Archive For The “Israeli Medicine” Category

First Volunteer Inoculated For COVID-19 Clinical Trial In Israel

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First Volunteer Inoculated For COVID-19 Clinical Trial In Israel

Israel’s clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by the government-run Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) kicked off on Sunday morning with the first Israeli volunteer, 26-year-old Segev Harel, getting the injected dose at the Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv.

The hospital released a short video of Harel on Saturday night saying he was feeling healthy and feeling confident. He also said his participation was “a great privilege.”


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“So many people have been harmed by the coronavirus, from a health perspective, mentally, and mainly economically, and if this is the little contribution I can make – to participate in this [trial] and bring hope that we are on a path to end this pandemic – then I’ve done my part,” said Harel, a resident of Kibbutz Sde Nehemia in northern Israel and an undergraduate student at Ruppin College in Netanya.

Harel added that he was “certain” everything will go well.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, also the alternate prime minister, met with Harel at the hospital and praised the start of the trial.

“The true exit from the coronavirus crisis is in the development of vaccines,” said Netanyahu in reference to Israel’s gradual emergence from a second nationwide lockdown that is currently underway.d

“Therefore, this is a very important day, a day that gives a shot of encouragement. We just met Segev, a 26-year-old Israeli man, who volunteered to be the first on the frontline and receive the experimental vaccine that was developed here by the talented scientists at the IIBR. We wish success during these and the latter stages. With G-d’s help, we will have a vaccine made here in Israel. This is a very big thing.”

The clinical trial on human participants with the Brilife vaccine developed by the IIBR will unfold over several months, in three distinct phases.

Harel and another participant at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem will have received the first vaccine shots on Sunday, after which the first phase will begin with the participation of 80 healthy volunteers (aged 18-55), designated by Sheba and Hadassah (40 in each center).

Each participant will receive an injection (vaccine or placebo), and will be discharged after a few hours of supervision and monitored closely over a three-week period.

Scientists will look for any possible side effects and monitor for antibodies to the virus. The development of antibodies will indicate a response in the patients who received the vaccine.

The second phase will include extensive safety tests with 960 healthy participants over the age of 18. This phase is expected to start in December in several medical centers across the country.

In this phase, scientists will aim to complete safety precautions, determine the effective dosage for the vaccine, and further prove its effectiveness.

The first COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Israel Institute of Biological Research is administered by nurse Hela Litwin to volunteer Segev Harel, 26, at the Sheba Medical Center, November 1, 2020. Photo: Ministry of Defense Spokesperson’s Office

In the third and final stage, up to 30,000 volunteers will take part in the trial for the vaccine.

This stage is subject to the success of the two previous phases and is scheduled to begin in April/May. Should all three phases go well, the vaccine may be approved for mass use, according to the ministry.

Last week, the Defense Ministry said the IIBR has produced more than 25,000 vaccine doses for the first and second phases of the clinical trial and can undertake large-scale production of vaccines – approximately 15 million doses.

The Ness Ziona-based research institute has been at work since February, when first tapped by Netanyahu, to develop a vaccine for SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, with several breakthroughs along the way.

In summer, the institute’s scientists said that their vaccine candidate used vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), an animal virus that does not cause disease in humans, and in which the spike protein was replaced with that of SARS-CoV-2. VSV is also the basis for a separate, effective vaccine against the Ebola virus.

The vaccine, which the scientists called a recombinant VSV-ΔG-spike or rVSV-ΔG-spike, had been tested on a number of animal models, including golden Syrian hamsters, mice, rabbits, and pigs, and was shown to be safe and well-tolerated, and able to bind and neutralize SARS-CoV-2 efficiently

The vaccine’s commercial name is Brilife, a combination of “Bri” which alludes to the Hebrew word for health, “briut,” “il,” for Israel, and “life.”

Covering all bases

While local vaccine development is ongoing, Israel also has a number of agreements with governments and companies working on separate COVID-19 vaccines including Moderna, a Massachusetts-based firm that was the first to develop an experimental vaccine that went into trial quickly.

