8 Israeli startups offer original ways to lose weight

Slimming Photo: Shutterstock

Israeli medical companies are tackling the problem of obesity.

1. An injection instead of liposuction

Company: Raziel Therapeutics

Founded: 2012

CEO: Alon Bloomenfeld

Product: A drug that gets rid of fat cells

Founder: Prof. Shmuel Ben-Sasson

Financing rounds: $8 million from VLX-Van Leer Xenia Ventures incubator, Pontifax, Docor International, Avi Meizler, and Dr. Shmuel Cabilly.

Raziel is the only of the eight companies appearing here there operates in the conventional pharma sector. The company is currently developing an injectable drug based on a discovery by Ben-Sasson at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The drug damages and gets rid of fat cells, and later prevents the development of new fat cells in place of the old ones.

The first trial conducted by Raziel, which included 24 patients without a control group, shows a decline in the quantity of fat in the area of the injection. The results of the treatment have lasted six months so far. The company's first applications were in esthetic treatments for fat accumulations in a specific area, similar to liposuction. The drug is also designed to treat two orphan diseases: lipedema and Dercum's Disease, which feature dangerous accumulations of fat in various organs. Only after feasibility for these applications is proven will the company turn its efforts to realizing its vision of weight reduction by damaging fat cells through repeated injections.

Raziel is currently conducting two clinical trials: one in reduction of abdominal fat and the other for lipedema - fat accumulation in the legs.

2. Dietary recommendations hidden in big data

Company: Nutrino

Founded: 2011

CEO: Yael Glassman

Product: An app that adapts food to people through machine learning

Founders: Chief scientist Yaron Hadad and president and chairperson Jonathan Lipnik

Financing rounds: $10 million from Shmuel Somech, New York Angels, Pereg Ventures, and Gandyr Group. The company participated in the Luminox accelerator and IBM's accelerator.

Cooperative arrangements: Medtronic, Sanofi, and Abbot Laboratories

Nutrino aims to use big data for slimming. So far, the company has an impressive list of cooperative ventures. It gathers information documenting the food consumed by the user on its app (image, barcode, text, or voice description of the food portion) and information on exercise, drinking, blood sugar, sleeping hours, weight and even emotions.

The app analyzes the information and recommends advisable food for a given user. The analysis based not only on the information gathered from the user, but also on an analysis of professional articles about diet and information gathered passively from the smartphone, i.e. without any action by the user

Nutrino has signed interesting cooperation agreements with companies such as Medtronic, Abbot Laboratories, and Sanofi, which are active in the diabetes sector. The companies offer the app as part of the patients' overall treatment.

The company is managed by CEO Yael Glassman, former VP marketing at American Well, a successful tele-medicine company, and Israeli medical devices company Sensible Medical Innovations. "Actually, Nutrino is a data companies selling a service to companies such as Medtronic, Sanofi, and others," Glassman says. "These companies buy the service, which also includes access to databases. Our independent app in stores is mainly an information gathering tool. Joint products, not the app, are the company's economic model."

Nutrino's aim is to create a personal "FoodPrint" for everyone and adapt dietary recommendations to it, initially in order to lose weight and treat diabetes and later also for treatment of other disease affected by nutrition, such as heart disease and hypertension.

The product is somewhat reminiscent of the product developed by renowned Israeli company DayTwo, but the underlying idea is different. DayTwo makes a nutrition recommendation on the basis of the bacterial content of a person's stomach through a stool test, while Nutrino does not make a specific physical test and does not purport to specify the measures for determining what food is best for a specific person; it formulates its recommendation on the basis of the large amount of information that it collect.

3. Playing all the way to a diet

Company: InspiredApps

Founded: 2011

Founder: Anat Levy

Product: An app that gamifies the slimming process

Financing rounds: Self-financed

The MyDietCoach app provides personal training on a digital app. The app utilizes psychological mechanisms in order to remind the user in real time that nutritional choices have consequences. It was developed by Anat Levy, who studies computer science and brain science at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and previously worked as a programmer at Conduit and as a product manager at InfoGin.

