conferences and education services.

You can also take advantage of your isolation to learn a new language thanks to MagniLearn, an AI-based language learning software that personalizes your apprenticeship. Finally, the community wellness solution Uniper Care enables older adults to socialize, be more active and engage in a simple and intuitive way.

“When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters — one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.” John F. Kennedy said. The Israeli Chutzpah and the Startup Nation spirit help us, more than in any other country, to regard this crisis as an opportunity to think, to do things that we would have never expected to do before, to reexamine our practices and policies and, above all, to find solutions.

We hope all of us will come out of this epidemic crisis soon, and may the coronavirus make us better and stronger. Stay home and stay tuned, Israel is gonna make the world headlines, this time for good purposes.

More interesting reads on this topic:

To help entrepreneurs go through this harsh period, they’re advised to read “The Founder’s Survival Guide in Time of Covid-19” written by Pear Ventures.

About the usage of data to fight coronavirus: https://www.ft.com/content/19d90308-6858-11ea-a3c9-1fe6fedcca75

Managing Partner at SeedIL Ventures, also founder and manager of SeedIL Club. Expert in seed funding in Israeli startups.

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