Moderna recently wrapped enrollment of some 30,000 participants for its Phase III trial and may begin seeking regulatory approval next month.

Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel has been in talks with the US, Germany, India, Russia, and Italy about COVID-19 vaccines and promised to work to procure doses -whether locally or from aboard – for everyone.

“With the independent production that has been developed here or through the importing of vaccines from abroad, we will bring enough vaccines for all citizens of Israel. Then we will be able, at long last, with G-d’s help, to be free of the pandemic. I do not think that this will happen immediately but I do tell you that I already see the light at the end of the tunnel – I see vaccines in the State of Israel,” he said.

Netanyahu added that he is looking to set up a non-profit enterprise for the permanent production of vaccines in Israel as a part of national security “just as we do with F-16 squadrons or any other thing that is essential.”

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Israeli BioLab to Begin Clinical Trial of New Covid-19 Vaccine

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Israeli BioLab to Begin Clinical Trial of New Covid-19 Vaccine

The government-run Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) has received final approval to launch clinical trials with human participants for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate on November 1, the Israeli Ministry of Defense announced on Sunday.

The Health Ministry and the Helsinki Committee, a medical panel comprised of physicians and advocates that weighs research approval for human experiments, gave the okay for trials to start after “rigorous preparations and R&D,” said the Ministry of Defense.


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The newly announced commercial name for the Israeli-developed, single-dose vaccine is Brilife, a combination of “Bri” which alludes to the Hebrew word for health, “briut,” “il,” for Israel, and “life.”

“We are now beginning a crucial phase [in the development of the vaccine]: the clinical trials phase,” said Professor Shmuel Shapira, the director of IIBR. “I believe in the abilities of our scientists and I am confident that we can produce a safe and effective vaccine.”

The institute said that, to date, it has produced more than 25,000 vaccine doses for the different phases of the clinical trials and has adapted a device for large-scale production of vaccines – approximately 15 million.

The Ness Ziona-based research institute has been at work since February, when tapped by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to develop a vaccine for SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, with several breakthroughs along the way.

In summer, the institute’s scientists said that their vaccine candidate used vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), an animal virus that does not cause disease in humans, and in which the spike protein was replaced with that of SARS-CoV-2. VSV is also the basis for a separate, effective vaccine against the Ebola virus.

“In this way, the body thinks it has been infected with the real [corona] virus, but actually it’s just a ‘costume,” said Dr. Hadas, a vaccine developer at the IIBR whose full name cannot be revealed, in a video put out by the institute. “So the body develops antibodies against the genetically engineered virus, but in the moment of truth, the body can identify, bind, and neutralize the virus.”

The IIBR’s vaccine is based on an existing virus (VSV) in which the spike protein was replaced with that of SARS-CoV-2. October 2020. Photo: Ministry of Defense Spokesperson’s Office

The vaccine, which the scientists called recombinant VSV-ΔG-spike or rVSV-ΔG-spike, had been tested on a number of animal models, including golden Syrian hamsters, mice, rabbits, and pigs, and was shown to be safe and well-tolerated, and able to bind and neutralize SARS-CoV-2 efficiently.

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Israel about to go on 2nd Lockdown, but will it work?

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Israel about to go on 2nd Lockdown, but will it work?

If all goes as planned this Friday, Israel will become the first developed country to impose a second nationwide COVID-19 lockdown to try and curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. While the prime minister announced earlier this week that rising infection rates leave no choice but to initiate another shutdown, a new study by the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research shows the coronavirus chaos in Israel won’t abate until there’s a national coronavirus strategy.


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“We’re stumbling into the second lockdown instead of entering it with clear entrance and exit strategies. The government has not put forth any coherent policy detailing their long term strategy for dealing with a pandemic that will continue to be highly contagious and deadly,” pending a vaccine, Professor Dan Ben-David, an economist at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Public Policy and head of the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research, tells NoCamels.

