Israel may be a tiny country, but its impact worldwide has been phenomenal.
We take a look back at some of the country’s biggest achievements in 2018.
Israeli Conservationists Crowdfund to Save Endangered Species
The multinational This-is-My-Earth.org (TiME), led by Israeli conservation biologist Prof. Uri Shanas and Israeli environmental activist Prof. Alon Tal, allows anyone to help save endangered species by donating as little as $1 toward a crowdfund to purchase and protect land in biodiversity hotspots.
Donors vote on where the money will go – mostly tropical areas such as the Peruvian Andes, where a successful campaign enabled TiME to purchase and protect two parcels of land as we reported in January 2018.
“TiME is becoming more and more popular in schools where kids learn with the TiME educational program conservation, geography, language, social sciences and disscuss issues such as democracy, equity, responsibility and activism,” says Shanas. TiME is now collecting funds toward buying a parcel of land in Belize.
High-Tech Paint Uses the Sun’s Rays to Cool Buildings
Herzliya-based SolCold has developed a potentially game-changing paint that uses the rays of the sun to activate a cooling mechanism, providing air conditioning without electricity. The double-layered coating uses nanotech to absorb the hot rays of the sun and re-emit the energy in the form of cold.
The hotter the solar radiation, the more the coating cools down, making it an electricity-free solution for sunny climates, and usable anywhere from malls to homes, offices, cars, planes, chicken coops, hothouses – you name it. Trials are on their way. The paint could decrease electricity consumption by up to 60 percent, according to SolCold.
Noninvasive Treatments for Pelvic Prolapse
In January, we reported that the US FDA granted marketing approval to an Israeli minimally invasive system to treat pelvic organ prolapse (POP), which affects half of all women sometime during their life.
POP Medical Solutions developed the NeuGuide solution in response to mounting calls across the world to ban the controversial use of transvaginal mesh to treat the painful and debilitating condition. POP Medical and Escala Medical, another Israeli company developing a minimally invasive POP solution, could revolutionize this $1 billion medical market.
One Drug for a Variety of Incurable Diseases
Readers were amazed by our February story about Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School Prof. David Naor, who’s developing one drug that shows promise in its ability to treat a host of incurable inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis as well as neurodegenerative maladies such as Alzheimer’s disease. If he can raise the money for human trials, his novel peptide could prove to be a game-changer.
Special Plastic Wheelchairs Distributed to Needy Children
Many crippled children in developing countries can’t get to school because their families cannot afford wheelchairs. Israeli plastics-industry executives Pablo Kaplan and Chava Rotshtein took on this problem as a humanitarian mission.
In February, their colorful, lightweight, inexpensive, low-maintenance Wheelchairs of Hope, sized specifically for kids, were donated in South Africa. Additional chairs have been distributed through Israeli government agencies and various partner organizations to needy disabled children in Vietnam, Peru, Tajikistan, Argentina and Guatemala.
Israeli Experts Step in to Help Community Leaders after Parkland School Shooting
When 17 students and teachers were killed at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in one of the deadliest school shootings in US history, experts from the Israel Trauma Coalition arrived 10 days later to train 600 teachers, social workers, law enforcers, clergy and first responders in resiliency strategies.
Throughout 2018, the Israeli specialists in trauma response continued to offer resiliency training workshops for community leaders in Houston, after last year’s devastating Hurricane Harvey. They also flew to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the wake of the shooting at the synagogue which killed 11 on October 27, to provide training. Israeli aid organizations ZAKA Search and Rescue, United Hatzalah Psychotrauma & Crisis Unit, and Dream Doctors also provided assistance in Pittsburgh.
Automated Handwashing Stations for Indian Children
Children in areas of India without running water suffer from poor hygiene and are susceptible to diseases that could be prevented with simple handwashing. In March we were happy to report that many of these kids are now able to clean their hands properly thanks to off-grid, solar-powered, self-sustaining hygiene stations invented by Israeli social-impact startup Soapy.
