Archive For The “Israeli Medicine” Category

‘Smart Devices’ Coming to Medical Cannabis

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‘Smart Devices’ Coming to Medical Cannabis

The ubiquity of Internet of Things (IoT) technology and applications is now encroaching a space of the fledgling medical cannabis business, and Israeli-tech is, yet again, leading the way. The $1 billion is expected to reach revenues of $32 billion by 2022. And that’s just for medical use! Of course, regulation difficulties abound.

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For decades, Israel has been an established world leader in medical cannabis R&D, due to the pioneering work of Hebrew University of Jerusalem Professor Raphael Mechoulam. In 1964, the renown organic chemist was the first researcher to identify cannabis’ THC compound, the chemical known for causing a “high,” laying the foundation for scientific research on cannabis and its use in modern medicine.

In the years since, Israel became among the few countries with a government-sponsored medical cannabis program, and was the first in the world earlier this year to approve a vaporizer as a medical device for the use of cannabis extracts and formulations.

Though the country’s efforts to lead in other areas – like its big plans to become a top medical cannabis exporter with an estimated $1 billion in revenue per year – have stalled due to political wrangling, Israeli cannabis startups have stepped ahead with cutting-edge, smart devices and products for cannabis cultivation, consumption, measurement, and storage.

And their sights are set on the global cannabis market, expected to be worth some $32 billion by 2022.

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Oren Todoros, CEO of the branding firm CannaImpact, tells NoCamels that mixing cannabis culture with IoT (the internet of things) “has the potential to lift the industry to new heights.”

“Due to this rapid shift towards smart connected devices, growers and consumers are increasingly turning to IoT technologies, essentially comprising of sensor devices, artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics, to bring new efficiencies to the way we grow and consume cannabis,” says Todoros, whose firm works with Israeli startup Kassi Labs, which developed a smart storage hub solution for marijuana.

Yona Cymerman, a co-founder of Can Innovation Finder (CIF), a new initiative that hopes to connect North American cannabis growers with blue-and-white tech solutions, says “the licensed producers we work with are always interested in hearing about innovative designs and technologies being developed to improve the consumer experience, and have expressed a lot of interest in devices and gadgets.”

“Israeli entrepreneurs have demonstrated great creativity in developing and designing their products, adopting concepts from other industries such as the sports market, and are aware of, and investing in the aesthetics of their products, which makes them all the more attractive for investment purposes,” she tells NoCamels.

From vaporizers and inhalers to growing environments and all-in-one storage solutions, we’re taking a closer look at seven companies that developed forward-looking “smart” gadgets for a next-generation cannabis experience and data analysis.

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Israeli MedTech Takes On Opioid Epidemic

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Israeli MedTech Takes On Opioid Epidemic

According to Wikipedia, drug overdoses have become the leading cause of death of Americans under 50, with two-thirds of those deaths from opioids. In 2016, the crisis decreased overall life expectancy of Americans for the second consecutive year. Overall life expectancy fell from 78.7 to 78.6 years. Men were disproportionately more affected due to higher overdose death rates, with life expectancy declining from 76.3 to 76.1 years. Women’s life expectancy remained stable at 81.1 years.

The opioid epidemic or opioid crisis is the rapid increase in the use of prescription and non-prescription opioid drugs in the United States and Canada beginning in the late 1990s and continuing throughout the next two decades. The increase in opioid overdose deaths has been dramatic, and opioids are now responsible for 49,000 of the 72,000 drug overdose deaths overall in the US in 2017.[2] The rate of prolonged opioid use is also increasing globally.

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According to the FDA, Brainsway is set to develop a device for opioid use disorder therapy. The seven other companies, a majority US-based, will develop systems for pain therapy, medication dispensation, overdose detection, drug screening, and virtual reality (VR) treatments for chronic pain.

Medical devices at any stage of development were eligible for the challenge.

The opioid crisis in the US has garnered international attention for its startling statistics. According to the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

More than 40 percent of all US opioid overdose deaths in 2016 involved a prescription opioid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overdose rates from prescription opioids were highest among people aged 25 to 54 years, according to the report. And based on data from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s national survey on drug use and health, 11.1 million people aged 12 and older had misused prescription pain relievers in 2017.

