Israel’s government has announced a $275m digital health project in an effort to establish itself as a leading innovator in the digital health space, the prime minister's office said in a statement on March 25, 2018.
The government’s new project intends to digitise the personal health records of Israel’s nearly 9 million citizens and bring greater business opportunity for innovators to build digital health products to develop preventive medicines and personalised care.
In partnership with German software giant SAP, the Israeli government has agreed to extend its database of digital patient data to academics and foreign healthcare companies as part of broader plans to aid development of new drugs and buoy its economy.
“For global pharma companies and healthcare start-ups, this public-funded big data analytics project is a goldmine because they will be able to leverage this project to augment their own R&D capabilities,” said Lata Hariharan, CEO at Resource Leaders, a market intelligence firm that provides strategic insights on industry trends.“This will touch both homegrown and global companies working specifically on genomics, personalised medicine or artificial intelligence [AI], machine learning and big data analytics in healthcare.”
Anna Lewin, aenior analyst at PGI Intelligence, also sees great potential for the private sector, as well as “savvy investors”, in the initiative titled the Mosaic project. “By providing access to enormous volumes of data that can be used to train, test and refine AI programmes, the project is likely to facilitate the development of algorithmic tools that predict the course of individual cases of illness and the outcomes of different treatment options,” she says. “Savvy investors will be able to capitalise on these opportunities by investing in start-ups that are well placed to process big data in the requisite manner.”
Dr Yair Schindel, co-founder and managing partner of aMoon Venture Funds, said the government’s new project has the potential to affect every single sector within healthtech which includes drug discovery, drug development and medtech.
“Digital health is now everywhere and the project could stimulate expansion across all stakeholders in this industry, including payers, providers and, of course, patients,” said Mr Schindel. “Israel has been identified as a world leader in digital health, due to Israel's health maintenance organisations, which have been digitising data for decades,” she added. The government project is key to helping Israel achieve its vision of transforming the country into a digital country and industry leader in personalised medicine.
“The recent digital health project certainty highlights greater political will from the Israeli government to remain on the cutting edge of healthcare and technological investment within the Middle East,” said Craig Richard Smith, pharmaceuticals and healthcare analyst at Fitch Solutions. “Israel is well known as a regional leader in the life sciences sector with a strong domestic biotechnology industry and heavy focus on medical devices”, he added.
Despite the booming healthtech environment, long-standing structural issues within the region and major ongoing security conflicts raise potential questions over whether Israel can sustain its breakneck pace of digital expansion.
But Raphaele Auberty from Fitch Group’s BMI Research said investor appetite in Israel is apparent. “Israel is generally seen as a safe place to do business in the Middle East, with the vast majority of geopolitical tensions in the region having limited impact on investor sentiment. Even events of violence in the West Bank and Gaza have had a limited impact on economic activity,” she said.
Funding activity for healthcare technology in Israel has been growing rapidly in recent years, which attracted $225m in investment in 2017 alone, according to Ms Lewin. Global healthcare expenditure will reach more than $8500bn by 2020, she added.