Archive For The “Israeli Medicine” Category
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.
This article was originally posted by NoCamels.com. See Featured article: Artificial Intelligence.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
By Diane Israel
Anxiety and its kinfolk, namely fear and stress, are by definition traumatic experiences for which we would all like to rid ourselves, go hand-in-mind with the human condition. And while we cannot extract it like special forces from a hostile environment, we can do something almost as good.
Almost everyone would like to be happier. But what we often focus is on just that. Happiness. Meaning, when we project future happiness upon our being, rarely, if ever, do such musings consider how merely reducing those moments, those moments when we can’t think straight, might be another path to the same end.
An acquaintance of mine put it this way:
When you’re reacting instead of responding, your suffering some degree of an anxiety attack.
And while her words are true, and qualify as an important self-awareness tool to add to our personal psychology, more traumatic experiences call for scientific innovations like the recent breakthrough by Israeli researchers that addresses this problem head-on.
Many people have difficulties with turning off their response to stress factors. According to Weizmann Institute of Science researchers, they may be missing a special set of proteins.
A pounding heart, sweating palms, tense muscles and that metallic taste in your mouth is normal – when you perceive a threat to your existence, be it through anxiety, fear, or stress, each of which overlaps the other considerably.
It’s a typical anxiety response, one that often comes along with the “flight or fight” reaction generated by an adrenaline rush brought on by stress.
People who have a tough time turning that response off often have suffered a psychological trauma as the result of a frightening experience such as a missile attack or other type of physical threat. Such victims can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Other conditions related to stress and anxiety include anorexia, depression and a myriad of anxiety disorders.
According to the findings of a new study led by Dr. Alon Chen at the Weizmann Institute’s Neurobiology Department, however, there is solid evidence that three related proteins are responsible for the body’s ability to turn off the stress response.
The research, which appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), found that urocortin proteins 1, 2, and 3 are crucial for returning the body to normal.
To identify how exactly this is done, Chen and his team tested the gene expression levels of genes involved in the stress response in a group of genetically engineered mice who were lacking the proteins, and a control group of mice.
The levels remained constant both during and after stress in the engineered mice, who were missing the proteins. In contrast, patterns of gene expression in the control mice showed significant change 24 hours after the stress.
In other words, without the urocortin system, the “return to normal” program could not be activated, and the stress genes continued to function.
“This may have implications for anxiety disorders, depression, anorexia and other conditions,” noted Dr. Chen. “The genetically engineered mice we created could be effective research models for these diseases.”
This week’s health tech update examines the latest hi-tech stem cell research, and another early detection technique that’s far from hi-tech (per se) but very effective. The question is whether you can get used to having a small camera in your toilet bowl!
Senecio of Kfar Saba put a twist on an existing mosquito-control method of releasing sterile male mosquitoes in infested areas by using airplanes rather than vans, greatly increasing the coverage perimeters.
“Releasing millions of sterile male mosquitoes from airplanes traveling at 250 kilometers per hour, in what I call Operation Infinite Romeo, presents monumental challenges,” writes Wanetick.
Among these challenges are sourcing the fragile insects, packaging them in containers, estimating the number needed per acre (four sterile males for every wild female) and determining optimal flying routes and times of day for release. “Senecio has developed sophisticated algorithms and robotic processes set up in assembly‐line formation” to accomplish these tasks.
Netanya‐based BioGenCell is developing a stem-cell therapy to treat a painful vascular disease called critical limb ischemia, a leading cause of amputations. The company’s BGC101 compound, when mixed with the patient’s own stem cells taken from a simple blood draw, creates natural artery bypasses and enhances the formation of additional blood vessels to better supply blood to the damaged tissue.
While other biotech companies are pursuing cures for the same disease using stem cells from bone marrow, BioGenCell’s method is less invasive. When injected, the BGC101 formula “knows” to grow only where revascularization is needed.
OutSense, based on Kibbutz Nahsholim, is developing a device that clips onto a toilet bowl to facilitate frequent and hands-free screening for signs of colorectal cancer.