Israel has created an awkward name for itself during this COVID-19 health crisis. On the one hand, this country’s entrepreneurs are wowing the world with adaptive tech solutions for the healthcare arena that can be found in use in hospitals the world over.

On the other hand, the country’s lack of strategy for navigating this deadly virus has become a warning for others around the world as to what happens when you don’t have a plan and try to return to “normal” too quickly.

Israel’s first coronavirus lockdown

In late February, the first novel coronavirus cases were recorded in Israel. In March, Israel became one of the first countries hit by the coronavirus crisis to go into a national lockdown. The news showed horrors in Italy, Spain and then New York as they battled against the novel coronavirus.A graph by the Shoresh Institution showing the daily deaths from COVID-19 and the percentage of daily positive results from COVID-19 tests in Israel.
“We can’t avoid a worldwide pandemic. When we closed the country in the spring, we had the opportunity to prepare for the future. We knew that there wasn’t going to be a vaccine until the end of the year, at least, and we knew that the virus wasn’t going to get any less infectious,” Ben-David tells NoCamels. “We could have planned for this in advance.”

In April, the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research put out an outline of how Israel could utilize its unique features to get rid of the virus within its borders. A number of other “exit strategy” plans were penned by scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs on how to emerge from the lockdown.

According to the report, Israel’s health system entered the COVID-19 pandemic with the developed world’s most overcrowded hospitals, a small healthcare workforce, and the highest mortality rates from infectious diseases than other developed countries due to continued neglect and mismanagement of its healthcare system.

“In the first wave, we reacted as we did because we had no choice. Not only are we the number one country in the developed world in terms of people dying from infectious diseases, we’re 69 percent above the number two country, we’re on a different graph altogether,” Ben-David says.

“When this thing hit, this is the Uber of infectious diseases, we’re already in a terrible situation in this regard, we had no choice but to clap down before we outdid Italy.

But while the citizens of Israel stayed at a social distance, for the most part, the government acted against their own regulations.

“When people saw on the news the alternative is Italy, Spain, New York, it was clear why we need to be closed down. But we also saw during Passover that the country’s leaders are ignoring the same rules they force on us, so maybe it’s not so serious,” says Ben-David.

The “yihye beseder” (“it will be okay”) attitude, so deeply rooted in Israeli culture and which is anything but comforting, started to creep back into the daily conversation – both from a governmental point of view and amongst citizens. “There’s no reason to believe ‘yihye beseder’ but that’s the way things operate,” says Ben-David.

The Shoresh report shows that 198 people died from COVID-19 in April, and that number fell to 69 in May and 35 in June. Today, there are over 3,100 new recorded infections daily and over 1,100 people have died of the disease. More than 500 people are currently in serious condition.

“When we closed things down, that was our opportunity to prepare and get rid of the virus within Israel. That was the first thing that should have been done and didn’t get done. And then on May 26, when things were at their best, the prime minister went out and said, ‘go enjoy life.’ There was no contingency plan. The virus didn’t stop becoming contagious or deadly,” he says, noting in the report that following the prime minister’s public green light for the population to return to its daily routines infections shot up, reaching eight percent in August. Unsurprisingly, compliance has also changed and it will be interesting to see how the population reacts to a second lockdown.

“The situation has changed in the second wave. While predominantly Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] municipalities are still among the most infected municipalities, they have been joined at the top of the distribution by many Arab-Israeli municipalities with very high infection rates,” write Ben-David and Prof. Ayal Kimhi, authors of the Shoresh study, Anarchy at the helm with COVID-19 on deck.

“The difference between the first and second waves may be rooted in behavioral changes. The complete lockdown during the first wave yielded a sense of emergency resulting in higher compliance with government orders almost everywhere – except the religious boarding schools – including in the Arab-Israeli sector. The evidently-too-rapid exit from the lockdown alongside the very inconsistent and contradictory government policies and statements has since led to considerably less compliance during the second wave. This was particularly true in the Arab-Israeli sector, with mayors of several large Arab-Israeli towns publicly testifying to this effect,” the authors write.

