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Israel tops technological innovation — how do they do it?

Dr. Shai EfratiMORE than time separates Denver from Jerusalem. Unless your Israeli subject speaks excellent English or the American journalist’s Hebrew is impeccable (lol!), language can be problematic, especially idiomatic expressions.

When the voice on the other end of the phone belongs to a stellar neuroscientist and the topic is medical research and development (R&D) in Israel, all bets are off — at least on this side.

After a few dropped calls, I connect with Dr. Shai Efrati, head of R&D at the Institute of Hyperbaric Medicine and Nephrology Division at Assaf-Harofeh Medical Center on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.

His latest innovation is HBOT, a hyperbaric oxygen treatment developed in conjunction with Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob of Tel Aviv University. The chamber improves the function of stroke victims up to three years (and occasionally even 20 years) after the initial trauma.

HBOT is one of those medical miracles that the global community is proudly shouting from its highest rooftops.

“But that’s not all we’re working on,” says Efrati, who’s also on the faculty at TAU’s Sackler School of Medicine. His team is investigating the use of oral insulin for Type 1 diabetics, Alzheimer’s and a new concept for cancer treatment.

The 43-year-old doctor’s accomplishments entitle to him to unbridled braggadocio. Instead he encourages immediate ease. “You can call me Shai,” he reassures. “Everyone does.”

Medical advances in Israel rank among the most promising in the world — and they flow like a cornucopia.

We offer a few examples for your perusal.

• The NaNose artificial olfactory system detects cancer in its earliest stages, well before tumors are visible on x-rays, by analyzing a person’s breath.

• The ImMucin cancer vaccine trains the body’s immune cells to attack a specific molecule found only in cancer cells.

• OrCam, a pocket-sixed computer linked to a camera that clips on to eyeglasses, “reads” what the user sees in his or her line of vision and translates it in an audible voice. Currently, the device reads only English.

• The Bio-Retina, currently under development by Nano Retina, is a tiny device inserted into the eye and attached to the retina in a 30-minute procedure. The embedded sensor offers grey-scale vision to the blind almost instantaneously.

• The Robot Snake, developed in association with the Technion, is a flexible, multi-jointed robot designed to explore collapsed buildings and locate victims, thereby assisting in rescue efforts.

The rest of this article is available in the May 2, 2014 IJN print and digital edition only. Contact Carol to order your copy at or subscribe to our online e-Edition.

Andrea Jacobs

IJN Senior Writer |

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