Motivation studies show that kicking an addiction fails when concentration is diverted and the addiction mechanism in the brain "abducts" the decision from the rational mind. MyDietCoach's gaming techniques are designed to make the reward for good behavior immediate, thereby reinforcing the rational voice in the user's awareness, even under "hazardous" circumstances.

Every user in the system (the default user is female) constructs an avatar for him/herself. A user who is awarded points for good behavior can put clothes on the avatar. If a user feels that he or she is about to surrender, an emergency button can be pressed that delivers messages to persuade the user to adhere to the previous decisions. Various reminders can also be programmed - from a reminder to drink water immediately to "The meeting begins now. You promised yourself not to eat those cookies!" Daily challenges can be defined, and the app also has all of the known features from health apps, such as an eating diary, an exercise diary, weight documentation, an option to access before and after images, etc.

The app, which has already been downloaded over 10 million times, is the company's source of financing.

4. Analysis of regret option

Company: Nitinotes

Founded: 2014

CEO: Raz Bar-On

Product: Minimally invasive and reversible gastroscopic sleeve surgery

Founders: Executive chairperson Irit Yaniv and director Tamir Wolf

Financing rounds: $5 million from Peregrine Ventures' Incentive incubator, Accelmed, Elron Electronic Industries Ltd. (TASE: ELRN), MTIP.

Nitinotes has developed a minimally invasive and reversible version of sleeve operations. The investment it received from Elron and Accelmed is no small matter; these two companies are known to invest in medical devices only if they lead to a significant change in very large markets. The company's product connects anterior and posterior walls in the stomach in an operation that purports to be less invasive than the current operations being carried out, thereby making this surgery accessible to many more people. The process is reversible, which is likely to make it easier to undergo the operation.

Nitinotes has now begun its first clinical trials on 10 people. CEO Bar-On was previously a senior executive in several medical digestive system companies.

5. The algorithm knows the proportion of fat in your body

Company: Progressit

Founded: 2016

Product: App for measuring the proportion of fat in the body

Founders: CMO Daniel Boutov, CEO Yan Gelburd

Financing rounds: Received support from the Tech7 accelerator in Beer Sheva.

Stage of activity: The FitScanner app can be downloaded on a smartphone.

The inspiration for developing FitScanner, an app that measures the proportion of fat in the body, was a slimming process for Gelburd, 26. He discovered the hard way that weight alone does not provide a precise measure of progress in the process; measuring the proportion of fat in the body is better for him.

Today, an accurate measurement of the percentage of fat in the body can be obtained through x-ray devices in special laboratories. If you want to measure your percentage of fat at home, you can use a special pincer, but that hurts, and the reading is also affected by how hard you pinch. The accuracy of devices in fitness rooms, which combine weighing with electric current in the body, is also limited, and depends on the body structure, proportion of water in the body, and the temperature.

Gelburd's app uses image processing systems in order to produce information about the proportion of fat in the body from a photograph of the user in a bathing suit at a specific distance and angle from the camera, according to the way the fat is distributed over the body. The accuracy for men is 3%.

The FitScanner app, which was rated 4.2 out of 5 on the Google Play store, has been downloaded 500,000 times.

MyselfFit, another Israeli company, has developed a similar app, but it requires wearing a special shirt whose unique design allows an algorithm to focus easily on the relative areas of the body. The company was founded by CEO Omer Goralnik CPO Shlomo Elboum, and CTO Netanel Estraicher, whose background is in sports fashion.

6. Block your nose and the smell of pastries

Company: Beck Medical

Founded: 2009

Founder: CEO Adva Beck

Product: A device that deliberately harms the sense of smell in order to avoid arousing appetitie

Stage of activity: Sales

Let me introduce you to Noz Noz, a small silicon accessory inserted into the nose that blocks the sense of smell, thereby reducing appetite.