‘Governmental anarchy’

The study’s authors warn that Israel is on the verge of self-implosion because of what they call government anarchy.

“Israel’s governmental anarchy is occurring during one of the worst crises in Israel’s history. Cabinet meetings, held weekly even during periods of wars, are being habitually canceled week after week. No budget for the country is in the offing while the country’s top civil servants from across the spectrum, from the economic through the health to the law enforcement and judicial systems are coming under increasing personal attacks by the very politicians who appointed them,” they write.

Case in point was the July appointment of Prof. Ronni Gamzu, CEO of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, to lead the country’s efforts in combatting the virus – five months after the COVID-19 outbreak in Israel. “The government is still unwilling to define what powers and what authority Gamzu has to actually deal with the epidemic. As a result, there is an incessant flow of contradictory directives by leading cabinet ministers – not to mention persistent calls for his resignation from top politicians from the ruling party – that undermine his ability to manage the government’s efforts,” reads the report.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Sheba Medical Center in February 2020, as the hospital prepares to care for 11 Israelis back from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship. Photo: Haim Zach / GPO
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Sheba Medical Center in February 2020, as the hospital prepares to care for 11 Israelis back from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship. Photo: Haim Zach / GPO
SEE ALSO: Israeli Data Scientist Suggests ‘End of Coronavirus Peak’ Is Near

“We don’t know where our leadership wants to go, how they want to get there – and there are some fairly clear indications that for the past six and a half months since this [pandemic] hit Israel, the person leading the country has extraneous interests that override any of his thinking in this regard,” Ben-David tells NoCamels.

“So we’re like a national pinball machine, bouncing from one directive that smacks us to the next, and hoping that someone will save us from Israel’s worst governance vacuum during its worst health crisis and economic recession on record,” he charges.

And the ostensibly comforting catchphrase “yihye beseder” is not encouraging.

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Israeli Data Scientists Believe The End ‘of the peak’ of Coronavirus is Near

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Israeli Data Scientists Believe The End ‘of the peak’ of Coronavirus is Near

An Israeli data scientist from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has suggested that the “end of the coronavirus peak” is just weeks away.

Professor Mark Last, a BGU professor at the Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering and head of the university’s Data Science Research Center, tells NoCamels that a data model he created based on both daily deaths attributed to coronavirus, reported by the Israeli Ministry of Health, and published results of serological tests (tests that look for antibodies) indicates that, in a few weeks, coronavirus infection rates will begin to decline. Furthermore, according to the model, another lockdown is not necessary and herd immunity is imminent.


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“Soon we should have enough people in the population who were at some stage infected with the coronavirus and these people have antibodies,” he says. “We should have enough people to cause a decline in the daily number of new infections. That’s the thing — according to my model, it should happen within the next few weeks. I cannot say exactly when, it’s an estimation, but that’s the forecast.”

When pressed further, Prof. Last said it could happen as soon as two to three weeks, but he cannot give an exact time.

“I cannot say exactly in 10 days, it’s going to happen. I don’t have such accurate data.”

“Lockdown is the perfect solution to stop the pandemic if you can keep it forever,” Prof. Last says, “But every day of a lockdown has some kind of cost associated with it. And the benefit would be very short because after it ends, everything goes [back to normal], and then we have more cases when things reopen.”

Israel was one of the first countries hit by the coronavirus crisis to go into a national lockdown for about five weeks between March and April before reopening in May. But during the lockdown, the country’s unemployment rate skyrocketed to over 25 percent, with over a million people out of work at the time.

Herd immunity
Herd immunity occurs when a large percentage of the population becomes immune to a disease, which makes the spread of disease from person to person unlikely, according to the Mayo Clinic.

According to his calculations, Prof. Last suggests that herd immunity is around the corner because “we need 1.16 million people with antibodies in order to achieve herd immunity and we are very close to that number.”

Last says that a report based on tests conducted by a Health Ministry team, initial serological tests indicate that only one in 10 of Israel’s coronavirus cases is actually confirmed.

