Evogene and Compugen Break News

Evogene and Compugen have both made headlines today. The two companies are related – Evogen was spun off of Compugen six years ago as an independent startup. Evogen will receive NIS 7.2 million from venture capital fund AquAgro. The ag-biotech startup develops improved plants for the agricultural and biofuel industries through plant genomics. A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the Evogene partnership with Rehovot-based CBD Technologies to collaborate on the improvement of cotton fiber properties.

Compugen announced yesterday its discovery of a blood-based biomarker for the diagnosis of lung cancer. The dual-listed firm (Nasdaq:CGEN) is involved in the identification and licensing of molecular level biomarkers and processes using computational biology tools. The discoveries are used in therapeutic and diagnostic products, for which it receives royalties.

In the News: Fixya, Intercure, Mazor, Perytons

According to webware, tech-support startup Fixya will announce a partnership with Best Buy whereby “customers wanting to perform their own fixes (or trying to dig others out of trouble) can go to the Best Buy Web site and access http://geeksquad.fixya.com from the “Customer Service” tab. They can search by product, SKU, manufacturer, or product category, or post a new query and receive community troubleshooting” for free. This is sure to boost traffic on Fixya’s site, which already claims over 6 million views per month. The site also boasts more than 30,000 “geek” contributors.

InterCure Ltd., a medical device company (TASE: INCR), announced yesterday that its RESPeRATE hypertension treatment device, clinically-proven to significantly lower blood pressure, will launch into full-scale retail distribution in the UK this May through leading pharmacy chain Lloyds.

“The full-chain launch of RESPeRATE at Lloyds Pharmacy clearly demonstrates the broad appeal of our effective and truly natural device-guided breathing therapy for hypertension,” said Erez Gavish, president and CEO of InterCure. Sixteen million adults in the UK suffer from high blood pressure. Left untreated, it may lead to heart attack, stroke and kidney or heart failure.

Founded in 2005 and based in Ness Ziona, Perytons provides developers, implementers and field engineers with analyzers for standard and proprietary wireless communication protocols. The startup announced today an enhanced version of it’s multi-antenna multi-channel 802.15.4/ZigBee analyzer based on Integration Associates EZLink 802.15.4 USB dongles. The tool provides the capability to analyze and track multiple network sessions that coincide in time in a user friendly manner. “We are excited to provide our customers a feature rich, user friendly analysis tool with very high reliability needed for analyzing sophisticated wireless networks.” – Yaron Soffer, Perytons Founder and CEO.

Mazor Surgical Technologies, a 2001-founded provider of the SpineAssist, a miniature surgical assistance system for a wide range of spine procedures, has signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Mazor has received exclusive, worldwide licenses to two patents for the development of permanent implants for the spine.

CEO Ori Hadomi predicts that the product, which has already undergone a feasibility study, can reach market within a year. He adds that the product will open a new market to the company – orthopedic implants – and that it can also boost sales of Mazor’s own SpineAssist product line.

Finally, check out this Globes article about a Israel Venture Capital Research Center survey that shows that high tech start-ups in Israel have not been affected so far by a possible global slowdown, and that in fact venture capital funding is at a seven-year high.

Israel Delivers: TechnoSpin, Gizmox, Endogun, Applicure

Today Israel’s innovators made all kinds of headlines from cleantech to medical devices to software security.

Let’s start with TechnoSpin. The four year old startup has raised $8 million from US VC 21 Ventures. They develop and produce rotors for small wind turbines which, it claims, are cheaper to produce and more easily assembled than competitor’s products, and can be operated on 80% of the earth’s surface – not just in high-wind areas. TechnoSpin also develops wind turbine gears which produce torque that is then converted into electrical power. Check out an interview with the CEO, Maxim Rakov.

 

Next on the list is Gizmox. This 2006-formed web application design startup announced today that it has reached an agreement to market its software through Microsoft marketing platforms. The Maayan Ventures portfolio company will use its Ajax-based environment for running web applications to enhance Microsoft’s Visual Studio environment development partnership program.

 

Then there’s Endogun Medical Systems. The 2004-founded graduate of Meytag Technology Incubatorand now Biomedix Incubator portfolio company has announced FDA approval for its internal soft-tissue fastening solution. This procedure, a key element of many Minimally Invasive Surgeries (MIS), is difficult to perform. Endogun’s technology, apparently, makes MIS procedures more safe, effective and simpler to perform.

 

Finally, Applicure Technologies released a statement via email that it has signed an agreement with British Trafalgar Capital Management for an investment of up to $5 million over a three year period. The four year old company, which is still negotiating with other investors in Israel and abroad for additional financing, creates software-based products for web application security and database compliance.

