Israel, known for its holy sites, its beautiful vistas, and its great Middle Eastern food, is also hard at work fighting cancer. Israel has been at the forefront of pharmacological advances, and Israeli-based pharmaceutical companies are leading the fight against diseases. Israeli scientists are working to pioneer new drugs and treatments, and are involved in every step of drug manufacturing, from development to clinical trials to the release of the drug.
The Sabra Pharma Giants
Quark Pharmaceuticals is a California-based pharmaceutical company with an R&D center in Israel. Quark specializes in RNA-interference based treatment. RNA interference is a cellular system which plays a crucial role in defending cells against parasites. Quark, which is partnered with Pfizer, develops treatments which stop genes from producing proteins associated with certain diseases; at Quark's state-of-the-art development center, scientists are busy conducting clinical trials to develop and modify the drugs.
One of Quark's other leading products, now finishing its clinical trials, will help patients with diabetic macular edema and age-related macular degeneration. Another treatment will help prevent kidney injury following major cardiac surgery.
Teva Pharmaceuticals is an international pharmaceutical company based in Petah-Tikvah, Israel. Teva is one of the largest drug manufacturers in the world. Teva's innovative research is currently focusing on drugs treating neurological disorders and auto-immune disease. Copaxone, developed by Teva, is the first innovative drug—in other words, a new drug chemical—to be developed in Israel and receive FDA approval. Copaxone treats patients suffering from multiple sclerosis. In August 2009, Teva announced that the FDA had approved and launched a new injection for use in treating patients with advanced colon cancer.
Survivors of severe head injuries often develop epilepsy as a result of the trauma. Until now, there has been no way to prevent the epileptic episodes. But a study, conducted jointly by a US and Israeli medical team, has discovered a drug that may provide a solution. During laboratory studies, researchers found that by administering the drug after the head trauma, they were able to prevent the brain changes that lead to epilepsy. This finding could help soldiers injured in battle, as well as patients who suffer infections to the brain.
A Mystery Plan to Prevent Cancer?
An Israeli-Arab scientist has been conducting studies on an ancient, inedible plant that may be able to prevent cancer. In laboratory studies using rats, the scientist, Dr. Fuad Fares, found that giving the compound as a vitamin, preventively, enabled the rats to better fight off cancer tumors. It also dramatically improved the body's ability to decrease tumors when it was given as a medicine. Until further tests are conducted, the plant's identity remains a mystery. There is speculation, though unconfirmed, that the plant appears in the writings of Maimonides, a famous physician and Jewish scholar from the 12th century.
Treating Septic Shock
Sepsis, or its most extreme case, septic shock, is usually caused by a massive infection to the body, provoking an inflammatory response from the immune system. In short, the body's own immune system causes most of the symptoms of sepsis, leading to organ damage and possibly even organ failure. But an Israeli biotech company, Atox Bio, has developed a new peptide which could treat sepsis, rescuing patients from its effects and making them immune to future "toxin challenges." Atox Bio is currently collaborating with a Maryland-based research company to further develop and test this drug.
With thanks to www.israel21c.org, a site dedicated to spreading the word about the "other" Israel—not the Israel of suicide bombing and disputed walls, but the Israel of technological advances, innovations, and contributions to the betterment of the world.