“Their conclusion was that the ratio of the actual number of infected people to the number of confirmed cases is 10 to one,” he explains, “So you can take the total number of confirmed cases reported this morning, something like 114,000 and you multiply it by 10 and you get an estimated number of people with antibodies of the total number of people who were infected.”

He says this assumption is based on international research that has certain populations being given antibody blood tests to show who had the virus at some point.

Prof. Last noted that international research suggests that the number varies between five and 10, according to antibody blood tests that show who had the virus. Thus, he says Israel’s one in 10 ratio is quite reasonable.

“If the number is larger, it means that there is a larger amount of people who are infected and probably they have no symptoms, they’re not aware of the fact that they’re infected,” he says.

While no one can know the actual number of infected cases in the country unless the entire population is tested every day, Prof. Last says that according to these numbers “we now have slightly above one million people with antibodies in Israel and we need at least 1.2 million.

Mortality rate
Prof. Last’s data model predicts the country’s mortality rate, the number of daily death cases attributed to COVID-19, and it can be evaluated by comparing a predicted cumulative number of deaths in Israel, and the actual number.

“In my testing experiments, I found out that this model stays pretty accurate for a relatively long period of time. I’m talking about at least a few weeks and even longer in Israel. “We have excellent numbers. It’s not related to my model, but generally we have excellent numbers in terms of the mortality rates for criticially ill patients.”

While the numbers may seem high — the death toll in Israel currently stands at 922, according to figures from the Health Ministry (Hebrew) — Prof. Last admits that his data model has been fairly accurate.

“On August 4, my model predicted 929 death cases by Aug. 31,” he said.

Prof. Last also says that Israel’s health system has managed to keep the percentage of deaths from COVID-19 to under one percent, out of the total number of confirmed cases, while other countries had higher rates such as Italy with 16 percent and Sweden with 14 percent.

“The average daily mortality rate is not going up for probably about two months now,” he explains. “If you look at the so-called number of confirmed cases, it is also very stable.”

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Health announced that it had undercounted Israel’s COVID-19 deaths and that it had failed to include 53 fatalities at senior living homes during July and August in its official count.

For Prof. Last, this was a good sign. He had believed that there was some strange discrepancy, which gave him doubts about the reliability of his model.

“Then, one day, they announced that actually some cases were not reported initially, and I put the new numbers on the curve. And I see that the predictions and the actual numbers aligned together,” he tells NoCamels, “After they corrected the reporting, my model became much more accurate.”

Prof. Last remains cautiously optimistic about the COVID-19 pandemic in Israel.

“I don’t think we need any significant change in the current policy, in the current restrictions,” he tells NoCamels, “But we should get used to these restrictions because probably we’ll have to live with these restrictions for quite some time.”

“We are heading in the right direction,” he adds in a BGU statement, “but it is important not to relax our restrictions or get overconfident.”

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Experimental Alzheimer’s Drug May Help Kids With Autism

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Experimental Alzheimer’s Drug May Help Kids With Autism

Israeli scientists are suggesting that an experimental drug for Alzheimer’s disease may help children with autism, according to an extensive study published last month in the academic journal Translational Psychiatry.

The study was led by Professor Illana Gozes of the Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry at Tel Aviv University and included researchers from Tel Aviv University, the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer Hospital, and research institutions across Europe (the biotechnology institute BIOCEV in the Czech Republic, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, the University of Antwerp in Belgium, and the University Hospital Centre in Zagreb, Croatia).


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Prof. Gozes is a leading neuroscientist and an expert in the field of tauopathy (one of the leading pathologies in Alzheimer’s disease), a pathology characterized by deposition of the protein Tau in the brain. It is found in neurodegenerative diseases, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease.

The study in question looked at protein deposits found in the postmortem brain of a seven-year-old child with autism from Croatia. The child had ADNP syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum characterized by intellectual disability, and impaired communication and social interaction. The syndrome causes a deficiency or malfunctioning of the ADNP protein, which is essential for brain development.