The machine starts automatically when someone approaches, producing a precis dose of soap along with water harvested from the air. The unit operates 24/7 and provides more than 600 washing cycles from 100 liters of water. The scale-up possibilities of this one technology are astounding.
No-Prep Alternative to Colonoscopy Wins CE Approval
Colonoscopies can detect early colon cancer and save lives, but the preparation and procedure are so unpleasant that many people choose to avoid this screening test. In March, we reported on a noninvasive alternative that won CE approval in Europe and has since been approved for a pilot study in the United States.
Check-Cap’s C-Scan ingestible x-ray capsule – requiring no laxative preparation — passively collects data enabling generation of 2D and 3D maps of the colon before the capsule is eliminated naturally. Physicians look at the maps on a clinical data viewer to identify any abnormalities needing further examination.
Israeli Medical NGO Wins UN Population Award
In April, we reported that Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) received the 2018 United Nations Population Award – the first Israeli NGO to do so – in recognition of 23 years of providing lifesaving cardiac care for children from developing countries. Since 1995, SACH has treated, at no charge, more than 4,800 children from 57 countries, Gaza and the Palestinian Authority territories, and trained cardiology teams from those countries.
Later in the year, another Israeli humanitarian organization, IsraAID, received the 2018 German Chancellor’s Integration Award in recognition of its Brückenbau (“Bridge Building”) project providing psychological support in Arabic for at-risk refugee women and victims of gender-based violence living in German shelters and training and counseling for shelter staff.
Israeli Brain Researcher Developing Vaccine Against Alzheimer’s
In April, we published a story on Israeli brain researcher Prof. Eitan Okun that sparked a great deal of interest from readers all over the world.
Okun is developing a vaccine against the degenerative brain disease, Alzheimer’s, which affects some 47 million people worldwide. His vaccine primes the body to attack amyloid beta protein accumulations in the brain, one of the signature signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Experiments on mice have been promising, and Okun is now preparing to design human trials on people at known risk of developing the disease.
Medical Cannabis Could be the Next Big Cure-All
Medical cannabis research was born in Israel. In April, we looked at the many ways Israeli scientists remain at the forefront of discovering how compounds found in the herb can help untold numbers of people suffering from conditions including cancer, chronic pain, diabetes, epilepsy, asthma, insomnia, autism, PTSD, inflammatory bowel disease, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s and Tourette syndrome, among others. This could be one of the biggest healthcare breakthroughs of the decade.
Israel Celebrates its 70th Birthday
What a year of festivities it’s been, as Israel celebrated its 70th anniversary in April. In 70 years, the country has been transformed from a poor, agricultural-based economy to one of the world’s leading high-tech players, a giant in innovation.
We charted that rise in a popular DIY exhibition, 70 Years of Israeli Achievement, which was displayed in locations all over the world; and in a wonderful film, “70 Years of Innovation: Milestones in Israeli History.”
Giro d’Italia Comes to Israel for the First Time
Israelis were beyond excited to host 22 cycling teams from around the world for the May 4-6 Big Start of the 101st Giro d’Italia Grand Tour — the largest professional sporting event ever held in Israel, and the first time the Big Start was held outside Europe.
Followed by mobs of fans on foot and bike, the three-day event took the cyclists through Jerusalem, from Haifa to Tel Aviv, and from Beersheva to Eilat before continuing on to Italy. Our own Israel Cycling Academy team was the most diverse of the group, with 24 riders from 16 countries, including Christians, Jews, a Muslim and a Druze.
Frutarom’s $7.1B Acquisition, Second Largest in Israel’s History
In May, Israel’s Frutarom was purchased for $7.1 billion by US firm International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), making it the second largest purchase of an Israeli company after Intel’s $15 billion acquisition of Mobileye in 2017. Frutarom, which makes flavors and fragrances for the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries, was one of two large buy-outs in 2018.
In August, beverage and snack giant PepsiCo purchased Israeli company SodaStream for $3.2 billion. SodaStream makes home beverage carbonation systems sold in 46 countries.
