The Israeli government, via the Israel Innovation Authority, is granting Israeli companies an initial amount of $13 million for COVID-19 focused research and development with an emphasis on products and technologies. Additionally, the Israel Innovation Authority, Ministry of Economy, and the Manufacturers’ Association of Israel are encouraging companies to submit R&D plans for the expedited production of technologies that can help fight the virus as the pandemic grows. The government will subsidize up to 75% of approved projects’ expenditures as part of this emergency program. In parallel, R&D led by Israel’s MIGAL modified an IBV vaccine for a potential experimental COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
The Government Sponsors
The Israel Innovation Authority has teamed up with the Health Ministry and the Headquarters of the National Digital Israel Initiative at the Ministry of Social Equality to help spur startups to come up with proposals to develop and implement technological solutions designed to help that country take on COVID-19. The funds will only go to firms that exhibit “outstanding potential” in the field of health or on the health system in Israel.
The grant must have the support of MAF’AT (Administration for the Research and Development of Weapons and Technological Instructure) at the Ministry of Defense.
The key government executive involved with this program is Eli Cohen, Israeli Ministry of Economy.
Israeli Scientists on to a Potential Vaccine?
The Israeli press recently reported that Israeli scientists were “on the cusp of developing the first vaccine against the novel coronavirus”, based on reports from Ofir Akunis, Minister of Science and Technology. With statements that a vaccine could be available within weeks to 90 days—TrialSite News interprets this to mean ready for clinical trials and not commercialization.
MIGAL’s IBV Vaccine
What was reported by Minister Akunis was that the research was originating out of the MIGAL (The Galilee Research Institute). According to another story, the MIGAL Research Institute in Israel would start producing a COVID-19 vaccine within a couple of months.
Funded by the country’s Ministry of Science & Technology and conducted in alliance with the Ministry of Agriculture, the investigational product is based on their avian coronavirus Infectious Bronchitis Virus (IBV) vaccine—which has been under development for over four years.
Volcani Institute Produces Positive Data in Preclinical Research
The vaccine was developed to address IBV, a disease affecting poultry. The new vaccine was found to be effective by the Volcani Institute when it conducted preclinical research.
COVID-19 vaccine a derivation of the IBV Vaccine
The Israeli researchers discovered a possible COVID-19 vaccine candidate “as a by-product” of research associated with the IBV vaccine. By producing genetic alterations to the IBV to adapt to the human strain of the novel coronavirus.
Who is MIGAL Research Institute?
Based in Israel, MIGAL is an independent research organization whose mission is to promote and conduct applied research to benefit private and public enterprise. They report a team of qualified researchers, including 80 PhDs and a total of 260 researchers distributed into 53 labs that are managed by “seasoned senior group leaders.” Located in a rural area in Northern Israel, MIGAL is internationally recognized as a hub of agro-innovation. Their scientists hold unique expertise in plant-based platforms to produce therapeutic molecules, metabolic engineering, chemical extractions, vaccine technologies, and computational chemistry.
MIGAL’s Biotechnology Group Leader, Dr. Chen Katz, noted on their recent breakthrough; “The scientific framework for the vaccine is based on a new protein expression vector, which forms and secretes a chimeric soluble protein that delivers the viral antigen into mucosal tissues by self-activated endocytosis (a cellular process in which substances are brought into a cell by surrounding the material with the cell membrane, forming a vesicle containing the ingested material), causing the body to form antibodies against the virus.” Dr. Katz reports that in preclinical research (e.g., In vivo) trials, investigators there have demonstrated that the oral vaccination induces high levels of specific anti-IBV antibodies.”
Dr. Chen Katz, MIGAL Biotechnology Group Leader