Twenty years ago, the activity-dependent neuroprotective protein ADNP was discovered and characterized in the laboratory of Prof. Gozes. She and her team learned that ADNP is vital for brain formation and presents one of the leading mutated genes that cause ADNP syndrome, a condition within the autism spectrum. Prof. Gozes also linked ADNP to Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.

“ADNP protects against electrical blockades and we need the electricity in order for our brain to function. We realized it might be a very important protein and when we [took it out] of animals, there was no brain. So it is essential for the formation of the brain,” Prof. Gozes tells NoCamels.

It was only after the ADNP protein was created that researchers realized that autism could be determined by genetics. That was when they discovered that if a child is born with one mutation in a very critical gene, it can cause autism.

“When ADNP syndrome was discovered some six years ago,” Prof. Gozes says, “suddenly, ADNP became a leading gene to cause the de novo mutation [genetic alteration] which is found in children within the autism spectrum.”

Upon examining the brain of this seven-year-old child and comparing it to the brain of a 31-year-old adult with no preexisting conditions, the researchers found deposits of the tau protein in the child’s brain tissues.

“When we compared the postmortem ADNP syndrome brain tissues to tissue from the brain of a young person without ADNP syndrome, we found deposits of the tau protein in the ADNP child, a pathology that characterizes Alzheimer’s disease,” Prof. Gozes explained in a Tel Aviv University statement.

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Israeli Researchers Set To Begin Human Trials of COVID-19 Vaccine

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Israeli Researchers Set To Begin Human Trials of COVID-19 Vaccine

Israeli researchers from the government-run Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) expect to begin human trials for the COVID-19 vaccine candidate they developed after the high holidays this fall.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with IIBR Director-General Professor Shmuel C. Shapira on Thursday, as well as with heads of the IIBR research team and “congratulated them on the progress in developing a vaccine against the coronavirus, ahead of the stage of human trials, which will start after the fall holidays,” the Government Press Office said in a statement.


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“I am pleased to hear about the progress and I want to congratulate you on it. Continue on this path with the maximum speed that you deem scientifically sufficient,” Netanyahu said, according to the announcement.

Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz visited the Ness Ziona-based research institute on Thursday, the Jerusalem Post reported.

“Experiments on humans should begin after the Tishrei holidays,” Gantz was quoted as saying in reference to the first month of the Hebrew calendar when the high holidays begin. “The human trials will be conducted in collaboration with the Health Ministry…and according to all the processes required in terms of medical safety,” Gantz added.

Professor Shapira said the institute developed “an excellent vaccine” over the past six months. During the call with Netanyahu, he held up a vial and said: “This is the first vial of the vaccine.”

Netanyahu instructed that evaluations begin on the establishment of vaccine production in Israel “so that Israel will have safe and effective vaccines for all residents of Israel by the end of the first quarter of 2021.”

He also instructed that an outline be drawn up to allow other countries to purchase vaccine options from Israel. “The financing thus obtained will be able to assist in the establishment of production capabilities and processes,” he said, according to the announcement.

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Israeli-Made Masks Offer Best in Protection Against Coronavirus

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Israeli-Made Masks Offer Best in Protection Against Coronavirus

This article was first published by The Times of Israel and is re-posted with permission.

An Israeli scientist has invented a mask that “seals” the face and, according to testing, blocks 99.25 percent of coronavirus-sized particles, he said.

Noam Gavriely helped the Israel Defense Forces develop gas masks during the Iraq War, and admits that his new product, ViriMASK, resembles some wartime protection devices and doesn’t look attractive. But he said that in terms of protection, it offers a significant improvement over the N95 masks, which are meant to filter at least 95 percent of airborne particles, and are widely seen as the best currently available option.


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Gavriely, ViriMASK CEO, told The Times of Israel: “Unlike other products, this is sealed all around the face, like gas masks and diving masks. And the filter is much more dense than the N95 mask and surgical masks, meaning that fewer particles penetrate.