The eight companies selected for the FDA innovation challenge will work closely with the agency to “accelerate the development and expedite marketing application review of innovative products, similar to what occurs under the Breakthrough Devices Program“, which helps expedite “certain medical devices that demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs for life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating diseases for which no approved or cleared treatment exists or that offer significant advantages over existing approved or cleared alternatives.”

The companies will enter a 90-day collaboration to develop mutual understanding of the product profile including the patient and user needs, and the important risks and benefits, and to discuss the potential regulatory pathways going forward.

“While these products will not automatically receive marketing authorization from the FDA, the device developers will receive increased interaction with CDRH experts, guidance for clinical trial development plans, and expedited review,” wrote Drs. Jeffrey Shuren and Jonathan Jarow, director and chief medical officer respectively of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), wrote in a post announcing the winners.

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“We believe the greatest opportunities for medical devices to help prevent opioid use disorder are devices that could help identify people likely to become addicted, devices that manage pain as an alternative to opioids or reduce the need for opioid medications,” they wrote.

The CDRH has cleared, granted, or approved more than 200 devices related to the treatment or management of pain, including 10 with new or novel technologies…which may reduce the need to administer opioid drugs to patients suffering from either acute or chronic pain, they said.

Brainsway was founded by Abraham Zangen, Yiftach Roth, Avner Hagai and David Zacut and has been listed on the Tel Aviv stock exchange since 2007.

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SNIFFPHONE Device Detects Disease.

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SNIFFPHONE Device Detects Disease.

We already have smartphone apps to check heart rates, blood pressure, and other vital signs. So why not a device, a very nonintrusive device that can detect diseases without having to undergo intrusive, stressful, and expensive medical testing? That’s exactly what Israeli researcher Hossam Haick has created.

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Israeli Professor Hossam Haick of the Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology was awarded the European Commission Innovation Prize last week for his invention of the SNIFFPHONE, a device that uses nanotechnology sensors to analyze particles on the breath and is able to pinpoint to exact diseases, like certain kinds of cancer, pulmonary and even the early stages of neurodegenerative diseases.

Haick was awarded the prize last week in Lisbon, Portugal at the annual European Forum of Electronic Components and Systems (EFECS), which focused on humanity’s “digital future.” The Technion professor was chosen by a prize committee as the most innovative scientist realizing an idea in the field of electronic systems.

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The SNIFFPHONE includes the NaNose, developed in 2014 by Haick and Professor Nir Peled of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine. It is a microchip incorporated into a the breathalyzer-like device, capable of diagnosing various diseases. The device uses the presence of specific volatile organic compounds, which are unique fingerprints for various forms of diseases.

“We look for what are called volatile organic compounds, or biomarkers, on the breath. These biomarkers are chemical compounds that are imitated from the source of the disease and, as a result, are diffused within the bloodstream. Of course, the bloodstream is in contact with the skin and the lungs, which is why our test is able to detect them,” Haick told NoCamels in 2015.

In a 2017 study led by Haick and which involved 1404 participants from five countries, the NaNose was able to differentiate between malignant and benign tumors, as well as their source, with almost 90 percent accuracy.

The SNIFFPHONE and NaNose are among a long list of achievements for the award-winning scientist. He holds dozens of patents and made it into a number of notable lists, including the “World’s 35 leading young scientists” by the MIT Technology Review for his research in non-invasive disease detection methods, and a list of 100 most influential inventors by several international agencies between 2015-2018.

The European Commission previously awarded him $6.8 million for further development of the NaNose.

He’s also won an array of prizes and medals, including Knight in Order of the Academic Palms by the French Government, the Humboldt Award, the Bill and Melinda Gates Prize and the Herschel Ritz Innovation Award.

He currently serves as faculty and F.M.W. Academic Chair in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Technion and serves as a consultant to several commercial companies that spun out of his laboratories at the prestigious university.

His latest work, alongside Technion postdoctoral researcher Weiwei Wu, involves wearable health devices that include electrodes and sensors applied onto nylon textiles and permeable skin-mimicking bandages that constantly monitor breath rate, skin odor and chemical biomarkers (saliva, sweat). Specific irregularities in these parameters can indicate the presence of a disease, according to the research results published in Advanced Materials this year.

