Exclusive program launched for medical industry leaders

8400 Dr. Yair Schindel and Daphna Murvitz Photo: Shlomi Yosef

The 8400 project aims to do for Israel's healthcare industry what the IDF's 8200 unit has done for cybersecurity.

What has to be done in order to convince a senior health fund or medical startup executive to reserve 20 full calendar days for participation in a leadership training and development program designed for people who are already qualified leaders? "Globes is reporting for the first time on 8400 - the Health Network, which aims to turn medical industry company leaders into ecosystem leaders, and has already persuaded some of the leading executives in the industry to take part.

Prof. Yechezkel Barenholz, inventor of the doxil drug; Yeda Research and Development CEO Gil Granot-Mayer; Clalit Research Institute founding director Ran Balicer; IBM Research Health Informatics director Michal Rosen-Zvi; and angel investor and Zebra Medical cofounder and CEO Eyal Gura are participants in the program, not lecturers in it.

Israel has quite a few communities of executives in the medical industry, but the goals of the 8400 project are more ambitious and pragmatic, and it requires more commitment from the participants. In its first cycle, the project kept a low profile, with only limited media exposure. Today, with the second cycle scheduled to start in December, the project's initiators and supporters are ready for exposure. Behind the project are aMoon Fund partners Marius Nacht and Dr. Yair Schindel, social and business entrepreneur Isaac Devash, and Israel Biotech Fund cofounder and general partner Dr. Yuval Cabilly. The venture also has the support of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (NYSE: TEVA; TASE: TEVA) chairperson Sol Barer, who mentored Israel managers for years and prepared them for operating in the international market. Former Keter Plastic controlling shareholder Sami Sagol, now an important contributor to higher education and social enterprises, was among the project's supporters in its early stages. Nir Kalkstein, who founded algorithmic trading company Final, is now an investor in the medical industry.

"Globes": Why cybersecurity and not health?

"The idea of the project sprouted when I was part of the governmental Digital Israel staff, and we predicted the pretty impressive things that the cybersecurity staff corresponding to us did," Schindel says. "Israel has been active in digital since the 1990s - Check Point was founded around 1993, when they called this sector Internet security, not cyber - but only in recent years did we reach a situation in which everyone in the cybersecurity sector knows that he can't do it without being in Israel." If the global cybersecurity industry has a $100 billion annual turnover, the health industry has a $10 trillion turnover, "and we have no less to offer there," he declares.

When Schindel began marketing the idea of promoting the medical field the same way as cyber, one of the responses he got was, "True, it's a giant market, but we have a relative advantage in cybersecurity - the 8200 advantage." The number was a code for ideas from the military industry and talents spotted and developed by the army who were already mature when they became civilians.

According to Schindel, the real state of the market does not put the health sector in an inferior position: the number of health startups in Israel is five time as many as in cyber, and the intellectual property coming from higher education in health is certainly no less than that developed in the army. "But they were right that all of this is nothing more than a springboard," he admits. "In order for the industry to really become a growth engine, a lot of forces have to be harnessed. In recent years, when the potential in combining health and technology began to emerge, we thought that a cross-sector coalition should be created in which all the interested parties would have a common interest and be members."

"20 days is like army reserve duty"

8400 - The Health Network accepts 50 people a year, and the target is at least 400 participants over eight years (another reason why the project is called 8400).

What do the executives find attractive about participating?

"The participants go through intensive days of lectures by senior industry executives around the world. Then they work together in groups in order to find the bottlenecks in the industry. In the last part of the process, they travel to a weeklong event sponsored by the Harvard Business School, which has devised a special concentrated plan for us aimed at presenting the important insights on how to turn industries into national growth engines, with an emphasis on the health sector."

The resemblance to the Maoz program is no coincidence; Schindel was one of its founders before he started 8400. "The Maoz organization is a voluntary association leading public and social leadership programs," Schindel explains. "It brought together senior executives with important experience in their field who wanted to devote the next decade of their lives to working together to advance national goals. In Maoz, we saw how much this structure of assembling a coalition with shared basic purposes, with each person working in his field, can expedite process to a greater extent that we have been used to."

Health industry people may tell you, "We've already sat together, talked, and analyzed the industry's failings again and again."

"Right, but a round table goes only up to a certain point. We feel that senior executives should get to know each other more deeply. In our project, they spend a significant amount of time together and undergo a powerful experience. These are the two things that build trust. 20 days is like a term of army reserve duty."

8400 - The Health Network CEO Daphna Murvitz, who is actually managing the project, together with VP development and partnerships Michal Kahan and VP programs and marketing Noa Epstein Tennenhaus, was previously Check Point director of global operations, and was later CEO of Israel Venture networks, a fund dealing in impact investments. Among other things, she was subsequently EVP at Beta O2 Technologies, a diabetes company.