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Israeli Researchers Make Hand Sanitizer Out Of Waste

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Israeli Researchers Make Hand Sanitizer Out Of Waste

As the global coronavirus health crisis continues to grip the world, the World Health Organization has recommended that individuals regularly and thoroughly clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub, as part of their hand hygiene.

The ongoing pandemic has led to a surge in demand for alcohol (ethanol) based disinfectants, such as alcogel and septol, in the form of hand sanitizer.


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Israel, for its part, has no local ethanol production and is completely dependent on the annual import of tens of thousands tons of ethanol. As the crisis continues, concerns have emerged of shortages of hand sanitizer in Israel as a result of quarantine conditions in other states, global demand, and import limitations.

TAU team

For the first time, a groundbreaking development from Tel Aviv University researchers enables the local production of ethanol in Israel, from plant and paper waste, in a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way.

The process, which uses a novel lignin degradation method could significantly cut back on production costs and lead to a decrease in the use of edible plant sources, help protect the environment, reduce the use of various pollutants, and greenhouse gas emissions, due to environmental-friendly waste processing, Tel Aviv University (TAU) said in a statement.

Lignin is a complex macromolecule important for the formation of cell walls of plants. It exists in all types of agricultural waste.

Professor Hadas Mamane, head of Tel Aviv University’s environmental engineering program, calls the process a “game-changer” in the way that ethanol would be manufactured in Israel and remote countries where the production of ethanol is difficult.

This method was developed as part of the joint research of Prof. Mamane from the TAU School of Mechanical Engineering, Prof. Yoram Gerchman from the Oranim Academic College – Haifa University, and TAU PhD students Roi Perez, Yan Rosen and Barak Halpern.

The team at TAU has been working on the process of recycling waste and converting it into ethanol for the past five years, Prof. Mamane tells NoCamels, but the development of local ethanol production has become more significant with the prevalence of COVID-19.

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Mayo Clinic to Implement Artificial Intelligence Prediction System

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Mayo Clinic to Implement Artificial Intelligence Prediction System

The Mayo Clinic is set to implement an AI-powered patient triage and prediction platform developed by Israeli company Diagnostic Robotics at the American academic medical organization’s headquarters in Rochester, Minnesota to help reduce physician burden and optimize emergency room visits. The Mayo Clinic also has main campuses in Phoenix, Arizona, and Jacksonville, Florida.

The new collaboration, first publicized two weeks ago, will allow the Mayo Clinic’s emergency medicine department to make better informed, quicker decisions on patient care while reducing strain on medical teams.

Gush Dan Neighborhoods: Average COVID-19 associated symptoms region map. City municipal regions with at least 30 responders and neighborhoods with at least 10 responders are shown. Each region is colored by a category defined by the average symptoms ratio, calculated by averaging the reported symptoms rate by responders in that city or neighborhood. Green – low symptoms rate, red – high symptoms rate. Image: Weizmann Institute


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Diagnostic Robotics was founded in 2017 by Jonathan Amir, who serves as CEO, AI expert Dr. Kira Radinsky, the former director of data science and Israel chief scientist for eBay, who serves as chairman and CTO, and Professor Moshe Shoham, a founder of Israeli company Mazor Robotics acquired by medical technology firm Medtronic in 2018. The trio set out to develop a human–machine hybrid AI diagnostic system that could help alleviate strained health budgets and workforces by helping physicians, healthcare providers and insurers with patient navigation while providing improved risk-prediction capabilities for clinical decision-making.

The system uses artificial intelligence, trained on data from millions of Electronic Health Records, some 27 million patient visits, and billions of data points from the US and Israel, as well as a simple questionnaire to perform clinical intake of patients in emergency rooms, urgent care clinics, and even patients from home. The medical teams can review the self-reported condition, suggest differential diagnoses, and issue a hospitalization risk score for the patient to supplement the physician decision-making process in real-time, Diagnostic Robotics described in the announcement.

The company raised $24 million in Series A funding in November.