Boston Scientific Abandons Israeli Startups

Boston Scientific will sell its stakes in startup companies, including those in Israeli startups such as superDimension, MEL Medical Enterprises, MediGuide, E-Pill Pharma, Beta O2 Technologies, Brainsgate and VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies, according to Globes, in order to focus on its core business.

The medical device giant has invested nearly $6 billion in new technologies over the past five years but is refocusing to address the heavy debt caused, in part, by its acquisition of cardiology equipment giant Guidant for $27.7 billion. According to IVC, the company has also invested in Israeli venture capital funds, including Ascend, Medica Venture Partner, and Vitalife Life Sciences Venture.

The news may be troubling to those startups and VCs involved as Boston Scientific is a strategic partner with a vast network of connections and years of experience. Other medical device companies may buy up the shares at bargain prices, which would do little to provide crucial capital needed for development. The news may actually drive down the value of the startups themselves.

Boston Scientific announced intentions to invest nearly $100 million in Israeli startups in 2002. Let’s hope its huge selloff won’t be damaging to the Israeli biomedical industry.

Evogene and CBD Partner on Cotton Technology

Evogene is an Israeli startup founded in 2002 that aims to generate improved crops and new agricultural biotechnology products in an economically efficient way.  Initially a division of Compugen, Evogene has just signed a partnership with Rehovot-based CBD Technologies, a wholly owned subsidiary of FuturaGene, to collaborate on the improvement of cotton fiber properties.

Under the agreement, CBD Tech “gains rights in cotton to certain promoters (genetic elements which activate gene expression) discovered by Evogene” for evaluation in CBD Tech’s R&D program. The promoters were discovered using Evogene’s ATHLETE, an in-silico gene discovery platform. 

Evogene explained, “Improving cotton fiber properties is of major interest to the cotton industry. High quality cotton fibers are essential for better yarn performances and optimal utilization through modern spinning technologies, hence produce higher value per pound for the farmer.”

Protalix Gets $4M from Chief Scientist

Protalix BioTherapeutics announced yesterday that it received $4 million from Israel’s Office of the Chief Scientist to help it advance its clinical and pre-clinical drug development programs. The government grant program was setup to aid tech companies that have trouble seeking R&D financing from private investors.

Protalix, which was founded in 1994, intends to use most of the money to complete development of prGCD, an “enzyme naturally found in human cells that is mutated or deficient in patients with Gaucher disease.” PrGCD is currently in Phase III clinical trials in which “it is being tested as an enzyme replacement therapy for Gaucher disease.” The remainder of the grant will be used to fund some of Protalix’ other pre-clinical development goals including a biodefense program and a therapeutic enzyme for the treatment of Fabry disease.

Dr. David Aviezer, President and CEO of Protalix said the grant is “an important, non-dilutive cash resource for Protalix” and that his company is “pleased to have the support of the Chief Scientist as our enrollment of Gaucher patients in the phase III clinical trial of prGCD progresses.

The website has more details.

Surgical Stapler: ES Vascular Raises $3M

ES Vascular has developed highly-advanced surgical staplers for endovascular surgery, open aortic surgery and critical limb ischemia (CLI). Private investors have now invested $3 million in hopes that the company’s Open Aortic Stapler will soon receive the CE mark which will allow it to begin marketing in Europe. The money should also help the company complete clinical studies on its other staplers.

Founded in Israel in 2003 by Prof. Edward G. Shifrin, a vascular surgery expert, ES Vascular’s staplers “form a continuous ringed line of staples with no gaps between adjoining staples to eliminate leakage and bleeding.” The company claims that these staplers will drastically reduce complications arising from current surgical procedures.

According to its website, ES Vascular products will address a large and growing market:

  • The Company’s immediate addressable market for the Aortic Staplers includes over 120,000 patients undergoing open AAA repairs annually worldwide.
  • The US endovascular AAA device market reached close to $500 million in value in the year 2004.
  • In the US and EU 1.9 million surgical interventions are performed for patients suffering from CLI.

ES Vascular claims its staplers offer the following advantages:

  • Its Open Stapler creates a quick, uniform, one-shot sutureless anastomosis and may eliminate up to 90% of suturing time, reduce clamping and operative times as well as re-clamping cycles and bleeding.
  • Once the stapler is in place the staples are deployed in one shot, firmly fixating the stent graft to the aortic wall and possibly preventing one of the most common problems of current EVAR devices.
  • CLI Endostapler will facilitate a minimally invasive procedure that can replace an open femoral-popliteal bypass (FPB) operation. Eliminating open end-to-side anastomoses, this device will potentially improve patency rates and reduce hospitalization to a one night hospital stay.

See a video presentation of the stapler in action and check out the company’s website for detailed info on the technology.