JERUSALEM - After a fruitful fiscal year, the U.S.-Israel Biotechnology Council (USIBC) is looking forward to its focal event of the year, the annual Alliance program, at the U.S. Biotechnology Industry Organization's (BIO) 1998 conference next week in New York.

A delegation of 33 Israeli biotechnology companies and universities will represent the country at the meetings June 14-18. The BIO conference is expected to draw more than 4,000 participants, 300 exhibitions and 500 speakers.

This fourth program organized by USIBC has been recognized by most Israeli government organizations, including the Ministry of Trade & Industry. USIBC - a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization founded in 1995 - is 40 percent Israeli and 60 percent American.

“Membership grew almost spontaneously from 20 to 90 members during the first three years,“ said Eli Bismut, executive director of the USIBC. “This will be the first year that the [USIBC] will receive full recognition from BIO. Pre-conference profiling of companies and academic institutions has been in progress for months.“

USIBC offers numerous services to biotechnology researchers and company executives. The BIO conference's Alliance program will feature networking between U.S. and Israeli entities.

“We have been processing dozens of U.S. matching and meeting request forms, and exchange of information is already under way,“ said Bismut.

The highlight of the Alliance program, he added, will be a workshop titled “Partners in success: U.S.-Israel biotechnology connection,“ which will showcase Israeli biotechnology and pharmaceutical ventures.

“Israeli companies are very good at coming up with innovative ideas, but it is essential for them to join forces with non-Israeli, preferably American, partners. The U.S. is the largest market for biomedical products, as well as the largest source of capital, and Israelis need the American managerial experience and the connections to the U.S. capital market,“ said Elli Malki, who is honorary vice president in Israel of USIBC and former manger of business development for Hadasit Medical Research Services & Development of the Hadassah Medical Center, in Jerusalem.

Malki noted the U.S.-Israel Science & Technology Commission recognized USIBC as its “agent to promote binational biotech partnerships“ and “as an excellent source of technology commercialization through U.S. strategic alliances, providing support and helping to move small start-ups to established ones.“

The science and technology commission is a U.S. government initiative forged by President Clinton and the late Israeli Prime Minister Rabin.

In some ways, Israeli university researchers have been preparing for the biotech revolution at hand for several decades. Now, with this maturing expertise underpinned by a broad base of life scientists, Israeli and foreign industries have begun to harvest.

Israel Seeks More Skilled Management

“Academics, Israeli companies and the government are now realizing the importance of partnering, especially with sophisticated management partners,“ said Bismut.

Aliza Malki - an Israeli USIBC representative and director of Financial-Tip, a consultancy that engages mainly in financial quantitative models and provides evaluation models for start-ups and new technologies - said there are an estimated 3,000 potential partners in the U.S.

“One role of the Israeli office is to unite all of the government and private arms in a common goal and to act as a contact for government, private industry and academia,“ Aliza Malki said.

“Israel has ample capital for most aspects of biotech and the extent of the technological potential is impressive, but human resources - skilled and experienced business administrators, financial officers and other executives - must be imported at this stage,“ said Bismut.

“What Israel needs now is more [management people] to see products through development to market,“ said Elli Malki.

He pointed to Rehovot-based InSight Ltd.'s collaboration with Israel Vlodavsky, head of tumor biology research at Hadassah University Hospital, as “a model of a relationship between an academic institute and a small start-up company for technology transfer, wherein resources are allocated over a much shorter and direct decision-making process as licensing agreements are being formulated for maximum mutual benefit.“ (See BioWorld International, April 15, 1998, p. 3.) *