Nurturing innovative healthcare - right here in Ashdod
Updated: Mar 20, 2022
Dr. Oshri Bar El had a great idea.
Chief of the gynecology unit at Assuta Ashdod Medical Center, Dr. Bar El worked for years to develop advanced techniques to treat ectopic pregnancies. One of those techniques was a new laparoscopic medical device that would facilitate the removal of tumors appearing on the pelvic sidewall.
Abdominal pregnancy is a rare type of ectopic pregnancy that carries a high risk of death for the mother. The pregnancy can appear in a number of different locations, making the diagnosis and treatment of the condition extremely challenging.
Fortunately for Dr. Bar El, assistance was close at hand.
He walked down the hall to the recently established Assuta Ashdod Hospital Accelerator Program, and soon had both the funding and the medical expertise to create his life saving procedure.
“Saving women’s lives is paramount, and with funding from the Assuta Ashdod Accelerator Program, I finally got the support I needed to develop the innovation,” said Bar El, who recently signed a business contract with TAG Medical, a UK-based medical supply company, to bring his product to market. “The medical expertise and business advice I received from the mentors at Assuta’s accelerator program was invaluable.”
The Idea Laboratory
The ADAMA Health-Tech Accelerator, a partnership of Assuta Ashdod and Adama, a multinational crop protection company based in Israel, was founded in June 2020 to nurture innovative healthcare products, improve health care services, and serve as a laboratory to test new ideas in hospital management. The program is the first of its kind in southern Israel, and the only hospital-based medical accelerator in the country.
Dr. Gil Levy, head of medical innovations at Assuta Ashdod and director of the accelerator program, says the 10-week course attracts top medical talent with an entrepreneurial bent.
“We hire professionals who understand that there is a significant need for medical solutions in Israel and are committed to pushing the boundaries of innovation,” Levy says. “I think it’s important that the staff knows the hospital wants to encourage new ideas, and provide them with the tools to bring their ideas to the market.”
The Assuta Accelerator is special, according to Levy, because it keeps medical professionals involved and invested through every step. “At a lot of other incubators, they take the idea but the initiator is left behind,” he says. “We try to keep the entrepreneur at the center of the process and provide them with the support they need to bring their product to market.”
Zvi Manor, vice president of Israel Operations at ADAMA, said the partnership with Assuta was a “natural fit.”
"ADAMA encourages a culture of creative development and out-the-box thinking,” Manor commented. “And Assuta Ashdod Hospital is doing the same by establishing itself as a center of innovation. We are proud to partner with Assuta Ashdod in elevating the level of innovative health care in Israel."
The accelerator program is now guiding its second round of participants. In the first cohort, ADAMAH-Health Tech incubated 12 creative projects that addressed common medical challenges, including:
● An intubation simulator created by Dr. Noa Rosenfeld, director of Assuta Ashdod’s Pediatric ICU: the simulator will assist doctors and medical residents in properly intubating patients, a common procedure that nonetheless results in pain and some risk for the patient.
● A software program to track and evaluate residents, developed by Dr. Eitan Demari of Assuta Ashdod’s department of pediatrics. The technology allows the attending physician to grade the skill and knowledge of the resident. Until now, time spent in the hospital was the primary evaluator for performance. This innovation will also aid in fast-tracking residents into specialty areas.
As part of their training, members of the accelerator program also receive mentoring from executives in the health and technology fields on how to prepare a business model, create marketing strategies, and pitch to potential investors. Medical staff from Assuta Ashdod also contributed their technical expertise.
Health-based accelerator programs exist across the world, but a hospital-based program is less common. While a hospital could contract with a medical services or device company to produce a certain product, an in-house accelerator gives the institution more influence over the final design of the tool or innovation, and the possibility of a future revenue-sharing arrangement.
Leading hospitals like Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles and Texas Medical Center house incubator programs but the majority are run by venture capitalists or large pharmaceutical companies. That makes Assuta Ashdod’s Accelerator unique.
A second cohort of accelerator participants is currently nearing the end of its 10-week course. Similar to the first group, the second has brought new ideas to the marketplace, including:
● A robotic bed that moves patients around the hospital - this eliminates the need to find an orderly to perform the task. The bed also communicates with the patient, telling them where they are going and for what purpose.
● A product that better diagnoses cervical cancer: once further tested, this innovation could replace traditional (and painful) annual Pap smears. The hope is that a less invasive procedure will lead to more women testing for cervical cancer, and receiving treatment at earlier stages.
“At Assuta Ashdod, we aim to be a major center of health care innovation in Israel and worldwide,” said Dr. Erez Barenboim, CEO of Assuta Ashdod Hospital. “Israel is a leader in the tech world, with many new products and startups appearing daily. There is no reason we can’t do the same for entrepreneurs working in the healthcare field, and it starts with us.”