The triage service itself is a personalized system guiding the patients through their journey in the medical ecosystem, analyzing their medical history and current medical case using NLP technologies, with generic ability to integrate with multiple sensory output data, Dr. Radinsky and Amir previously explained to NoCamels in April.

“Our mission at Diagnostic Robotics is to improve patients’ experience and support healthcare providers by creating seamless, data-driven interactions that reduce administrative burdens and curb the costs of care,” said Amir in a company statement dated June 18.

“We are excited to collaborate with Mayo Clinic and implement our triage platform, this collaboration reflects the synergy between our technological vision and Mayo Clinic’s cutting-edge medical expertise,” he added.

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Israel Researcher’s COVID-19 Vaccine Proven Effective in Animals

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Israel Researcher’s COVID-19  Vaccine Proven Effective in Animals

Israeli researchers from the government-run Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) indicated over the weekend that a vaccine they developed for SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has been found to be effective in trials involving hamsters, paving the way for testing with humans.

The IIBR, a governmental research center specializing in biology, chemistry and environmental sciences that falls under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Office, was first tapped by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tapped in early February to begin development on producing a vaccine.


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Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (green) heavily infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (purple), isolated from a patient sample. Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID

In early April, the center reported “significant progress” on the vaccine and initial trials on rodents. The secretive institute, based in Ness Ziona, has also been working on researching potential treatments and in early May announced that it made a breakthrough on a treatment involving a discovered antibody that neutralizes the virus. That same month, it further announced that researchers found that a combination of two existing antiviral drugs for Gaucher disease appears to inhibit the growth of SARS CoV-2, and may work against other viral infections, including a common flu strain.

According to the researchers’ most recent findings on a vaccine, a single dose was able to “protect hamsters against SARS-CoV-2” and showed “rapid and potent induction of neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.”

The study, published in bioRxiv on Friday, has not yet been peer-reviewed.

The scientists say they designed a vaccine candidate using vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), an animal virus that does not cause disease in humans, and in which the spike protein was replaced with that of SARS-CoV-2. VSV is also the basis for a separate, effective vaccine against the Ebola virus.

Hamsters that were infected with SARS CoV-2 and were unvaccinated displayed rapid deterioration, significant weight loss and extensive lung damage following the monitoring process in which the disease took hold, while those immunized did not show significant signs of morbidity and gained body weight, the study showed. The vaccinated hamsters also developed antibodies.

“The vaccination provided protection against SARS-CoV-2 inoculation, as manifested in the rapid return to normal physiological parameters lung protection and rapid viral clearance. These results pave the way for further examination of rVSV-ΔGspike in clinical trials as a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2,” the researchers wrote.

A number of Israeli scientific teams and over 100 groups and organizations worldwide are currently working to develop a vaccine or a treatment for COVID-19. Thirteen are in clinical evaluation including a vaccine candidate developed by the University of Oxford which recently signed a distribution agreement with drugmaker AstraZeneca.

Massachusetts-based company Moderna was the first to develop an experimental vaccine for COVID-19 that went into trial quickly, and the company is rapidly making progress. Last week, Netanyahu announced that Israel signed an agreement with Moderna that will allow it to purchase vaccine doses should they become available as soon as next year.

In late April, Israeli scientists at the Migal Galilee Research Institute formed a new company, MigVax, to further adapt a vaccine they developed for a deadly coronavirus affecting poultry for human use. The scientists had been working for four years to develop a vaccine for IBV (Infectious Bronchitis Virus) which affects the respiratory tract, gut, kidney and reproductive systems of domestic fowl.

MigVax raised $12 million in an investment round led by OurCrowd for further development of the vaccine and said it hopes to begin clinical trials this summer.

Israeli officials have been concerned with rising morbidity in the country which dipped in May allowing restrictions to be lifted, and has increased to close to 5,000 active infections and between 150-200 new infections per day. Netanyahu warned in a cabinet meeting on Sunday of a renewed shutdown if rules regarding mask-wearing and physical distancing are not adhered to.

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