Israel's life sciences multimillionaires

"Globes" reveals some of the entrepreneurs who have quietly made a fortune at promising publicly traded biomed companies.

20 years ago, the dream of every Israeli entrepreneur was to create the next big software house, following the trail blazed by Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: CHKP), and to make a bundle (in the parlance of the day). Software gave way to the Internet, and the dream became to make the next big company, which in turn gave way to create the next killer app, like Waze Ltd.

The life sciences industry was never really part of these dreams, possibly because to make money in it, it was first necessary to invest a lot more money than was needed in software or Internet ventures, and maybe because the rewards, if any, came after decades rather than years, and perhaps because great minds, such as those of Nobel Prize laureates, were needed to develop the next great drug.

The development of pharmaceuticals and medical devices can be an exhausting career, especially in Israel where the industry is still quite new and many mistakes are made. Investors do not always reap rewards, and an investment in a clinical-stage drug can often be wiped out in an instant. Even after successful trials, hard times can force a company to hold repeated financing rounds at lower valuations, which hurt previous investors.

Nonetheless, Israel's life sciences industry is a great source of national pride, and just as important, a source for the creation of millionaires, although they are not as famous as their high-tech peers. That said, when a life sciences entrepreneur meets a patient whose life he saved or improved thanks to his discovery or invention, the emotion is just as important.

Against the backdrop of Israel's flourishing life sciences industry, "Globes" has reviewed the Israeli life sciences companies that are currently leading the industry, and drawn up a list of more than 20 millionaires in it who are trying to cure the diseases that afflict us.

Brainsway Ltd. (TASE:BRIN)
Founded in 2003, on the basis of an idea developed by scientists at the US National Institutes of Health. Its current market cap is NIS 475 million. It has developed the Deep TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) therapy for the treatment of neurological and mental disorders. Deep TMS has obtained certification from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other national health agencies for the treatment of depression, and the company is readying for its first sales.

Brainsway's millionaires: co-founder and chief scientist Dr. Yiftach Roth - NIS 84 million; co-founder Avner Hagai - NIS 74 million; co-founder and chairman Dr. David Zacut NIS 64 million; co-founder and CEO Uzi Sofer - NIS 42 million.

Compugen Ltd. (Nasdaq: CGEN; TASE: CGEN)
Founded in 1993. It's current market cap is NIS 743 million. The company has developed an in silico discovery platform for oncology and immunotherapy drug candidates. After a couple of false starts, in 2005, the company established a business model based on the development of drug candidates through the preclinical trial stage, at which point it commercializes them to big pharma companies. In 2010, it narrowed its focus to the development of oncology and immunology drugs, and to develop them to the pre-investigational new drug (IND) stage ahead of human clinical trials. Compugen still has almost no revenue.

Compugen's millionaires: chairman Martin Gerstel - NIS 58 million; director Alex Kotzer - NIS 10 million; president and CEO Dr. Anat Cohen-Dayag - NIS 10 million.

Kamada Ltd. (TASE: KMDA)
Founded in 1991. Its current market cap is NIS 1 billion, and it is planning an offering on Nasdaq. Development of therapeutics derived from human plasma for the treatment of pulmonary and inflammatory diseases. The company already sells Glassia (an Alpha-1 Antitrypsin (AAT) protein for the treatment of AAT deficiency) for the treatment of congenital emphysema and is developing an inhalable version of the drug. The company has discovered that the AAT1 protein may also be able to treat cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and diabetes, suggesting a very promising future.

Kamada's millionaires: co-founder CEO David Tsur - NIS 50 million.

Prolor Biotech Inc. (AMEX: PBTH; TASE: PBTH)
Founded in 1991, and with a current market cap of NIS 1.1 billion. The company is developing proprietary versions of already-approved therapeutic proteins to extend their lifespans with no loss of efficacy. It has completed a Phase II clinical trial of its longer-lasting human growth hormone therapy.

