Organic food and precision oncology, stars of the Biomed summit in Tel Aviv

Scientific discoveries behind cutting-edge food technologies and new cancer treatments will be the focus of the Biomed Israel summit next week. This annual conference, dedicated to life sciences and health technologies, brings together scientists, health professionals, entrepreneurs and investors from dozens of countries around the world.

This year, for three days, the conference will celebrate its 20th anniversary around 10 “tracks” – infectious diseases, medical robotics, AI and machine learning, precision cancer diagnostics and therapies, “biofood” and its impact on health. human. Each “track” will be led by a top professional, and the conference, which organizers say expects 6,000 people, will also host an exhibition of Israeli products and technologies from hundreds of companies.

Dr. Tammy Meiron, CTO of Israel’s Fresh Start Food Tech Incubator and chair of the food tech track, told the Times of Israel that the sessions will focus on “bio-food technologies and how we are adapting biotechnology to food technology to produce more sustainable foods”.

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“Because of the climate crisis, every day the idea that we have to find better solutions to feed a population [mondiale] ever more numerous is getting stronger. There is a growing demand for food and ethical aspects to promoting the cultivation of our food from animals,” Meiron said.

“The younger generation is more aware of what [problème], and it is also the first generation that we welcome, fully aware of the dangers of the climate crisis,” she added. These dangers have been described as “alerts for humanity” requiring urgent action by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“We have an action window of about 10 years. It is essential that we provide solutions in the field of food technology,” she said.

In this photo taken on October 22, 2020, a farmer walks among drought-shriveled orange trees on the plains south of Agadir in central Morocco. (Credit: Fadel Senna/AFP)

Meiron is an experienced food tech professional, having headed the protein department at US biochemical company Sigma Aldrich (later acquired by Merck) where she led the production of over 450 different proteins and enzymes, before joining Fresh Start. in 2019.

The food tech incubator, based in the city of Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel, is a project led by the Israel Innovation Authority in collaboration with Israeli company Tnuva, beverage company Tempo, the Israeli investment firm OurCrowd and Finistere Ventures, a global investor in food technology and agritech.

“We incubate companies for 2-3 years and take them to the next level of investment. So far, we have supported 40 companies,” she explained.

Fresh Start is currently working with seven companies, including one developing cell-farmed fish and two working on sugar reduction technologies.

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Lab-grown fish produced by Israeli start-up Wanda Fish. (Marcomit)

At next week’s conference, a number of well-known companies will be in attendance, including Aleph Farms, a cultured meat maker that produces steaks from modified bovine cells, Wilk, a cultured milk-free developer animal and cell-based human milk.

Meiron believes that food technologies such as cultured meat and fish, alternative proteins, animal-free milk and dairy products, among others, will help ensure food security in the years to come. “The climate and agriculture will not be the same. We will have to adapt,” she said.

His talk at the Biomed conference will cover new biotechnological technologies applied to food production to reduce dependence on traditional agriculture in favor of more sustainable methods.

Challenges facing the industry will also be discussed, including costs, mass production, resources and infrastructure. “It costs thousands of dollars to produce food in the lab, it’s a huge problem. People need to opt for this type of food,” Meiron said.

Moreover, investors are flocking to the industry. “We’ve seen a dramatic acceleration over the last 2 years, venture capitalists now all want to have a bit of food tech. There is a lot of money [investi] because we understand this is a serious problem,” she said.

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Ribeye produced from lab-grown meat cells by Israeli start-up Aleph Farms. (Courtesy: Aleph Farms/Technion Institute of Technology)

In Israel, the alternative protein sector, within a vibrant food tech industry, grew around 450% in 2021 from the previous year and Israeli startups in the field raised some $623 million in investments, according to a report published in March.

The Good Food Institute (GFI) Israel, a non-profit organization that promotes research and innovation in food technologies, found that the $623 million in investments represented about 12% of global capital raised for the entire sector in the world last year (about 5 billion dollars), “second after the United States”.

The next step in food technology, Meiron concluded, is in “enabling technology that will help companies that have already raised funds to reduce costs, etc. “.

Precision oncology

In oncology, the next step is “precision oncology,” which allows cancer treatments to be tailored to individual biology, said Dr. Ofer Sharon, CEO of OncoHost, the developer of a test blood to predict how well cancer patients will respond to treatment.

Sharon will chair the Biomed ‘track’ which examines advances in cancer therapies and precision therapies, driven by biomarkers and artificial intelligence tools.

Today, most cancer treatment programs are
“Based on the same protocol given to everyone, whether it’s a 74-year-old woman or a 35-year-old man,” Sharon explained.

“Chemotherapy is like a rain of bombs: it does not differentiate between healthy cells and cancerous cells,” he explained. “Research is changing [de perspective] to focus on specific targets and tailor treatment to the level of the mutation” while providing personalized, biology-based care [du patient].

The “track” will give voice to two types of companies, those that develop targeted drugs to tackle specific mutations and those, like Oncohost, that research individual biomarkers.

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Illustrative: Cancer cells (Credit: Design Cells; iStock by Getty Images)

“We are looking for the biological indications that affect the treatment…to identify if a patient is going to respond to the treatment” or help identify another, Sharon explained.

Another company in the industry is Nucleai, which uses computer vision and machine learning to study tumor characteristics to help pharmaceutical companies predict how patients will respond to drugs.

This growing field faces key issues, such as regulatory hurdles and the need for a medical “paradigm shift,” Sharon said.

“The fight against cancer is a real war, and we understand that it has a price. It is necessary to ‘kill the entity’ and doctors want to act as quickly as possible,” Sharon explained. Precision medicine takes a different approach that can take longer, but can be much more effective.

The industry also requires closer collaboration with the pharmaceutical giants. “There are great drugs out there, but they work for a small number of patients. To treat cancer, we need to better understand this complex disease. It takes education and raising awareness,” Sharon said.

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The annual Biomed conference in Tel Aviv, 2019. (Courtesy)

On the regulatory side, he assured, “there is no organization capable of authorizing [les technologies] in an effective way “. Nor is there a regulatory body specifically reviewing AI and machine learning-based technologies.

“There is a lot of work to be done for the market to adopt [ces nouvelles méthodes] concluded Sharon.

The Biomed conference will take place May 10-12 in Tel Aviv, co-chaired by Ruti Alon, founder and CEO of Medstrada, a food technology venture capital fund, Dr. Ora Dar, consultant and expert in medical sciences & health innovation , and former Head of Health and Life Sciences at the Israel Innovation Authority, and Dr. Nissim Darvish, Managing Partner at MeOHR Ventures, a private equity firm focused on cures for critical illnesses .

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Organic food and precision oncology, stars of the Biomed summit in Tel Aviv

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