Israel Wins the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Toy’
Nothing could stop the joy for Israelis when Netta Barzilai won the Eurovision song contest in Lisbon. It was Israel’s first win in 20 years. The celebrations were long and widespread, and even the subsequent arguments about where next year’s Eurovision will be held (Tel Aviv was finally chosen) did nothing to diminish the triumph. What made Barzilai so special is that her song, “Toy,” had such a strong feminist tone – capturing the zeitgeist of the #MeToo movement — and that she was such a different role model – smart, sassy and proud.
Israel has had two wins in a row before, so who knows what next year’s Eurovision in Tel Aviv may bring.
An Israeli Who Just Can’t Stop Inventing
In June we brought you the amazing story of Hebrew University Prof. Oded Shoseyov, who has parlayed his groundbreaking research in protein engineering and nano-biotechnology into a dozen commercial enterprises.
Among the products spun off from his fertile mind are a machine to 4D-print plant-based meals; plant-derived human collagen for regenerative medicine; advanced paper packaging; therapeutic antibodies; and a technology that turns poop into sterile, odorless powdered fertilizer.
Jews, Muslims and Christians Sing ‘One Love’ in Jerusalem
What could be more inspiring than the sight (and sound) of 800 Jews, Muslims and Christians coming together to sing Bob Marley’s “One Love”? Participants in the June event, organized by social musical project Koolulam, came together at Jerusalem’s Tower of David Museum to sing in three languages and in three-part harmony as a show of unity from Israel.
Tickets for the event sold out in seven minutes. It was a beautiful and inspiring moment not only for all involved, but for everyone who watched the popular video afterwards.
Prince William Makes First-Ever Official Royal Visit to Israel
Prince William landed in Israel on June 25, marking the first-ever official visit by a British royal to the State of Israel. In addition to meetings with leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, William met Eurovision winner Netta Barzilai, played soccer with Jewish and Arab children, and toured headline-grabbing Israeli startups such as ReWalk and OrCam.
ISRAEL21c welcomed the prince with this humorous guide to being British in Israel.
Israel Pours Out its Heart to Syrian War Victims
For more than five years, the Israel Defense Forces worked together with official and grassroots organizations and hospitals to provide many forms of relief to Syrian victims of the brutal civil war just over the Israeli border.
The situation became desperate in July as Assad’s army was forcing more and more Syrians from their homes to refugee camps on Israel’s doorstep, and Israel accordingly stepped up its efforts to provide Israeli medical care, food, clothing, shelter and other material goods to civilians — mainly women and children — from this enemy country, often at great expense and personal risk.
Israeli Tech Helps Rescuers Save Thai Teens Trapped in Cave
It was the rescue that transfixed the world. Twelve teenagers and their soccer coach became trapped in a cave in Thailand for 17 days after flash flooding. Israeli company Maxtech Networks sent advanced mobile communications technology to rescue teams in Thailand, enabling navy divers to communicate deep into the heart of the 10-kilometer-long cave system. It was a vital piece of equipment that helped make the extraordinary and daring rescue of the boys a complete success.
Designer Protein Launched That Provides Sweetness without Diabetes Risks
In July, we looked at how Israel’s Amai Proteins is engineering a non-GMO “designer protein” that tastes as sweet as sugar but doesn’t raise blood sugar or insulin levels, doesn’t cause obesity and doesn’t harm the liver, kidneys or microbiome as sugar can.
“The world is spending huge amounts of money to cure disease,” says founder Ilan Samish. “But we’re not focusing on curing the food that’s causing the disease. We need to cure the food rather than cure the disease.” Could Amai Proteins’ future product cure the world’s sugar addiction with a safe alternative?
Israeli Startups Develop Blood Testing Without Injections
Imagine having your blood tested without those blood-drawing needles we all hate. And imagine the results appearing within minutes, without sending any samples to labs.
In August, we reported how Israeli startups Engineering for All (EfA), Sonorapy and Sight Diagnostics are working toward make this fantasy a reality with novel approaches to automated, noninvasive blood testing – using technologies such as opto-mechanics, electrochemistry, bioengineering, soundwave sensors, and machine vision.
