According to the World Health Organization, 80% of blindness is preventable or treatable — but it remains a severe health concern across the globe, even in industrialized countries.
Now hope is on the horizon — especially if countries are willing to emulate Israel’s approach to eye health, says Prof.Michael Belkin of the Goldschleger Eye Research Institute at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sheba Medical Center in a new study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology. In the last decade, rates of preventable blindness in Israel have been cut by more than half — from 33.8 cases of blindness per 100,000 residents in 1999 to 14.8 in 2010. This improvement, found across all four main causes of avoidable blindness — age-related deterioration, glaucoma, diabetes, and cataract — is unmatched anywhere else in the world, he says.
The secret is not only the innovative methods of treatment that were added to the Israeli medical system, but their universal availability and accessibility, as well as good patient compliance with treatment regimens, including the correct use of prescribed medications.
Israel also offers community-based programs, such as dedicated diabetes clinics, which promote early prevention and timely treatment for diabetes-related complications that can lead to blindness. Prof. Belkin notes that such programs save public and private health care money in the long term.
Many consider China the world’s industrial zone. Most gadgets spawned by the digital revolution are made in China, but cheap labor is no longer the country’s main drawing card. And China itself has mushroomed into an enormous market for consumer products and services.
China’s consumer power and production prowess haven’t been enough to turn it into a technology powerhouse, but this barrier is falling. Large Chinese companies have lots of money to invest, and they’ve been doing so in infrastructure and natural-resource projects throughout the world. Now they’re tackling technology. Chinese companies and investors are sniffing around Israeli high-tech, as recent transactions attest.
Israeli entrepreneurs realize the importance of Asian markets; all emerging markets, actually. But when seeking out investors, buyout suitors or strategic partners, they instinctively turn to North America or Europe. Multinational development centers operating in Israel are almost all under Western control – for now, anyway.
So Israel is increasingly emphasizing its trade relations with China. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett flew to China Saturday for his first official visit abroad. Bennett’s choice was no coincidence. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu preceded Bennett with his high-profile visit to China at the beginning of his new term.
Greater cooperation with China in high-tech R&D was highlighted in the Economic Arrangements Law that accompanied the latest budget. It reflected the government’s new direction.
“Every year the volume of activity with China grows, and each success generates another wave of activity,” says Chief Scientist Avi Hasson, who accompanied Bennett to China. He says that in 2013 China will be No. 1 in terms of the number of joint ventures with Israeli companies in programs run by the Chief Scientist’s Office.
“Three years ago there was no activity whatsoever, and this year there will be more activity than with countries such as the United States, Italy and Germany. Not a week goes by that I don’t host a Chinese delegation,” Hasson says.
“In Israel, the Chinese are looking for technology and don’t care much how they get it. They want to invest, buy the technology and collaborate …. We’re not a threat to the Chinese and make a natural partner. The Chinese are aware of the Israeli story and hold our abilities and culture in tremendous esteem,” he adds.
“All told, China is much different than the United States, but in terms of the breadth and depth of ties, we aspire to all types of ties with China: Chinese investment in startups, Chinese venture-capital activity, and a presence by multinational corporations. We’re very far from the U.S. level of activity in this area, but the pace in the past two years has been phenomenal.”
At the end of April, Fosun Pharma, a subsidiary of the Fosun group, said it was buying a 95.6% stake in Israeli cosmetic- and medical-equipment maker Alma Lasers for $240 million. The deal is the first major exit for an Israeli startup bought by a Chinese company.
Fosun’s chairman and CEO then visited Israel in June. They said the group plans to open an office to locate investment and joint-venture opportunities in medical equipment, pharmaceuticals and e-commerce. Fosun is also considering setting up an incubator for Israeli startups, a venture-capital fund for investing in Israeli high-tech companies, and a development center.
The UpWest Labs startup accelerator, based in Silicon Valley, is looking for Israeli startups to join its program.
As part of the accelerator, entrepreneurs participate in workshops which support them in the initial stages of starting their companies.
UpWest is a unique accelerator as it includes Israeli companies but takes place in California’s Silicon Valley.
Gil Ben-Artzy, the program’s founder, is in Israel these days to interview entrepreneurs interested in joining the program.
As part of the program, the entrepreneurs will move to the city of Palo Alto for three months, receive funding and an apartment and participate in workshops with experts from Silicon Valley,
including investors, entrepreneurs and Google and Facebook officials.
This is the sixth round of companies in this accelerator, and they have achieved quite a nice record: Most of the program’s graduates have raised $800,000 to $3 million so far.
Applications can be submitted on the company’s website until July 22.
Google Israel CEO Meir Brand says the Internet search giant’s Israeli office has been receiving appeals from Palestinian startup companies and would be happy to assist them.
“There is a technological revival in the Palestinian Authority as well, and we have received several appeals from Palestinian startups,” Brand said during a lecture at the College for Academic Studies in Or Yehuda. “We would gladly help develop startups in the Palestinian Authority. Google doesn’t care about borders.”
Brand told the students that about six months ago, 30 senior executives from Google arrived in Israel to study the unique model established in the country to help startup companies.
“Google Israel has come up with a unique model helping small startups turn into global companies. They sit in small garages, and reach any place in the world through the Internet. From these businesses they generate tens of millions of dollars, and we are there to assist them,” Brand said.
“Google gives them tools and mentors for business training in terms of marketing goals and business orientation, in a bid to make things easier and save time in business acclimation.”
Addressing reports that the authorities have been requesting information on users, Brand said: “Google does not cooperate with the authorities in requests to receive information on people or political sources, and any information is only delivered under a court order.
“All the stories about delivering secret information to the authorities are fabrications. Google acts according to the transparency principle. Every year, Google reports which countries and which fields authorities have requested information about.”
“Intel is talking with us about a huge investment of $10 billion,” Nahum Itzkovich, the new director of the Economy Ministry’s Investment Centre, said in his first interview since assuming office. “We are engaged in intensive negotiations with Intel.”
Under discussion is an investment of $3 billion to upgrade the existing Fab 28 factory in the southern town of Kiryat Gat, and another $7 billion in a new factory in the town over the course of 10 years, he said.
The government has set up a negotiating team that includes Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.
“Contrary to Intel’s previous investment, we are trying this time to create a long-term process in which each side will commit for at least 10 years,” Itzkovich said.
He did not say how much of a grant or subsidy the government was considering providing Intel for the new investment.
A spokesman for Intel declined to comment on the report and officials at the ministry were not immediately available for comment.
“We are talking about a manufacturing facility that has incredible impact on the Israeli economy,” he said. “That said, it is incumbent upon us to examine the worthwhileness and to explain to the public what the benefits are and what the considerations are if we approve the investment.”
Intel will build chips over the next two to three years with features measuring just 14 nm in Irelandand the United States but the company is already thinking about where it will produce 10 nm chips. Intel Israel executives said in February they would like to see 10 nm production in Israel.
Intel has invested $10.5 billion in Israel in the past decade, including $1.1 billion in 2012, and has received $1.3 billion in government grants.
Source: Reuters.com (Reporting by Tova Cohen)