The device’s spectral isolation and imaging technologies rapidly analyze solid waste for indicators including blood content, microbiome stability, texture and color that could be warning signs for cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis or Crohn’s disease. The smart device can even distinguish among different people in a household based on Bluetooth signals from their nearby devices.
“Such frequent screenings should be at least as successful in detecting digestive diseases as submitting to expensive and invasive colonoscopies once every decade,” writes Wanetick.
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
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.
Move over mindfulness meditation. Neuroscience is now beginning to map what’s going on inside your brain when you’re feeling good, and not-so-good, to help promote mental and emotional wellness. It’s a logical augmentation of mindfulness meditation which has become very popular recently although it’s been around for thousands of years.
The remainder of this post was originally reported by NoCamels.com
Brain researchers across the world are increasingly beginning to study the link between our body’s control center and emotional health. In recent years, neurological wellness (or neuro-wellness), an emerging field focused on emotional wellbeing, mood enhancements and innovation and technology, has also garnered attention.
“Because we’re living longer, our focus is starting to shift toward well-being,” Bill Gates wrote last month as part of a piece reflecting on technological breakthroughs for the MIT Technology Review. “I think the brilliant minds of the future will focus on more metaphysical questions: How do we make people happier? How do we create meaningful connections? How do we help everyone live a fulfilling life?”
Earlier this month, this question was one of the main focuses at the Fourth International BrainTech Conference in Tel Aviv, a two-day global meeting point for leading scientists, clinicians and entrepreneurs who engage in brain research and technology.
While the power of a positive mindset has been praised as key, there is emerging scientific backing for the thesis that mood is directly linked to the mental processes in our brain. Moshe Bar, director of the Leslie and Susan Gonda Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center at Bar-Ilan University, presented a study that found that optimistic people show better cognitive work on associations, creativity, memory and a broader scope of attention than those with a more depressed outlook. People with a positive mindset, he indicated, are better able to foresee what’s coming next and to minimize perceived uncertainty. Thus, improving the mood of individuals can prompt our brain to activate processes that will make us feel well.
The brain’s powerful capacities are well documented, but can the mind heal the body? Neuroscientists Dr. Talma Hendler, of Tel Aviv University, and Dr. Asya Rolls, of the Technion, are currently collaborating on a study on brain-body interaction. Their initial findings have shown that activating a neural mechanism in our brain’s reward system may boost the immune system.
Can technology support us emotionally? More and more entrepreneurs recognize the potential of such evidence for transforming our mind and body. Products for emotional wellness are currently flooding the market. But can technology really support us emotionally?
“Yes,” says Nichol Bradford, executive director and co-founder of The Transformative Technology Lab (USA), who believes that we are standing at the threshold of a new era of human flourishing. “I think there is a great deal of range and possibility in using technology to teach us how to relate to the way we feel. Emotions and self-regulation are trainable and teachable skills,” she tells NoCamels.
According to Bradford, transformative technologies for well-being will not only address mental health and happiness, they are also entering the future of workplaces, improving emotional intelligence and social skills. Ultimately, they will lead to enhanced mental and emotional capacity.
Bradford calls this the “future of human possibilities” in which technology helps people develop their full potential. “The point is … to establish a new level of mental and emotional health.“
An example of this is TRIPP, a Los Angeles-based software company that developed a mood-on-demand platform powered by virtual reality. Like a combination of video games and meditation, “taking a ten-minute TRIPP” can puts users in a state of mindfulness by creating a deep immersive, brain-stimulating experience. CEO and co-founder Nanea Reeves believes that mental health is the market for VR. After launching their product for corporate wellness programs, the company’s goal is to enter the therapeutic market, where TRIPP could be used for treatments like addiction recovery, he tells NoCamels.
An Israeli product that has already been deployed in hundreds of clinics worldwide is Myndlift, a device for personalized neuro-therapies. When looking for ways to improve ADHD symptoms without medication, Myndlift CEO Aziz Kadan discovered the potential of neurofeedback. Combining a sensory headset with a training program, Myndlift responds to changing brainwave patterns and is able to change and balance brain activation. The devices were featured at the conference.