SEE ALSO: Technion Scientist Invents New Wearable Health System For Detecting Disease

Though certain technologies already possess these capabilities, Haick’s devices set themselves apart through self-sustainability. In particular, the gadget hopes to use cutting-edge materials that heal themselves and take advantage of the body’s wasted energy. Its components harvest the energy of body heat and movement, and they use synthetics that regenerate its properties upon damage. These advances alleviate risks such as leaving a device uncharged, torn or scratched. This technology will increasingly improve the quality of life through becoming a remote nurse that constantly accompanies an individual, according to the researchers.

Due to the constant monitoring of an individual’s vitals, these sensors provide a diagnosis of diseases in early stages. This prevents diseases from progressing, which Haick cites as a motivation for his research. “The results are very encouraging,” Haick told NoCamels this summer, pointing to recent testing done on tuberculosis screening using sensors integrated into bandages. Among the standard “healthy” ranges set for the devices are 60 to 100 heartbeats and seven to eight breaths per minute.

However, the product is only in its preliminary stages. According to Haick, though the discrete devices exist, the sensor and energy units are yet to be integrated into one product. Currently, the research team awaits a patent on a breathable self-healing platform imitating skin. Although his research team waits for further results, Haick states he is already seeking investors for what he calls a “promising and prospective technology.”

The wearable health device sector has tremendous potential. Experts predict this market will reach nearly $20 billion by 2021. Not only do these technologies monitor a patient’s vitals, they also facilitate communication between patients and healthcare professionals around the clock and reduce the cost of human labor associated with constantly checking patients.

Haick’s research group is also working on other related projects. Notably, the team is developing self-repairing multipurpose health monitors that resemble tattoos imprinted on skin. This device will make use of a field-effect transistor (FET), which can modify its behavior through a varying electric field.

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Israeli Lab Says Antiviral Drug May Work Against Coronavirus

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Israeli Lab Says Antiviral Drug May Work Against Coronavirus

Israeli scientists at the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) have found that a combination of two existing antiviral drugs for Gaucher disease appears to inhibit the growth of SARS CoV-2, the virus that leads to COVID-19 and may work against other viral infections, including a common flu strain.

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The IIBR is a governmental research center specializing in biology, chemistry and environmental sciences that falls under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Office. During the pandemic, announcements have been issued by the Defense Ministry.

According to a press announcement on Tuesday, scientists at the secretive bio-defense lab-tested an analog of the FDA-approved drug Cerdelga, and an analog of a second drug, Venglustat, currently in advanced trials. They found that, in combination, the drugs led to a significant reduction in the replication capacity of the coronavirus and to the destruction of the infected cells.

The two drugs are used to treat Gaucher disease, an inherited genetic condition most common in people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent that leads to the buildup of fatty substances in certain organs, particularly the spleen and liver, and can affect their function. The disease can also lead to skeletal abnormalities and blood disorders, In rare cases, Gaucher disease can also lead to brain inflammation, according to the Mayo Clinic. The disease is unrelated to COVID-19.

The Israeli researchers tested the drugs on mouse models using four different RNA viruses: Neuroinvasive Sindbis virus (SVNI), an infection transmitted via mosquitos that can lead to years of debilitating musculoskeletal symptoms; West Nile virus (WNV), also a mosquito-borne disease that can cause neurological disease and is potentially fatal; Influenza A virus, a strain of the flu; and SARS-CoV-2.

The researchers found that the two drugs were effective in all four cases. They work by inhibiting glucosylceramide synthase *GCS), an enzyme involved in the production of glucocerebroside, a lipid that accumulates in the tissues of patients affected with Gaucher disease. In the lab setting, they inhibited the replication of the viruses, and in the case of mice infected with SVNI, increased their survival rate.

In the case of COVID-19, the drugs “have an antiviral effect on the SARS-CoV-2 clinical isolate in vitro, with a single dose able to significantly inhibit viral replication within 24–48 h.”

The two drugs are currently being tested for their effectiveness in treating animals infected with the coronavirus.

