Despite its small population, Israel hosts a high concentration of startups. Here’s a collection of the hottest biotech companies raising big cash in the Middle Eastern nation.
Historically, Israel’s biotech industry has been viewed as secondary to its thriving medtech scene. However, in spite of a population of just 9 million people, the nation has grown a key biotech ecosystem in the last decade.
Part of the growth stems from Israel’s focus on education, resulting in a skilled workforce. Another is the prominence of startups in the nation across sectors including agriculture, technology and healthcare. Another driving factor is Israel’s attractiveness for major pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and more. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel was also one of the fastest countries to vaccinate its population thanks to data-sharing deals between the Israeli government and Pfizer.
We’ve listed the five hottest private biotech companies in Israel, judging from the amount of cash they’ve bagged from investors since 2021. They cover a range of verticals including healthcare, diagnostics and food technology.
1E Therapeutics is a recent addition to Israel’s biotech scene. The company made headlines in 2021 when it bagged a massive seed round of $120 million — the largest of its kind for an Israeli startup in the sector.
1E Therapeutics is using the proceeds to finance the development of drugs that treat disease by targeting RNA molecules. The company has lead compounds designed to treat indications in oncology, age-related diseases, immunology, antimicrobial resistance, viral infections and orphan neurological disorders.
The secretive company is hiring staff fast and has released few details about its pipeline.
Headquarters: Rehovot and Jerusalem
Future Meat is one of the leading players in cultured meat, a form of technology that allows producers to grow meat from animal cells without needing to use traditional farming methods.
In late 2021, the Israeli biotech raised the cultured meat sector’s then biggest-ever funding round of $347 million, which was beaten only by Upside Foods’ $400 million Series C round in 2022.
In Future Meat’s approach, cells called fibroblasts are taken from an animal and grown in a cell culture. Unlike many companies, which need an animal-derived medium to nourish the cell cultures, Future Meat claims to be the first to use an animal-free cell growth medium.
Future Meat expects to break ground for its first U.S. production site this year and is working to gain market approval for the technology in the U.S. The aim is to set up multiple facilities the size of breweries close to population centers, which allows meat to be produced locally and with a much smaller footprint than traditional meat production.
The company initially expects to launch with cultured chicken meat, and then plans to bring in cultured beef and pork. In August 2022, the company produced its first cultivated lamb prototype.
MeMed aims to tackle the growing antimicrobial resistance crisis by developing diagnostic tools that identify whether an infection is caused by bacteria or viruses. This then allows doctors to rapidly prescribe precise treatments for a particular pathogen, rather than giving a patient many drugs as a precaution, which can lead to drug resistance.
Instead of screening for fragments of pathogens, as many tests do, MeMed’s BV test measures the immune system’s reaction to the infection by screening immune proteins called TRAIL, IP-10 and CRP. By processing a blood sample for 15 minutes, the test can determine whether the infection is bacterial or viral.
MeMed’s BV test has been greenlit in the U.S. The company also markets a COVID-19 test in Europe that allows healthcare professionals to predict which Covid patients might deteriorate.
In January 2022, MeMed raised $93 million in a Series E round to finance the commercialization of its diagnostics tool, including overcoming challenges with manufacturing and expanding its offerings to cover a large range of disease indications.
Headquarters: Rehovot and San Diego, U.S.
Nucleix raised eyebrows when it raised a $55 million venture funding round in early 2021. The Israeli biotech startup used the cash to fund the development of cancer diagnostics using the blood of patients, also known as liquid biopsy.
Liquid biopsies are an emerging technology that allows the detection of signs of cancer in the blood without tissue biopsies, which are invasive and uncomfortable for patients. However, some liquid biopsy tests currently available, which screen for whole cells or DNA fragments, can be expensive and difficult to deploy as they rely on processing in central labs.
Nucleix’s solution is a cost-effective test that runs on simple lab equipment and can return results in a single day. The technology screens for chemical changes called methylation to DNA molecules. As cancer causes changes to methylation patterns in the genome, reading these patterns could reveal the fingerprints of cancer at a very early stage.
Nucleix’s tests are branded as EpiCheck, and its first test is marketed in Europe for the detection of primary and recurrent bladder cancer and upper tract urinary cancer. Nucleix is also working to gain approval of a similar test for lung cancer.
Remilk aims to develop a sustainable alternative to traditional milk production, which consumes a lot of resources and emits a lot of greenhouse gasses. Rather than developing a plant-based substitute for milk, the Israeli biotech plans to produce the real thing using genetically modified yeast.
In January 2022, the company raised a huge Series B round worth $120 million to finance the development of its technology. The company also started building what it dubs the world’s largest full-scale precision fermentation facility in the Symbiosis project, an industrial ecosystem in Denmark.
In June 2022, Remilk’s product was given the green light for sale in the U.S., and the company expects to begin commercial operations in the coming months. Additionally, Remilk signed a pact with the giant CBC Group to launch a line of dairy products created using Remilk’s animal-free milk in Israel, pending regulatory approval.
Israel’s booming biotech scene
With its thriving biotech startup scene, Israel remains a key region to watch in the global biotech industry. Keep checking back for the latest startups emerging in Israel’s biotech ecosystem!