Sight Diagnostics Reported Closing a $28 Million Funding Round in December
Two startups develop revolutionary technologies to treat vision problems Corrective eye drops could become an attractive alternative to glasses, contact lenses and laser surgery, thanks to two Israeli startups determined to radically alter the way people improve their vision.
Readers were very interested in learning that Orasis Pharmaceuticals is developing pharmaceutical-grade eye drops intended to improve near vision for several hours; and Nano-Drops is developing a solution to correct all refractive errors – farsightedness, nearsightedness and astigmatism – using synthetic biocompatible protein nanoparticle eye drops applied in an individualized optical pattern stamped onto the cornea with fast, painless laser pulses.
Medical Equipment Giant Adopts Israeli Tool for Brain surgeons
The April acquisition of Israel’s Visionsense – innovator of a revolutionary visualization solution for brain surgeons – by multinational medical equipment company Medtronic was a huge new boost for this invention inspired by the founder’s inoperable brain tumor 20 years ago.
Our September in-depth look at Visionsense’s VSiii camera system explained that it contains a small silicon chip and software algorithms mimicking an insect’s stereoscopic eyes, creating 3D vision capabilities never before available. The result: more straightforward, safer surgeries and greatly reduced recovery time.
Research Suggestions Probiotics are not Necessarily Helping our Health
ISRAEL21c reported in September on new evidence that probiotics – preparations containing live bacteria meant to fortify disease resistance or repair damaging effects of antibiotics – aren’t universally beneficial.
A pair of studies by Israeli scientists reveals that probiotics are effective for some people and not for others, and shouldn’t be a “one size fits all” supplement but rather tailored to each individual.
Israeli Advances in the Prevention, Understanding and Treatment of Obesity
For World Obesity Day on October 11, ISRAEL21c looked at 10 Israeli innovations contributing to preventing, understanding and treating obesity, one of the biggest killers of the modern world due to the diseases it causes. Among them are a drug that melts body fat and a nasal insert that curbs appetite.
Israeli Emergency Response Team Brings Aid to Florida after Hurricane Michael
There’s probably no such thing as a quiet year for Israeli humanitarian aid organization, IsraAID. All year, every year, the NGO’s teams can be found in locations all over the world helping both with emergency response and with rebuilding communities after some of the globe’s deadliest natural disasters.
This year was no exception. In October, the NGO sent an emergency response team to Florida, after the devastating Hurricane Michael made landfall, destroying homes and buildings across the state. The same month the organization flew to North Carolina, after Hurricane Florence.
In May, IsraAID sent a team of American pediatricians to Kenya. In June, an aid team flew to Guatemala, after a deadly volcano. In July, the organization sent teams to help after floods in Japan, and in August, IsraAID volunteers were helping out after more floods in India.
IsraAID also sent emergency response teams to the Philippines and Indonesia, still has teams working in Puerto Rico and Texas, a year after last year’s Hurricanes Harvey and Maria. And, of course, it sent another team out to California to help survivors of the devastating November wildfires.
Oh, and in October IsraAID also won an award from Germany’s Amanda Merkelfor its continuing work with refugees in Europe.
3D Bioprinted Lungs to be Available for Global Transplants
When Israeli regenerative medicine company Collplant inked a licensing and commercialization deal with major American biotech firm United Therapeutics Corporation in November to make 3D bioprinted lungs, the news exploded across the Internet. The 3D printed lungs, to be created using the combined technologies of the two companies, are planned for lung transplant surgeries anywhere in the world. If all goes well, three additional organs will follow, in a development that could completely transform the way we approach organ transplant. Collplant is one of many companies founded by Hebrew University nanotech pioneer, Prof. Oded Shoseyov, whom we featured in June.