Meanwhile, NYX Technologies, a young Israeli neurotech startup, is developing a platform for sleep management and stress reduction. A headset reads a user’s brain patterns and adapts its function individually for falling asleep faster, getting into deeper sleep and waking up refreshed. Currently, the Haifa-based company is conducting beta tests.
A new technological breakthrough is using AI and facial analysis to make it easier to diagnose genetic disorders. DeepGestalt is a deep learning technology created by a team of Israeli and American researchers and computer scientists for the FDNA company based in Boston. The company specializes in building AI-based, next-generation phenotyping (NGP) technologies to “capture, structure and analyze complex human physiological data to produce actionable genomic insights.”
Portions of this article were originally reported in NoCamels.com
DeepGestalt uses novel facial analysis to study photographs of faces and help doctors narrow down the possibilities. While some genetic disorders are easy to diagnose based on facial features, with over 7,000 distinct rare diseases affecting some 350 million people globally, according to the World Health Organization, it can also take years – and dozens of doctor’s appointments – to identify a syndrome.
“With today’s workflow, it can mean about six years for a diagnosis. If you have data in the first year, you can improve a child’s life tremendously. It is very frustrating for a family not to know the diagnosis,” Yaron Gurovich, Chief Technology Officer at FDNA and an Israeli expert in computer vision, tells NoCamels. “Even if you don’t have a cure, to know what to expect, to know what you’re dealing with helps you manage tomorrow.”
DeepGestalt — a combination of the words ‘deep’ for deep learning and the German word ‘gestalt’ which is a pattern of physical phenomena — is a novel facial analysis framework that highlights the facial phenotypes of hundreds of diseases and genetic variations.
According to the Rare Disease Day organization, 1 in 20 people will live with a rare disease at some point in their life. And while this number is high, there is no cure for the majority of rare diseases and many go undiagnosed.
“For years, we’ve relied solely on the ability of medical professionals to identify genetically linked disease. We’ve finally reached a reality where this work can be augmented by AI, and we’re on track to continue developing leading AI frameworks using clinical notes, medical images, and video and voice recordings to further enhance phenotyping in the years to come,” Dekel Gelbman, CEO of FDNA, said in a statement.
DeepGestalt’s neural network is trained on a dataset of over 150,000 patients, curated through Face2Gene, a community-driven phenotyping platform. The researchers trained DeepGestalt on 17,000 images and watched as it correctly labeled more than 200 genetic syndromes.
In another test, the artificial intelligence technology sifted through another 502 photographs to identify potential genetic disorders.
DeepGestalt provided the correct answer 91 percent of the time.
Indeed, FDNA, a leader in artificial intelligence and precision medicine, in collaboration with a team of scientists and researchers, published a milestone study earlier this year, entitled “Identifying Facial Phenotypes of Genetic Disorders Using Deep Learning” in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Medicine.
For some months now, countries across the world have been vying for much-needed, key supplies for healthcare professionals and essential workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been especially acute, forcing governments into a global race to buy protective clothing, surgical masks, face shields, helmets, goggles, and gloves – with middling success. Despite these efforts, doctors and nurses in the US and the UK, for example, have been forced to acquire their own gear or reuse existing equipment with great risk.
With no immediate solutions even as the global health crisis rages on, innovative alternative initiatives have popped up to help medical workers do their critical jobs: save lives while being safe.
One such initiative was recently launched by the Israeli-founded non-profit organization Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM), a global movement that develops and creates practical, affordable, workable solutions for under-served sectors and communities. Tikkun Olam loosely translates to “repair the world” in Hebrew.
As the pandemic began spreading rapidly across the world beginning in early March, the group tapped into its vast network of worldwide makers, fellows, and volunteers to develop and deliver solutions useful in fighting the global pandemic: 3D-printed face shields, masks, straps, handless door openers and even DIY alcohol-based hand rubs. By late April, TOM had overseen the manufacturing and delivery of over 30,000 units of equipment for people who need it most, with a goal to reach 100,000 in the short term and half a million in the medium term.
