Two Israeli companies (GiantLeap and DosentRX), recent graduates of a prestigious medical technology accelerator at the Texas Medical Center (TMC) in Houston, are embarking on paid proof of concept trials and opening offices in Houston to be close to the hospitals and research centers they met during their acceleration program. A third Israeli medical device startup (InnoSphere), founded by two Arab Israeli engineers from Haifa, has just been accepted into the accelerator’s next cohort. Two recent previous participants of the accelerator Sonaris and VoiceItt are in the process of deploying medical trials.
With 56 member institutions, including the world’s leading cancer hospital, MD Anderson, and the world’s largest pediatric hospital, Texas Children’s Hospital, the TMC is home to multiple large hospital systems including The Methodist Hospital, St. Luke’s, and Memorial-Hermann. With over 50 million developed square feet of building space, 9200 hospital beds, 10 million annual patient visits, and 125,000 employees, TMC is the world’s largest medical center.
It’s easy to get lost in it, and not just because of its physical size, but also because of its multi-institutional complexities. The growing Israeli presence at TMC, facilitated by Start-Up Nation Central over the past year, is creating a large-scale launchpad for Israeli digital health innovations into the complex US healthcare system.
Located in the TMC Innovation Institute, the TMCx accelerator provides startups with shared workspace, a curriculum tailored to creating clinical and business validation, and the guidance of over 200 industry advisors. Startups attend workshops and get expert advice on everything needed to run a medical business, including clinical trials, FDA regulations, reimbursements, compliance, hospital procurement, commercial pilots, intellectual property, licensing, fundraising, and marketing. The four-month program culminates with TMCx Demo Day, an exclusive presentation to hundreds of investors, corporate partners, hospital stakeholders, media and other guests.
Start-Up Nation Central, which has been working with partners in Houston, including the Mayor’s office and Rice University to create an innovation bridge between TMC and Israeli startups, has partnered with Anat Zeidman, an on the ground liaison to clear the path for the Israeli companies. Zeidman, born in Israel and living in Houston for the past 25 years, previously worked for 10 years in various project management roles for TMC institutions, and as such has extensive background and familiarity with the TMC, its structure, and how to access and manage projects with the TMC institutions.
“TMC is a good example of how SNC builds a functioning bridge between Israel’s innovation ecosystem and areas where this innovation is needed and can make an impact,” said Guy Hilton, Start-Up Nation Central’s general manager.
SNC has been promoting Israel’s digital health industry as part of its strategic sectors development program for the past 4 years, bringing dozens of pharma and biotech companies, hospital systems, insurers, and other multinationals to Israel to connect to the local ecosystem. Two years ago the NGO began helping Israeli digital health entrepreneurs navigate their way into global markets, with practical interactive tool kits, reports and industry events focused on entering the U.S. healthcare system. “We send innovation one way, and the organizations we work with come to Israel to experience the solutions here in a more holistic way,” Hilton said.
That bridge has yielded early successes.
The DosentRx solution, ReX, tracks patient medication from the pharmacy and dispenses it only when it is time for dosing, helping to limit medication errors and potential overdose. DosentRx is working with Houston’s Harris County to combat major public health issues of non-adherence, and are currently speaking to other hospitals within TMC to help them reduce the penalties incurred due to re-admittance of patients who are non-adherent to their drug after discharge. Edan Razinovsky, the company’s director of business development, has opened an office in the TMCx open space and is spearheading the efforts in Houston.
GiantLeap, another recent Israeli TMCx graduate, makes a system for learning and behavioral development screening and decision support tool for children. The system identifies cognitive challenges (dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD) and aptitudes (motor, communication, creativity) to create the optimal personalized child learning development plan. GiantLeap was the youngest foreign company selected to the program, only six months after the company’s inception. They recently signed their first agreement with Advantage Testing, a private tutoring service who will co-develop GiantLeap’s system. The company’s cofounder and CEO Ori Hofnung is moving to Houston to advance this partnership.
InnoSphere, established by Rami Shacour and Yousef Badran, is set to embark on TMCx’s next cohort beginning in August. Innosphere makes an electrode-embedded cap that stimulates neurons in the brain to help those suffering from ADHD.
VoiceItt, which develops technology that helps people with irregular speech patterns caused by illness or other medical conditions (including ALS, autism and Parkinson’s disease) communicate with others, is working on a trial with the Rehabilitation Center at Memorial Herman hospital. Sonaris, which makes an autonomous ultrasound device, is opening an office at Texas Medical Center.
Sharon Shapira, Start-Up Nation Central’s digital health sector lead, says the key to inserting Israeli digital health innovators into the U.S. is not to look at the entire U.S. healthcare system as one single market.
“We needed to find places where Israeli ingenuity could have a comparative advantage and willing partners. This was clearly not going to happen in Boston, New York, or the Bay Area–those places are already packed with Israelis, there’s tons of competition, and really developed life sciences hubs. But we found it in Houston,” Shapira said.