US Firms Seek Life-Sciences Opportunities in Israel

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Sunday embarked on its first full-scale mission to Israel, with the focus on the nation’s burgeoning life-sciences sector.

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The U.S. Israel Business Initiative, a special section of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched in 2010, is meeting with key Israeli business and political leaders. A dozen high-ranking executives from major U.S. companies, including General Electric, Boston Scientific, Oracle, Merck, and MedImmune, are on the tour. Myron Brilliant, senior vice president of the Chamber of Commerce’s international division, is leading the delegation.

One of the main goals of the trip is to facilitate investment and cooperation between American companies and Israeli leaders in life-sciences industry, including companies that specialize in medical devices, bio-pharmaceutical firms, and genetic research. Over the next few days, executives on the Chamber's mission will meet with leaders in Israel’s life-sciences sector directly.

“There’s a real entrepreneurial spirit in Israel,” said Marc Perlman, global vice president, health care and life sciences, for Oracle. “It’s clear Prime Minister Netanyahu is very excited about Israeli innovation. When it comes to bringing investment into this country he gets it.”

During a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the U.S. group Sunday at his office in Jerusalem, the prime minister acknowledged “that the sometimes difficult security situation weighs on the minds of some investors,” according to a person with knowledge of the talks. Netanyahu also offered clear examples of how Israel’s business community has overcome security threats.

Despite the fact Israel has been locked in a war of words with Iran, foreign investment remains strong in Israel. During a recent trip, CNBC learned that many Israeli businesses that are searching for funding said they rarely hear questions from potential investors about the security situation.

One of Israel’s most successful biotechnology firms is Rainbow Medical — there are about a dozen companies under Rainbow’s umbrella that specialize in everything from dental implants to the making of artificial retinas. The company was founded by a former aeronautics engineer Yossi Gross.

“Nine out of 12 companies under Rainbow are already in the clinical phase and three major deal transactions for those 12 companies are already in the works — all that in just under three years,” Gross said.