Donate Now to Essential Workers from TOM Global on Vimeo.
The organization was well set up for such an operation. Established in 2014 by the Reut Group led by entrepreneur Gidi Grinstein, TOM brings together designers, developers, engineers, and “makers” to solve everyday challenges for people living with disabilities, the elderly, and the poor (“need-knowers”). The organization has hosted dozens of “makeathons” across the world focused on creating products that aim to improve people’s daily lives and enhance their interests. Close to 500 such products have been made in 67 communities in over 20 countries so far including Mexico, Chile, Greece, Serbia, and Australia.
When TOM began focusing solely on COVID-19 solutions, it felt like a natural pivot.
“Our mission has not changed. We systematically create highly affordable solutions for people who are largely neglected by the markets and governments and are structurally marginalized,” Grinstein tells NoCamels via video-conference from New York
Throughout its journey, TOM “developed a process for mass inventions where people can come and innovate and create solutions so this vision remained but the operational manner has changed,” he explains.
To start, the organization began taking stock of all the products created over the years to see what could be relevant during the pandemic. Next, TOM repurposed its network into a “maker army,” calling on all those who could design, engineer, invent or even just access or operate a 3D printer to join the movement and help deliver solutions. The next focus was on partnerships with universities, student communities, maker spaces, Jewish and non-Jewish organizations that could aid with volunteers, materials, and logistics.
To date, TOM’s online library includes over 40 solutions ranging from PPEs, ventilators and ventilator parts, respirators and hygienic solutions, with detailed instructions on how to make them, and a playbook for people to launch their emergency coronavirus response teams.
The most sought-after items have by far been the face shields, specifically the Prusa shields, which are quick to print and easy to assemble, says Maayan Keren, TOM’s Director of North America Communities.
Based in New York, which has been hard-hit by COVID-19 and leads US cities with over 300,000 confirmed infections, Keren tells NoCamels her work has involved finding resources such as 3D printers, cutters, and sewing machines, helping makers get started, and identifying “circles of needs.”
For example, in NY, TOM recently put together a delivery of some 500 face shields that went to nursing homes and fertility clinics. “These are very high-risk people who need immediate help and protection,” says Keren. Other circles of needs include mental health facilities, care homes, and prisons.
In Atlanta, a university student organizer with a 3D printer at home started his own response team to make face shields for clinics, nursing homes, police officers and first responders, with help and some seed funding from TOM.
The needs, however, differ and evolve depending on location.
In Mexico, TOM makers and response teams led the manufacturing of some 3,000 Y splitters for ventilators designed to divide the airflow of artificial ventilators so that they can be shared by two patients, Keren tells NoCamels. In fact, the design was created specifically for the MakersMexico through a request process where providers and makers submit needs and TOM works to find a solution.
In Israel, TOM works with the Holon Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University and design schools such as Shenkar and the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem – all of whom have 3D printing capabilities.
Bezalel student Yuval Buzaglo, 26, tells NoCamels she is part a team of university students that created thousands of pieces of equipment for hospitals, clinics, and special education schools using TOM’s instruction files and materials.
“There’s been a lot of sharing knowledge and efficiency,” she says.
Grinstein tells NoCamels most of TOM’s development and documentation is, in fact, done in Israel at Impact Labs, a hardware innovation center in Tel Aviv where TOM is based. The Lab is for entrepreneurs, companies, and social innovators to develop physical products and solutions.
TOM is funded philanthropically, employs 11 people, and works with hundreds of volunteers across the world, Grinstein explains. The organization helps local teams raise money for their COVID-19 relief efforts and source donations of 3D printing materials.
TOM makers are “community organizers, people working in the medical field, academics, university faculty, moms, dads, and basically anyone who wants to get involved,” Keren tells NoCamels, adding that “people have really stepped up to help.”