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Gluing together expertise to help save lives
Posted By Abigail Klein Leichman On September 16, 2009 @ 12:00 am In | No Comments
Living in Haifa during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, entrepreneurial biomedical engineers Ishay Attar and Orahn Preiss-Bloom were horrified by the rockets landing nearby and the television images of bleeding victims. It seemed to them that existing methods for “sealing” injuries were inadequate to cope with complex shrapnel wounds.
Market research confirmed their initial hunch says Attar, previously vice president of Misgav Venture Accelerator. One year later, he and Preiss-Bloom launched LifeBond, an innovative sealant made of biocompatible substances that can close wounds.
“Surgical teams are actively seeking innovative wound-closure products with improved performance and ease-of-use to seal surgical staple lines and stop severe bleeding,” Attar tells ISRAEL21c.
According to the company, the sealant incorporates an adhesive formulation that mimics late-stage blood coagulation. It forms a network similar to the fibrin network of blood clots but has demonstrated adhesive strength even greater than that of blood-derived fibrin sealants.
In American and Israeli clinical trials, the company’s LifeSeal product has shown great promise in preventing life-threatening leakage from surgical connections between blood vessels and organs, Attar reports.
On the market in two to three years
“We will apply for regulatory approval in the United States, Europe, and Israel next year, and we anticipate that our initial sealant will reach the market in two to three years,” Attar tells ISRAEL21c.
LifeBond, which is supported by $10 million in financing from GlenRock Israel, the Zitelman Group, Pitango, and Robert Taub, founder and former CEO of Omrix Biopharmaceuticals (recently acquired by Johnson & Johnson), is also developing LifePatch, a bleeding-control product based on the same platform technology.
Attar, who holds degrees in biomedical engineering and biotechnology, says he has always taken a keen interest in entrepreneurial initiatives.
“To me, the most appealing ventures were those in the medical arena, because the opportunity to help people and save lives adds profound meaning to the excitement of building a company,” says Attar, 36.
He met Preiss-Bloom, now 27, in a graduate business course at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. The former New Yorker had research experience in surgical procedure biomechanics and tissue engineering, and recently had served in the Israel Defense Forces’ Institute of Military Physiology.
Keeping pace with careers in the US
Attar realized that their combined interests and skills could take them far.
He jokes that Preiss-Bloom, a Columbia University and Technion graduate, is the most well acclimated new immigrant in the country’s history. “Orahn has demonstrated that American college graduates can succeed in Israel at the highest level,” he states.
Preiss-Bloom acknowledges that many of his talented Jewish university classmates assumed that a move to Israel would compromise one’s professional potential.
His experience has proven otherwise. “So far, I have been pleased to keep pace with the career progress of my peers in the US,” he says. “I like people to know it is possible to succeed in Israel. Though the employment situation here has always been tough, there is a well-developed infrastructure for entrepreneurship that rewards creativity.”
Preiss-Bloom believes that his abilities in operations management and research, combined with Attar’s expertise in investor relations and business development, have led to a productive partnership. “I am extremely gratified that LifeBond now employs 10 people. I really enjoy contributing to Israel’s economy as it continues to strengthen its global position,” he says.
Israel’s medical device industry maturing
LifeBond’s technology builds on research undertaken at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI) under the auspices of Prof. Gregory Payne. Subsequent studies funded by LifeBond at UMBI have demonstrated the strong potential of the company’s proprietary materials in the field of biosurgical wound closure.
All R&D takes place at the company’s headquarters in Caesarea, midway between Tel Aviv and Haifa on Israel’s Mediterranean coast.
“Israel has the infrastructure and the experienced personnel,” says Attar, adding that investors’ money goes further because salaries in Israel are about one-third of those for similar jobs in America.
“The medical device industry has matured here; devices are easier to develop than biotechnology and are very appealing from a technology perspective,” he adds.
As it seeks to fulfill its founding vision of helping victims of military conflict, LifeBond is also seeking grant funding to develop a revolutionary field wound dressing.
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