Dr. Fuad Fares from the Druze village of Hurfeish founded Prolor at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology incubator, on the basis of know-how acquired from the University of Washington. The company's Carboxyl Terminal Peptide technology is attached to existing therapeutic proteins, extending their lifespans. The molecule is produced by pregnant women to protect the pregnancy. In addition to the human growth hormone treatment, Prolor has other products under development and enough cash to complete clinical trials on its leading candidates.

Prolor's millionaires: CEO Dr. Abraham Havron - NIS 30 million; president Shai Novik - NIS 28 million; founder and chief scientist Dr. Fuad Fares - NIS 21 million.

Protalix Biotherapeutics Inc. (AMEX:PLX; TASE: PLX)
Founded in 1994 and has a current market cap of NIS 1.8 billion. The company is developing biological therapies based on recombinant therapeutic proteins derived from its ProCellEx plant cell based protein. The company has obtained US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of Elelyso for the treatment of Gaucher's diseas.

Protalix is the first company in the world to produce a human protein from plant cells. It has genetically engineered carrot cells to produce a human protein, which is lacking in patients with Gaucher's disease. Although there is already an animal-cell based treatment on the market, use of plant-cell based proteins is cheaper and safer from contamination.

Protalix's millionaires: CEO David Aviezer - NIS 57 million; co-founder and EVP R&D Prof. Yosef Shaaltiel - NIS 47 million.

RedHill Biopharma Ltd. (Nasdaq: RDHL); TASE: RDHL)
Founded in 2009 and with a current market cap of NIS 242 million. The company is developing new, improved, and patented formulations and combinations of existing drugs for the treatment of Crohn's Disease, oncology support, migraines, and heart attacks. It has completed pivotal Phase II/III clinical trials for its generic improved treatments for migraines and for nausea and vomiting in cancer patients. It treatment for Crohn's Disease is undergoing a Phase III clinical trial.

RedHill's millionaires: co-founder and CEO Dror Ben-Asher NIS 16 million; co-founder and deputy CEO finance and operations Ori Shilo NIS 14 million.

Evogene Ltd. (TASE:EVGN)
Founded in 2002 as a spin-off of Compugen to use its in silico discovery platform to develop improved varieties of crops. It has a current market cap of NIS 723 million.

The company has commercialization agreements with some of the world's largest seed companies, and is conducting field tests on varieties of wheat, corn, rice, soy bean, banana, tomato, and canola to improve yields, stress tolerance, resistance to parasites, or improve nitrogen efficiency. The company hopes that its first product will reach market in 2018, with more products following at a rate of one a year.

Evogene's millionaires: president and CEO Ofer Haviv - NIS 10 million.

Aposense Ltd. (TASE: APOS)
Founded in 1996, the company has a market cap of NIS 126 million. The company is developing rationally designed small molecules to identify apoptosis (programmed cell death) or target apoptosis in vivo, to create personalized patient care in oncology, cardiology and neurology.

Although the possible applications of Aposense's technology are almost limitless, it has initially focused on two: an oncology treatment and a tumor diagnostic and monitoring product to test a treatment's effect. A clinical trial failed to deliver good results and will probably have to be repeated.

Aposense's millionaires: co-founder, vice chairman and chief scientist Dr. Ilan Ziv - NIS 22 million.

Pluristem Therapeutics Ltd. (Nasdaq:PSTI; DAX: PJT: PLTR)
Founded in 2002 and has a current market cap of NIS 752 million. The company is developing placenta-based cell therapies using patented PLX (PLacental eXpanded) cells.

Pluristem's lead product is a treatment for peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is set for a Phase II/III clinical trial. The company must build and certify a plant before it can begin the trial.

Pluristem's millionaires: chairman and CEO Zami Aberman - NIS 19 million.