The study, published in bioRxiv, has not yet been peer-reviewed. The authors are all from the IIBR’s Department of Infectious Diseases

The data suggests that “GCS inhibitors can potentially serve as a broad-spectrum antiviral therapy and should be further examined in preclinical and clinical trial,” the scientists wrote, adding that repurposing approved drugs can lead “to significantly reduced timelines and required investment in making treatment available.

“Treatment of a new disease such as COVID-19 using an existing, approved drug may serve as an effective short-term solution considering that one of the major challenges in addressing such a pandemic is the length of time it takes for both the research and approval phases of new drugs,” the Defense Ministry wrote in the announcement.

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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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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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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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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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Tel Aviv Incentivizes Its Youth to get Vaccines with Food and Drink

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Tel Aviv Incentivizes Its Youth to get Vaccines with Food and Drink

The city of Tel Aviv is giving new meaning to the phrase, “Let’s take a shot.”

As part of an effort to boost the city’s extensive COVID-19 vaccination campaign, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality is encouraging the city’s younger population to receive vaccinations at a mobile vaccination site next to Jenia Bar at Dizengoff Square in the heart of Tel Aviv.

Arrivals who show proof of vaccination and a DigiTel Resident Card, or register for DigiTel at the vaccination site, will receive a voucher for a free drink at the bar.

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Vaccines will be available to members of all healthcare providers, without an appointment and free of charge. Vaccines are limited to first-dose recipients only, however.

Tel Aviv residents receive free coffee with their vaccine when they present a DigiTel card. Photo by Guy Yechiely. The initiative, which follows the success of other mobile vaccination sites in the city in Jaffa and the Kiryat Shalom neighborhood, is held in partnership with several restaurants and nightlife associations.

“Vaccinations are the only way to return our livelihood, health and – above all – our freedom,” said Shai Berman, CEO of the Israel Restaurant and Bar Association, “Come to be vaccinated – the chaser is on the house.”

“The restaurants, cafes and bars have been closed for almost a year. As a significant part of daily life and culinary culture in the city, we greatly feel their absence. We all want to return to normal life. The more that we are vaccinated, the more we will be able to return to normal and restore the beating heart of the city to action – and it starts with the employees, business owners and customers,” added Tomer Moore, CEO of Restaurateurs Stronger Together Association.

While this is the first time a temporary vaccination facility will be set up next to a bar, it isn’t the first time the city has offered food and beverages as an incentive. Earlier this week, Tel Aviv offered free pizza, hummus, coffee and knafeh, a sweet Middle Eastern dessert made with filo pastry and cheese, to members of the public who showed up to receive a vaccine.

Eytan Schwartz, a spokesperson for the municipality, told Reuters the city hoped the food and drink would create a “family-like atmosphere” for those still unsure about getting the vaccine.

(Last week, the municipality of Bnei Brak, a largely ultra-Orthodox Jewish town, was encouraging residents to vaccinate by giving out free cholent.)

Israel currently leads the world in COVID-19 vaccinations per capita, having vaccinated over 40 percent of its 9.3 million people. (That’s over 4 million people.)

The country’s largest healthcare provider, Clalit, has reported a 94 percent drop in symptomatic COVID-19 cases with the Pfizer vaccine, Reuters reported.

A resident of Tel Aviv gets a vaccine. Photo by Guy Yechiely.
But while the country’s vaccine campaign has been nothing short of ambitious, the country has also seen a drop in the numbers of people getting the shot since the vaccine became available to everyone over the age of 16. Daily injections were down nearly 39 percent on February 13 from the peak in January, according to the Israeli Health Ministry, as reported in Foreign Policy magazine.

The country continues its attempts to persuade vaccine skeptics and more insular communities to take their shot with millions of shekels to be spent on information campaigns to battle conspiracy theories and rumors and encouraging young Israelis to get the vaccine.

Meanwhile, the city of Tel Aviv launched a campaign with Ichilov Hospital (Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center) to innoculate thousands of asylum seekers, migrant workers, and foreign nationals who live in the city.

In the first stage, the vaccination center in the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood of south Tel Aviv was able to vaccinate over 600 people a day manned by Ichilov staffers.

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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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