Israel looks to partner with foreign biotech cos

The Chief Scientist and Care Capital partner Karabelas reviewed ambitious plans at ILSI-Biomed 2007.

Were seeking to set up a joint government-corporate biotechnology fund with $300-500 million, said Chief Scientist Dr. Eli Opper at the ILSI-Biomed 2007 conference in Tel Aviv, organized by Israel Life Sciences Industry. We announced the plan at the last conference. Were also in advanced negotiations with several global biotechnology companies for the establishment of development centers in Israel and to collaborate through joint ventures. Were also working to set up biotechnology and nanotechnology R&D centers at universities, including nano-biotech, as well as another biomedical incubator.

Care Capital partner Dr. Argeris N. ("Jerry") Karabelas said that collaboration and deals with large companies were the essential key to success by biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. You cant change that on your own, except maybe in very, very focused fields, he said. Care Capital has invested in two Israeli start-ups, D-Pharm and Inotek Pharmaceuticals Corporation.

Karabelas added, American and European companies also struggle to succeed in the global market, and its harder for Israeli companies. They arent well enough known to key figures in the international industry, and they cant base themselves on the domestic market at all, which is too small. They are also far away, and venture capitalists dont like to travel.

Karabelas mentioned, however, some factors that contribute to biomedical success in Israel. Some of the factors are already well known, such as Israels level of education and the entrepreneurial spirit of the people, the research institutes and top universities, the high quality of medicine, fairly inexpensive labor costs and existing financing for early-stage companies. He also cited factors that are not usually considered Israeli advantages, such as government support, protection of intellectual property rights, cultural mixing, a global perspective, and even the experience in developing one product Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.s (Nasdaq: TEVA; TASE: TEVA) multiple sclerosis drug, Copaxone.

This can be repeated, he says, To succeed, you have to meet the taste of big pharma. Big pharma is hungry for molecules and products that have been demonstrated to be effective on humans, at least in preliminary trials.

Karabelas believes that Israeli drug companies should set up a branch in the US before applying to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Investigational New Drug Application (IND) process. Otherwise, the application will have to be submitted through an agent.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on June 7, 2007

Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2007

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