Mayo Launches Israeli Startup Initiative To Spur Med-Tech Development
Mayo Clinic announced late last week an initiative to better collaborate with medical device companies in Israel, a country with a strong med-tech industry and high number of doctors per capita.
Representatives of the Rochester-based healthcare organization flew to the Middle Eastern country to kickstart a unique effort it calls the Mayo Clinic Israeli Startup Initiative. Mayo’s international relations consultant Duska Anastasijevic said the outreach to Israel comes with a two-part focus.
The first is to commercialize Israeli health care technology and introduce it to the U.S., while also investing in and advancing the development of new discoveries.
“Israel is recognized for being such a hub for biotech and life sciences. It’s a powerhouse in its own right, truly the Silicon Valley in that part of the world,” Anastasijevic said.
Mayo’s second and foremost entrepreneurial aim with the Israel initiative is to accelerate the availability of medical innovations—including those originated at Mayo.
James Rogers, chair of Mayo Clinic Ventures, which is managing the overseas initiative’s commercialization office, will meet with Israeli startups throughout the week. Mayo has frequently encountered financial hurdles in the process of developing medical technology in the United States, Rogers said. However, in Israel, he hopes the strain of locking down investors won’t be as much an issue.
“My sense is there’s money coming into Israel from China and other places,” Rogers said. “Because of the critical mass of startup activity and company activity they have there, I expect there to be a different landscape from an investing standpoint. But we won’t know that until we get over there on the ground and start meeting people.”
Mayo is familiar with making overseas arrangements to spur med-tech development. In April 2014, the organization signed a five-year partnership with the Irish government. That deal has led to several collaborative efforts, each of which is at a different stage of progress and could not be detailed for confidentiality reasons, Rogers said. Nonetheless, he noted that Mayo is “a very big fan” of its Irish collaboration.
Rogers only hopes the same sort of success can be recreated in Israel. To ensure that it does, Mayo plans to make sizeable investments in whichever projects it deems beneficial.
“We have seed funds that I could put up to $200,000 in something, or just $25,000,” Rogers said. “It’s totally case-by-base and the amount of money we think makes sense to make sure it moves forward.”
Mayo does not have a set pool of funds dedicated to the Israel initiative. Instead, the company has seed funds that Mayo could tap into if it choses to continue investing.
“Our top fund is a venture fund, but that does require a blue-chip lead,” Rogers said. “So if we find a top tier lead investor, then that allows us to go up to $2.5 million in venture and potentially up to $20 million in growth.”
The Merage Institute, a nonprofit that connects high-tech American companies and Israeli entrepreneurs, was a principal financial supporter of the Mayo initiative. In the past, the two organizations have partnered to create a similar, but smaller-scaled collaboration between Israeli startups and Mayo.
Rogers and Mayo representatives such as Amir Lerman, medical director of the Israel initiative, plan to meet with dozens of healthcare organizations in their time abroad. “We’re going to be looking at companies, people, and institutions, just to get a lay of the land,” Rogers said. “I think we’re looking at startups across the healthcare spectrum right now.”
From May 24 to 26, however, Mayo’s focus will slightly shift toward Israel’s bustling life science industry. The organization will be active within the country’s leading life science conference, the Israeli Advanced Technology Biomed 2016, which takes place in Tel Aviv.