"Our feeling is that in the health sector, there is enormous innovation that is not even approaching optimal utilization. Participants in the project are very senior executives, but they are eager to acquire the qualifications that will enable them to move the industry forward. For example, someone who was a star in institutions of higher learning or at a venture capital fund can start asking himself or herself more questions, such as what can help higher education in Israel make progress, and what can lead to progress in the entire venture capital sector. In this way, the pie will get bigger, thereby contributing to the country and eventually to the quality of life for everyone. Interdisciplinary thinking like this leads to new insights."

The first meeting of the project was in December 2017. "Magic started happening within 24 hours," Murvitz says. "People who knew each other from conferences and business cooperation, and maybe also from ego contests, found it difficult to part from each other. They already scheduled follow-up meetings. For example, A senior officeholder in one of the health organizations said that she managed to achieve understandings at the meeting about an agreement with one of the government agencies that they had previously worked on for many months."

20 straight days of lectures and working in groups

"Industries don't know that they belong"

In the framework of the project meetings, five areas were identified as requiring a follow-up program, and a group was formed for each one of these areas. One group devoted to progress in Israeli regulation was headed by Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research head and former Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital) gastroenterology department head and Ministry of Health senior officeholder Prof. Zamir Halpern, together with senior oncologist, entrepreneur, and Tel Aviv University School of Medicine Prof. Salomon Stemmer, the deputy director of the Rabin Medical Center (Beilinson Hospital) and head of its research unit.

Stemmer and Halpern told "Globes" about their projects. Stemmer: "Our initiative deals with regulation for clinical and pre-clinical trials. Today's regulation is too strict, and doesn't keep up with developments in science. For example, pigs, which are similar to humans in many characteristics, are different in genetics, and sometimes there is no benefit in testing a genetic-based drug on a pig, although that is the protocol for drugs for that disease."

Halpern: "In personalized medicine, sometimes it's impossible to create a group of patients and compare it to a control group."

Stemmer adds that there are precedents for this in the world. "Countries like Belgium and Australia made their regulation for clinical trials more advanced in order to become a center of attraction for studies. Maybe we can be a such a place, too."

Halpern: "I came to 8400 in order to bring the perspective of public and government agencies and in order to learn about medical high tech, because I was an advisor in high tech companies, but I wasn't an integral part of the company. My first goal is brainstorming combining both the Israeli regulator and overseas regulators about future regulation."

Another group, headed by Bernholz, is developing a ecosystem playbook - an information portal mapping all of the players in the industry and the services that they can offer each other. "One of the researchers told us, "Only after I sent a sample overseas for testing did I discover that the laboratory located a few floors below me has exactly the same capabilities and the same equipment. If the purpose of the program is to knock down the walls between the different areas - institutions of higher learning, government, industry, etc. - this is one of the important steps that has to be taken," says Murvitz.

A third group, headed by Dr. Yael Margolin, who recently resigned as CEO of Gamida Cell, and Yuval Ofek, cofounder and former CEO of dbMotion, a global pioneer in digital medical records, is responsible for a mentoring program. "As part of the program, senior industry figures are offering a strong mentoring process for young people, while at the same time, our mentors are going through their own mentoring with overseas industry leaders who volunteered for the purpose," Murvitz says.

Explaining what led her to the program, Margolin says, "Even before I joined 8400, I knew that I was interested in creating a network of mentors for Israeli medical managers, most of whom are serving as CEO for the first time, as I was at Gamida Cell. It's very important for a CEO to have someone who can advise him or her who is not a member of the board of directors with an agenda."

A fourth group headed by Dr. Einat Zisman, former CEO of technology incubator FutuRX and former CEO of Hadasit Bio-Holdings, the technology commercialization company of Hadassah Medical Center, is taking steps to ease the transfer of intellectual property between different concerns in the industry.

A fifth group, led by Rosen-Zvi, is working on arranging the use of the medical information accumulated in Israel, so that all of the concerns can get answers to important research questions without the concerns possessing the information having to reveal it or concede ownership of it.

"These initiatives demonstrate how many locomotives are need for growth in the health and life sciences sector, and we are therefore expanding the network to 50 leaders a year in order to generate a critical mass of 400 agents of change within eight years, " Murvitz says. "In view of the interdisciplinary nature of the health sector, we’re expanding the network to include senior industry executives who have not yet identified themselves as belonging to health and the life sciences, especially from the regular technology industry, and in the future also the foodtech and cleantech industries."

Full disclosure: Marius Nacht is the former spouse of Anat Agmon, one of the controlling shareholders in "Globes."

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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8400 Dr. Yair Schindel and Daphna Murvitz Photo: Shlomi Yosef
8400 Dr. Yair Schindel and Daphna Murvitz Photo: Shlomi Yosef
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