InsuLine Medical Ltd. (TASE: INSL)
Founded in 2007 and has a current market cap of NIS 224 million. The company has developed a device to warm the insulin injection point to improve its absorption by the bloodstream, and is set to begin sales in Germany.

Insuline aims to imitate the pancreas to improve the absorption of artificial insulin. The company's device is designed for insulin pumps (the InsuPad) and ordinary syringes (InsuPatch insulin pump). The InsuPad has EU CE Mark certification, and the safety clinical trial, conducted under US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) protocols, of the InsuPatch, met its primary endpoints.

Insuline's millionaires: president CEO Ron Nagar - NIS 18 million.

Keryx Biopharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq: KERX)
Founded in 1999, the company has a current market cap of NIS 773 million. It is developing treatment for kidney diseases.

Keryx was founded in Israel, but later emigrated to the US. Its track record includes three products which reached and failed Phase III clinical trials, sending its share price skyrocketing in the run up and then crashing back. Its investors hope that its latest product will succeed. The company is conducting a Phase III clinical trial, under FDA protocols, of Zenerex for the treatment of hyperphosphatemia (elevated phosphate levels) in patients with end-stage renal disease, and its Japanese partners are conducting a Phase III trial in Japan.

Keryx's millionaires: CEO Ron Bentsur - NIS 17 million.

Medgenics Ltd. (AIM:MEDG; AMEX: MDGN)
Founded in 2000, it has a current market cap of NIS 317 million. The company is developing a biological biopump for patients to produce, within their bodies and on a long-term basis, their own natural human protein therapy for the treatment of a anemia, hepatitis, and other diseases.

Medgenics is conducting a Phase I/II clinical trial of the biopump to produce the EPO protein for the treatment of anemia. The company still lacks proof that the biopump works in a large-scale controlled study. If a study proves the efficacy of the technology, it will have to secure collaborations with big pharma companies.

Medgenics' millionaires: founder, president and CEO Dr. Andrew Pearlman -NIS 27 million.

Intec Pharma Ltd. (TASE: INTP)
Founded in 2000, and has a current market cap of NIS 283 million. The company is developing a proprietary accordion pill for the controlled release of existing medications' active pharmaceutical ingredient.

The company has completed Phase II clinical trials of Levadopa for the treatment of Parkinson's disease and of Zaleplon for the treatment of insomnia. More products are in the pipeline.

The objective of the accordion pill is to improve the body's absorption of oral medications through their controlled and stable release of the dosage in the upper part of the small intestine where absorption is optimal.

Intec Pharma's millionaires: chairman Zvi Joseph and his father Eli Joseph - NIS 29 million; CEO Giora Carni NIS 11 million.


The companies in this project were selected for their inclusion on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) Biomed Index, dual-listed companies, or companies listed on foreign stock exchanges. Companies developing aesthetic and cosmetic treatments were excluded as there is no basis for comparison between cosmetic devices and medications. Holding companies such as Clal Biotechnology Industries Ltd. (TASE: CBI) and Elron Electronic Industries Ltd. (TASE: ELRN), which have no direct private parties at interest, were also excluded.

"Globes" examined the largest private shareholders in the companies, and excluded financial investors, which have other assets and which do not necessary focus on the life sciences.

The figure for each of the millionaires is a gross, pretax figure, which includes the value of their shares and unrealized options in the companies (paper value), salaries and the cash component of bonuses during the period when the companies have been public through the end of 2011, and the value of previous sales of shares. The information sources are the companies' financial reports and "Globes'" database.

One of the objectives of the study was to disclose the relatively unknown millionaires in Israel's life sciences industry, rather than the more famous individuals, such as Prof. Shlomo Ben-Haim (who has been mostly involved in medical and cosmetic devices in any case). The list focuses on entrepreneurs and executives who made their fortunes in the capital market on the basis of their vision, and who have received little exposure to date.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on January 17, 2013

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2013

Twitter Facebook Linkedin RSS Newsletters גלובס Israel Business Conference 2018