The idea occurred to Adva Beck (wife of FIMI senior partner Gillon Beck) when her nose was stopped up and she was biting into a peach and discovered that she did not really want to eat it. Previous studies showed that people find it difficult to keep from gaining weight when they are surrounded by aroma from the food they like. It appears that the smell is not merely an external sign arousing a psychological addiction; it causes the secretion of hormones that arouse hunger. The connection also works the other way around: hormones related to hunger, such as leptin, insulin, and ghrelin can affect sensitivity to smell. It was also found that overweight people have a less acute sense of smell than the rest of the population, but they are abnormally sensitive to the smell of food.

Beck Medical conducted its own clinical trial on 65 overweight people. The trial was managed by Dr. Dror Dicker, head of the Obesity Clinic at Hasharon Hospital in Petah Tikva. 37 patients put the device on and 28 received a nose drops placebo. All of them consumed fewer calories, but the decrease was not significant for all of those tested. It was significant in a group of people under 50. Beck says that the sense of smell in people over 50 may not be so sharp, and the effect on them may be less for that reason. A significant difference was also found between those checked who consumed sugar and those who consumed artificial sweeteners.

All of the subjects in the trial group reported that they could smell almost nothing. 16% of those tested in the trial group were unable to tolerate this, and withdrew from the trial because of discomfort caused by the device.

In any case, the trial was an initial one. The company will have to show results from a larger trial if it wants to market the product as a medical device.

Meanwhile, it is being marketed as a consumer product directly to consumers. The company says that the device can be left in the nose for 12 consecutive hours, and each device can be used for two weeks.

7. The device that will make you eat slowly

Company: Nobesity

Founded: 2005

Product: A device for slowing chewing

Founders: Consultant Erella Pines, CEO Amnon Engelberg, Jacob Dagan

Financing rounds: The company operates from the hiCenter incubator in Haifa.

Nobesity has developed a device that goes between the teeth and slows the act of chewing. The company is preparing for clinical trials at Clalit Health Services and Maccabi Health Services. The device is caught between the teeth like dental floss, but it is hard enough to prevent continuous chewing. When a person wears the device, which is in the back of the mouth and is not visible, the speed of his or her chewing and the size of each bite is restricted. The aim is to accustom the user to slow chewing, and to serve as an "emergency" mechanism that physically prevents uncontrolled binge eating.

Pines is a dentist who has developed several dental products, including a special dental floss with rings that ease its way in and out of the mouth.

8. Swallow a pill and feel full

Company: Epitomee Medical (formerly Tulip Medical)

Product: A pill that simulates a full stomach

Founders: Doron Marco and Dr. Shimon Eckhouse

Stage of activity: Clinical trials

Financing rounds: $10 million from Eckhouse, Agate Medical Investments, HealthVentures7

Epitomee is an Israeli company that has developed a pill acting throughout the stomach and simulating a full stomach in order to give a feeling of satiety. It is now known that a feeling of satiety results from a number of factors. A full stomach exerts an effect and the level of certain hormones contributes to the psychological feeling of satiety. A pill that becomes inflated in the abdomen can contribute to a feeling of satiety from fullness, but the pressure on the stomach walls can also cause the secretion of some of the satiety hormones.

Eckhouse, who gave active support to Marco in founding the company, is founder and former CEO of Syneron and an active angel investor in medical device companies. The company is managed by CEO Dan Hashimshony, former CEO of medical devices company Dune Medical Devices. Epitomee, which has been through many changes in its pill idea, has now achieved stability with its current model. The company recent reported a trial of its product conducted in 2014 to the US clinical trials database, indicating that it wishes to continue testing the product.

In an announcement published by the company a few months ago, Hashimshony said, "Every surgical solution is relevant to some overweight people, but not to the masses of people worldwide in need of support. Our product is simple to take at home and helps to shorten meals and control weight and the level of sugar in the blood."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 23, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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Slimming Photo: Shutterstock
Slimming Photo: Shutterstock
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