Israeli-Aussie Company Unveils New Tech to Power Cars with Water
When Israeli-Australian startup Electriq-Global announced a new technology that would enable them to power cars with water in early November, everyone took notice. While the idea of using hydrogen to power a car’s engine may not be new, Electriq-Global gets its hydrogen from a fuel comprised of 60 percent water. The spent fuel is captured and taken back to a plant where it is replenished with more hydrogen and water for re-use.
Aside from being safe and easy to transport, according to the company, the new technology offers greater range and faster fill-ups than lithium-ion-based electric cars. It should also cost only half of what consumers pay for unleaded gas. Don’t rush out looking for the technology just yet though; the first vehicles to get this tech will be demonstrated in 2020, and full commercialization is expected in 2022.
Researchers Invent Personalized Implants that the Body Won’t Reject
November brought the astonishing news that Israeli researchers have invented the first system for engineering fully personalized tissue implants from a patient’s own small fatty tissue biopsy. It does not provoke an immune response as does implanted tissue of plant or animal origin, and ensures proper regeneration of the defected organ.
The researchers are currently working on regenerating an injured spinal cord and an infarcted heart with spinal-cord and cardiac implants, and are investigating human dopaminergic implants to treat Parkinson’s disease in animal models. They plan to regenerate other organs, including intestines and eyes, in the same way.
Israeli Researchers Announce Promising Possible Treatment for Incurable Brain Cancer
In November, Israeli scientists announced that they had discovered a promising new treatment for glioblastoma, a serious and incurable brain cancer which usually kills patients in 11-20 months from diagnosis. The researchers, from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, have designed a molecule that inhibits glioblastoma tumor growth by regulating the proteins it produces. As a result, cancerous tumors decrease or die. Tested in lab animals, the patent for the technology has now been granted in the US and Europe, and the long road to bringing the treatment to market has now begun.
Israeli Tech Helps California Fire Rescuers Drink Water Pulled From Air
When the two catastrophic wildfires broke out in California in November, Israel didn’t just send humanitarian aid from IsraAID, it also sent an emergency response vehicle (ERV) carrying an innovative Israeli machine that pulls drinking water out of the air. The vehicle and the GEN-350 atmospheric water generator were sent by Watergen USA, the American subsidiary of the Israeli company that invented the system, to provide hydration to police and firefighters dealing with the aftermath of the fires, which took the lives of 86 people and destroyed 18,000 buildings. It wasn’t the first time the Watergen system was put to use after a disaster. Just a month earlier the company deployed a unit to help victims of Hurricane Michael.
A new biotoilet that creates household energy is introduced to the market
In December, we reported on a new HomeBiogas invention, the bio-toilet that feeds directly into a backyard biodigester to create household energy.
Millions of people around the world lack sewage lines and even basic lavatories, but the HomeBiogas Bio-Toilet does not need regular connections. Instead, users flush the toilet with a manual pump using just 1.2 liters of graywater. The waste is flushed directly into the HomeBiogas solar biodigester, where it is broken down by bacteria and transformed into biogas for household needs, along with other waste such as food scraps and animal manure.
While compost toilets can require manual emptying and can attract pests, the HomeBiogas system is completely sealed and there’s no need to have any direct contact or hand-remove waste.
Migraine Sufferers get a Boost with Pain Relief Promise
For many people, migraines – those severe headaches that lay you flat – are the bane of their lives. There’s no cure for them, and over-the-counter pain relief medicines don’t always do the trick. That’s why our readers got so excited in December when we brought them news about a new Israeli neuro-modulation device that stimulates nerve branches in the brain that regulate pain and mood. The rechargeable device, called Neurolief, may look like something out of Star Trek, but studies of the product show an 80 percent reduction in pain symptoms – double the rate of implanted devices. The new device is likely to retail for less than $500, but it will take a while longer before it hits the market.
Bar Ilan University Study Named One of Top 25 Research Studies of 2018
On December 21, Medical Xpress named a Bar-Ilan University research study on how the brain learns as one of the 25 best of 2018. The research, reported by ISRAEL21c in August, suggests that the process is much different and more complicated than has been assumed since the 1940s. (Israel 21C)